Helping our digital business community sell to the public sector

Notes and practical tips from our packed-out event.

On Tuesday we ran our second croydon digital event, on the theme of selling to the public sector. This was a theme that had been raised at our first event, before Christmas, and so we hoped it would generate a lot of interest.

In the end, we were very pleasantly surprised. About a hundred people ended up being packed into the breakout space at our very generous hosts, Sussex Innovation Croydon, all eager to network and makes connections, as well as pick the brains of our expert speakers.

First up was Mary McKenna.

Mary has a fantastic track record as an entrepreneur and investor, specialising in selling to the public sector, including co-founding the e-learning company Learning Pool. She currently is helping grow companies such as Mind of My Own, PlaceCube and Elemental.

She gave a no-holds-barred pep talk to the businesses in our audience about the commitment needed to make a success of selling to the public sector and what sacrifices are needed. Plenty of reference was made to a really helpful blog post Mary published outlining her 10 secrets to successful sales to public services – do check it out.

After Mary came Rob Miller.

Rob is director for ICT at Hackney Council, who are something of an inspiration (and a source of competition!) for our own Croydon Digital Service. Rob shared a number of useful perspectives from the buy-side, including the guide to not being annoying when selling to Councils, how Hackney share their pipeline openly to engage suppliers early, and their blogging, which again provides a window into what their current priorities are.

Next up was Pauline Yau.

Pauline has been helping companies sell to government for a number of years, including helping to establish Huddle, and then spending time with Microsoft. These days she works with SMEs on a freelance basis to help them nail their sales approach.

Pauline’s effervescent presentation provided numerous great lessons for Croydon’s digital businesses to take away. All those present were furiously writing notes, which is a great compliment to the quality of the advice being given!

Following a break for networking, drinks and nibbles and the odd tour of the building, we had the pleasure of Chris Farthing‘s company.

Chris runs Advice Cloud, a consultancy that helps the public sector buy technology through frameworks, such as the Digital Marketplace. These frameworks can make it a lot easier for smaller companies to sell their products and services, without the need for extensive procurement exercises.

Chris gave a really informative tour of the frameworks, what they are and which are best for different contexts, and provided some great advice on what companies need to do to make the most of them. He also provided a really useful reading list for more information, which you can find in the slides from the event, which are shared at the bottom of this post.

Finally we had a panel session, giving a chance for everyone to ask a question of our experts.

All in all, a successful and useful evening. Connections were made, experiences and knowledge shared and hopefully everybody got something out of it! There was plenty of discussion online too via the hashtag #croydongovtech on Twitter – so check out the conversation there too if you get the chance.

Plenty of people were interested in getting hold of the slides from the event – and so you can download them in PDF format.

We will start thinking now about what we should cover in our next event. If you have any ideas, please get in touch and let us know. We’re thinking possibly something around recruitment and developing our talent pipeline, as we know that’s a hot topic for many. In the meantime, a massive thank you to our speakers who gave up their time to be with us and share their expertise, and to Sussex Innovation Croydon for being such lovely, welcoming hosts.

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