The defence industry is one of the most competitive in the world, with only a handful of companies able to compete for the largest projects. Most of these contracts are won by companies who have built strong relationships with the decision-makers within each country’s defence procurement department.
Building relationships with key decision makers is one of the most important factors in winning Defence contracts. It can take years to build a relationship and even longer to get a contract signed; however, when you do win that contract it’s likely to be worth millions if not billions of dollars.
You may have the most innovative solution in the world, but if you don't know how to network with decision-makers, you're unlikely to win Defence contracts.
If you're not sure how to go about building relationships with key decision makers within the defence organisation and companies, here are some tips that might help:
The key to building relationships with decision-makers in this sector is to make sure your company has the right knowledge and expertise to meet their needs. Having sufficient information about their business and its priorities will help you get ahead of competitors who may not have this knowledge. It is also essential to build trust with these people so they will feel comfortable working with you on projects that are important to them.
Position yourself as their trusted advisor. Once you have established a good relationship with decision-makers in the defence industry, position yourself as their trusted advisor by giving them advice they can use and value. For example, if they ask you what they should do next in business, give them advice based on your experience and knowledge instead of just telling them what you think they should do or what would be best for them.
Learn everything you can about your target organisation. Use Google search, LinkedIn and other social networking sites to gather as much information as possible about key players within the organisation — including background information as well as any articles or blog posts they've written.
Understand their decision-making process. Decision makers will often follow a certain process when making decisions about their new product purchases or investments. Understanding this process helps you present your proposal at the appropriate time and in the most effective way. For example, if they are following an ‘objective criteria’ approach, then your proposal should contain detailed information about how your product meets their needs – preferably with specific examples or case studies.
Understand their goals and challenges. Decision-makers are usually CEOs or other high-level executives who have the ability to make decisions about purchasing products or services from vendors such as yours. In order to build a relationship with these people, you must understand their goals and challenges in order to create solutions that help them achieve their goals while also helping you sell more products or services. If you can do this, then you'll be able to build long-lasting relationships with these decision-makers which will lead to sales down the road!
Start small. Don't try to get a meeting with the CEO straight away - start by approaching someone lowers down in the hierarchy and work your way up. This will help build up trust with each person as you move closer to your goal. It also helps if you're dealing with busy people, who may not have time to meet with everyone who asks for an appointment.
Be proactive in suggesting projects that you could work on together. If you're not getting feedback from previous emails or phone calls, send them a brief email asking if there's anything else you can help with at this time, and then follow up in two weeks' time if there's no response.
Build a network of contacts by joining relevant organisations within the defence industry and organisations. Joining a professional organisation gives you access to people who have similar interests and experiences as yourself, which means they may be able to help you find employment opportunities in defence or related industries. You can also use these networks to further your defence marketing and business development by attending relevant events such as conferences or workshops; speaking at events; hosting lectures; writing articles; publishing research papers; writing books; and organising networking events for members.
Keep in mind that when you are in the defence industry, building relationships is critical. It's important to build a good relationship with decision-makers because they are the ones who will decide if you get the contract or not.
The decision-makers within a defence organisation are often numerous and varied. Some will have an interest in a specific aspect of the procurement process (for example, the end-user), and others will be more concerned with budgetary constraints or political issues. It is vital that you understand who these people are and what motivates them so that you can tailor your approach accordingly.
In order to build lasting relationships with these decision-makers, it’s important to establish some common ground early on in your relationship. For example, if you are both members of a professional body or similar organisation, mentioning this at your first meeting could lead to an easier dialogue and help build trust between yourself or your company and that person.