According to a recent article in the Government Executive Magazine, large contractors are reporting steady sales despite sequestration. Are federal contractors really losing business because of sequestration, or are they just using it as an excuse for low sales in 2013? Once again, federal sales Sherpa Eileen Kent, challenges the contracting community with this very tough question. Kent says she has seen many contractors invest their ability to win contracts on their proposal efforts. When they win, they sit back for five years with an IDIQ or a GSA schedule in hand and then just wait for the task orders to come in. “Sure – one or two lucky wins will keep you busy for a year or two, but if you’re not walking the halls developing relationships or partnering with other winners in your industry, you’re not diversified at enough agencies to weather storms like sequestration,” says Kent. Even according to GSA, more than 50% of their 19,000 vendors are not meeting the minimum requirement of annual sales to keep their GSA schedules. The result is GSA schedule holders are losing their coveted contracting vehicles.

For example, Kent says her clients are approaching her because they need a new perspective on their market. Either because they lost their agency relationship due to a retirement on the inside, they lost their IDIQ contracting vehicle, or the funding was cut at their key agency. After performing a competitive analysis on what their name-brand competitors are up to, Eileen has discovered that there are plenty of opportunities happening at other agencies. They’ve also discovered that teaming with specific winners makes perfect sense if people can get past the fact that they are fierce competitors in the commercial marketplace. So according to Kent, it’s time to start dialing for dollars and walking the halls again. It’s also time to set your ego aside and start partnering with what we now call your “compe-ti-mates.” Additionally, the worst thing a contractor can do during times like these is eliminate sales efforts. In fact, this is the time to invest in sales people. That being said, Eileen says “out with the old and in with the new.”

What is the positive result of sequestration you ask? According to Kent: A stronger marketplace with new, enthusiastic and innovative contractors who will do what it takes to win faster, smarter and more cost effectively. She gives this example: One client of mine is in the leadership training keynote speaking industry. With all of the trade shows being cut and the travel being eliminated, one would think that he would have to leave the federal marketplace. Instead, he invested in outside help to look at the marketplace and point him in a new direction. We discovered through a competitive analysis of every training contract available, that one agency is booking thousands of training engagements. In fact, this keynote speaker who had been training the government for the past 10 years never even worked with this agency before. The best part of this discovery was that the buying office is no more than 15 minutes from him! Besides that agency, we found another agency with a huge budget for training. Sure as it seems, he is back on the right track.

There is hope. There is help. There is opportunity. Don’t use sequestration as an excuse to stop making sales calls – use it to fuel your enthusiasm to cultivate new relationships and find new business for years to come. “This is our time to evolve,” ~ The Federal Sales Sherpa Eileen Kent.

Eileen Kent is your “Federal Sales Sherpa” contact her for your federal sales needs online at or 312-636-5381