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Selling into the federal government is all about the basics

ITAC provides three tips for resellers interested in selling to the federal government

Channel partners must stick to the basics if they want to be successful selling into the federal government, said a key executive of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Louise Kelly, supply team leader for office of small and medium enterprises at Public Works and Government Services Canada, said vendors and partners who wish to sell products and/or services to the Federal Government must first register their company on an online database. She points to three databases which include Supplier Registration Information (SRI), Professional Services Online (PS Online) and SELECT. These databases, she said, allow companies to create and maintain their own profiles for employees in the government sector to search from and offer bid invites to.

Kelly was one of the keynote speakers at the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) meeting on selling into the Federal Government held in Toronto yesterday. ITAC is a representative of information and communications technologies (ICT) in the Canadian industry, which hosted the educational seminar in Toronto to illustrate how vendors and partners can sell solutions and services to the Federal government. Among the issues that were covered included knowing how to market and sell yourself as a business, as well as selling the right solutions and services that appeal to government needs.

“PS Online is an online database for contracts up to $76, 500,” Kelly said. “Companies provide their own profile, experiences and background information so the government can do a search for what they’re looking for and relevant company names show up and those are the ones who the government invites to bid,” she added.

She also mentions that businesses can also use MERX, an electronic tendering service on the Internet, to search and find bid opportunities that are usually over $25,000.

“You want to make sure you market yourself to your end-users and clients,” Kelly said. “With MERX, you can look up opportunities and can bid on them and you can also see what the government has purchased before to match what you offer.”

P>Chris Bishop, president of Oakville, Ont.-based Public Sector Research Inc., a market research company that specializes in information technology in the Federal and Ontario Governments, said it’s important for partners to ensure they align themselves with technologies and products that can be used for broad deployment scenarios.

“Ensure you align yourself with the broad and newer technologies,” Bishop said. “Security products remain high on the list and information management and knowledge management solutions and services are also now growing in their importance,” he advised.

But having these sorts of solutions are simply not enough to help win over a bid, Bishop added. Businesses also need to ensure they differentiate themselves from other providers by going above and beyond what a project asks them to do.

“In the professional services area,” Bishop said, “when the project’s over, go and provide a training program on a new piece of technology or provide some sort of demonstration of the technologies to clients to add more sugar on top of what you already offer.”

Joseph Messina, country manager for Initiate Systems Canada, a Chicago-based software vendor with an office in Toronto, said his company has already had some experience working with the Provincial Government in Ontario with its Master Data Service software solution.

“It’s an enabling technology that some hospitals are using now that matches and links medical record information to help doctors treat patients,” Messina said. “The software allows information from multiple locations to be brought together to provide the latest and most relevant information. It’s all about getting the information when you need it through a browser,” he adds.

To help deploy its solution Messina said its go-to-market strategy involves a combination of its direct sales force and work with systems integrators and consultancy businesses.

“My advice to other vendors or partners who want to get into selling to the government,” Messina says, “is to partner, partner, partner. Look for organizations that have already done business with the government and try to work with them to then leverage your own strengths.”