Provided you have a compelling government problem and a team of companies who want to work together, a collaborative approach may be a strategic advantage. However, collaboration can be messy. Who is in charge of the meetings? What is the timeline? Who is responsible for the deliverable due next Monday?
Someone needs to be the quarterback or the team will lack direction. Therefore, having some ground rules in place can help organize your approach.
Here are some tips that I use on a daily basis:
Understand the opportunity. Before a group of companies even considers working together, it is imperative that the participants define the purpose of working together. What is it that the group can do together that the individual companies cannot do alone? Who will be responsible for what component? Taking a holistic view of how everyone contributes to the overarching solution is fundamental to the success of any collaborative effort. This means spending time to connect the dots, expanding mindsets and adjusting attitudes, and unlocking what is possible when the group comes together.
Require leadership involvement. Without executive buy-in driving the effort, it’s easy to lose energy. Participants revert to executing individual sales plans and focusing on short-term interests. Having leadership support gives an organization a strategic level view of the desired outcomes and the ability to allocate resources to support the effort.
Adopt a sharing mentality. Again, this can be challenging in the zero-sum world of sales quotas. However, the key to collaboration being successful is sharing what you learn. Disclosing market data, agency communications and use cases to the group advances the overall effort. This requires participants to track and share information and results and to collectively evaluate the project goals and approach.
Track performance. When you include a number of vendors, someone has to keep the group moving forward. That means a person or group of persons who can ensure work is completed between meetings, disseminate information, monitor progress and build ownership among the stakeholders. Without this support, no one is managing the collaboration.
Next time you speak with a government official, it may be time to ask “what if?” What if we could bring together a team of industry leaders to collectively work together to solve your problem. And what if government could begin to structure a purchasing system that fosters collaboration? The market is big enough for everyone to win – vendors and government.
If you would like to talk further about collaboration, we'd love to hear from you.