“THE GOOD OLD DAYS” VISITING STATE PROCUREMENT OFFICES IN DENVER, CO 2004: I was teaching a Federal Sales Class Burnsley Hotel at Grant and 10th Street. If you’ve ever been to downtown Denver, it is a very open city with clean streets and a wide variety of apartments and homes which look affordable sprinkled on the outside of downtown. The downtown itself is teaming with activity along 16th Street Mall with the convention center nearby and a wide variety of eateries, hotels and night clubs. It is inviting and open — obviously the pride of Colorado.
On the Tuesday morning of my arrival, I observed that the State Capitol of Colorado offered a beautiful dome as part of the skyline so I decided to check it out to see if there was a Small Business Specialist at the capitol willing to talk to me about doing business with the state government. My goal was to find out any information on behalf of the companies who signed up for my class. Maybe I could get an inside track for them.
Upon walking up to the capitol, it was much like most capitol or city hall buildings with a beautiful gold rotunda and four entrances. But one thing struck me. There was not a single guard or receptionist to check me in (or check me out!). I walked right in and I could see the governor’s office, which looked very inviting and a directory with plenty of places to visit. There were several signs directing me to a room if I wanted to go on a walking tour. The building was absolutely beautiful and completely open for me to wander all around.
Being from Chicago where I’m required to have my ID in my hand to enter every building in the City, it was refreshing to feel so welcome in such a beautiful space. It reminded me of days long gone when I used to be able to walk right into the Sears Tower(now the Willis Tower), the tallest building in America, and go to practically any floor I wanted to explore this amazing piece of architecture (and perform face-to-face cold calls at any business).
When I looked at the directory, I searched for anything that looked like it was tied to financial decisions….purchasing….finance……and found the Treasury Department, which was located right on the first floor. I walked over to the State Treasurer’s office and two people were inside the door. I told the gentleman that I help businesses obtain business from the government and was looking for some assistance. He stood up and offered his help readily. He directed me to a building across the street and told me to walk right into the second floor and I would find the key purchasing decision maker.
I thanked him for his help and walked across the street. Again, I was greeted with an open lobby with a directory and I went to the second floor to suite 250. When I walked through the unlocked doors I found a series of signs which invited me to submit my bid by placing my information in a bin. (Yes, there was a Sign that said, “DROP BIDS HERE” pointing to a solitary bin. I wandered throughout the office to find someone to assist me and I found the bin and a directory above the bin with a list of names, titles and phone numbers. I just stood there without anyone there to stop me and wrote the list of purchasing contact names and numbers down.
After writing down this information, I kept wandering around the sea of cubicles. I could hear a gentleman on the phone, but it sounded like he was deep in conversation and not able to assist me. As I walked around the corner, I saw a sign: “Office of Comptroller and Receptionist.”
I walked up to the receptionist and a woman greeted me with a big smile, “May I help you?” I told her my story and said that I was directed by the Treasury Department to come over and introduce myself to the Small Business Specialist for the State of Colorado. She said that I was in the wrong building, but if I walked down the street over to the 8th floor, I would find th Division of Procurement and Finance. I asked her if I should ask for a particular name and she said they would be happy to assist me. I thanked her and went on my way over to the building on 16th Street. When I walked into the building, I was pleasantly surprised to find a guard. I asked him, “Should I sign in anywhere?” He said, “No, unless you need some assistance or directions.” I said, “I believe I need to go up to the office of Procurement” and he smiled and pointed toward the elevators and said, ‘Eighth floor.’
When I got to the suite, I was even more surprised to see a door for small businesses, locked, with a doorbell. Before I even reached to ring it, a woman opened the door and greeted me with, “How can I help you?” She definitely looked like a strong gatekeeper who was working on something or trying to leave. So I kept my question very short. “I’m looking for the State’s Small Business Specialist. I visited the Treasury Department and they pointed me to the Comptroller’s Office and they sent me here.”
She told me I was in the right place and quickly gave me a business card. She said that the gentleman I needed to see was at lunch. She escorted me to the door and said to come back in 45 minutes or call first and he’ll probably see me. I thanked her for her help and I would follow her prescribed protocol to the letter.
I walked outside and looked at the card which gave me the key small business specialists’ info at the time: Name, Title, Address, Phone, Direct Cell and Email.
Satisfied I received the information I needed for my class, I took an hour or so to enjoy 16th Street and some sushi. After lunch, I followed the receptionists’ advice and as I walked up 16th street from the river to the capitol, I left John Cisneros a detailed message. “Hi, my name is Eileen Kent and I’m in town today as a tourist, but tomorrow, I’m teaching a class called on the “Federal Sales Game, How to Play to WIN.” While it is focused on federal business, I thought it would be great to pass any information to the attendees about the State of Colorado. My number is 312-636-5381 and would love to discuss this further with you, since you are the expert.”
As I walked through the park in front of the capitol, my cell phone rang. I answered and it was Him. “Hi Eileen, where are you right now? In front of the capitol? Walk back my way and we’ll meet outside. I’m the one with the used car salesman’s sports jacket.”
I turned around and started walking back toward 16th street and Grant. I was met by a dapper gentleman wearing a very nice summer jacket – bright blue plaid – and we hit it off immediately. We realized we had a lot of networking to do, so he invited me to walk back to his building for a cup of coffee. Just like the proper government executive, he wouldn’t let me buy the coffee. He treated and we sat down to discuss how to do business with the State of Colorado.
He explained their new online bids system and that you had to pay a fee -per year-to be a part of it.
After our coffee, we shook hands and he underlined what I hear in the government on a regular basis, “Tell the companies who come to your class that all we want at the State of Colorado is to give us a fair price and do what they say they are going to do.”
My take on this advice from him is to create a motto at your company which follows one of these two basic premises: “Under-promise and Over-deliver Every Time” or “Get It Right The First Time.”
HOW TO SELL TO THE STATE OF COLORADO TODAY
Denver, CO 2013 To check out how to sell to the State of Colorado Today, there is an entire website: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DPA-DFP/DFP/1251575097017 and they describe”Price Agreements” which look a lot like BPAs or IDIQs – the Contract Bridges we describe in the Federal Sales Sherpa Show.
Here’s how they describe Price Agreements: “The State Purchasing Office negotiates, manages and maintains all Price Agreements for items commonly sourced in Statewide Procurement. Price Agreements can be utilized by all State Agencies, State Institutions of Higher Education, Political Subdivisions and Certified Nonprofits. Price Agreements are typically awarded for 2 years with an option to renew for 3 additional 1 year terms. Generally solicitations for Price Agreements are posted on “ColoradoBids” . Once a Price Agreement has been awarded, the Sourcing Team at the State Purchasing Office will work with suppliers to receive all required reports.”
Here is a link to their Bids System: https://www.bidscolorado.com
Here is their procurement management team:
Judson Byrn – State Purchasing Director 303-866-6181
Access Colorado – Supplier Divesity Liaison: 303-866-3640
Credit Card – Colorado – Sherri Gibson, Commercial Card Program Manager 303-866-5877
According to the site: “Questions regarding Price Agreements can be directed to William Snowden, Strategic Sourcing Supervisor at 303-866-3950.”
Email addresses are provided at the website, but they have not been provided here, because if you cannot walk the halls of the State of Colorado today without an appointment – it is advised that you still find a way to get in front of your key customers inside the State agencies and develop relationships.
My thought is you probably can find a way inside – with an appointment – and while you’re there – ask for a tour and introductions to your potential clients inside each agency. Here’s a start by looking at their phone directory. If you click on the ‘More Info +’ you’ll get a state agency description and an address with a suite number!
Link to Colorado State Agency Directory: http://www.colorado.gov/government/government/state-agencies.html
I wonder if you can walk the halls today. My thought is you can – if you have an appointment. Either way, you need to be inquisitive and confident – with your ID in hand – to get people to open doors and answer questions. This is no business for the weak.
GET LOCAL ASSISTANCE FROM A PTAC! PROCUREMENT TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE CENTER
On a final note, every State and Local Government has a different dynamic and set of rules. Therefore, you must get to know their protocols individually. Just as a little boost of assistance maybe the local PTAC-Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Colorado team will show you how it’s done locally: http://www.coloradoptac.org. Local PTACs know everyone in their own back yard and they are a free resource of information on how to sell to local governments, local bases, and local agencies. I personally use them for names, numbers, and advice on “where would you go if you were me?” Here is a national directory of PTACs if you’re calling on another area: http://www.aptac-us.org/new/
Here’s to Your Success! If you’d like a new and customized “map” like this to an agency you’re seeking to approach and training on “The Federal Sales Game-How to Play to WIN!”, the Federal Sales Sherpa works with companies one-on-one. For further information call 312-636-5381.