"We underestimated the politics behind purchasing decisions in government offices when we started in this business. One of an elected official's primary responsibilities is to stay in office," says a wiser Mike Davis, CEO of The VINE Co., which makes and sells an automated victim-notification service for county and state governments. The Louisville firm discovered that agencies advocating for victims of crime had very little ability to move a sale. As its sales representatives moved up to elected officials like the sheriff or prosecuting attorney, the sale would move forward.
"Doing something for victims is a politically popular agenda item, so our product enjoys bipartisan support," says Davis. Consequently, sales to government at all levels can be significantly hastened by contacting officials and candidates during election time. "Then," says Davis, "the official will put more push behind it and speed up the process." For that reason, VINE tracks the political calendar and who is running for office. It focuses its sales and marketing resources accordingly. Result: The company experienced 340% growth in 1997 and is expected to grow 260% in 1998. "When we talk with other companies at trade shows, they say our selling cycle of nine months is very short for the industry. We are constantly working to shorten it," says Davis.