A Technical Point of Contact (TPOC) is an essential relationship for anyone looking to do business with the government. Like most government relationships, these interactions can look different than that of many relationships in the commercial sphere, and that can cause a lot of confusion, or even misjudgment, for the company.
In order to best navigate these relationships, it’s important to first understand them.
What is a TPOC, and why should you care? When working with SBIR/STTR open topic, the TPOC is actually incredibly important because he TPOC is the individual who in all likelihood has written the topic and with whom the small business applicant can have a conversation with if they have questions regarding the topic itself. They can help the company fully understand the topic if it seems broad and help make a decision which topic to respond to when it appears that there are multiple topics that seem appropriate.
**It is also important to note that the TPOC is not the acquisitions officer**
Here are a few key do’s and don’ts for how to interact with your Technical Point of Contact (TPOC).
– DO your homework ahead of time.
Find out what their job is, and what their pain points may be ahead of time. This can really help you set the conversation up effectively from the start.
– DO ask the TPOC questions.
Use the homework (mentioned above) to ask the educated questions necessary to guide you to the root of the problem they need solved.
– DO find out about their career and, eventually, their family.
This is a professional relationship, but it is also a human relationship. Treat it as such. Especially the career part. As you begin to identify why they care about this specific problem, you will likely uncover some pain points that they’ve had in their career.
– DON’T do a sales pitch.
Many companies hop into the meeting and start giving their company history and pitch. Trust me, you will be about the tenth “innovative company” they will talk to that day. They don’t want to hear about the company history, how long it’s been around, or the founder’s story. All they want to know is if you are the company that can solve their problem.
– DON’T depend on small business size status.
While we respect that you are veteran or minority owned, it’s not exactly amongst the top point of interest in this conversation. The truth is no one really cares about those aspects of your business until you can prove that you add value. After that, there may be a place for this additional info., but it’s not in the first conversation.
– DON’T buy them anything.
Not food. Not coffee. Nothing! There are certain parameters that the government sets in place around employees accepting gifts. And even if you stay within those very defined parameters, you will make the individual uncomfortable. With this said, it is typically safer to stay away from any type of giving. (This point tends to be especially hard for our commercial companies making the shift the federal market).
At Long Capture, our goal is to really demystify the process of working with the government. Understanding the relationship with a TPOC is a great way to start. While this professional relationship, and business with the government in general, can certainly look a little different than that of the commercial sector, if you understand the basic differences and manage it appropriately in these avenues, it does not need to be nearly as concerning as it appears.