Q:I have a database product that I've developed, and I would like to sell it to the military. What is the difference between marketing to the military vs. approaching regular commercial businesses? What is the sales process like? I've not worked directly with the military before.
A:Since you're in the US, contact your US House Representative and both of your US Senators. Ask them for their help. They should be very interested in helping you since a major part of their job in Congress is bringing some of the government pork back to their districts/states. The trade-off is if you go this route, they'll expect to be able to promote the fact that they helped you and will very likely hit you up for campaign contributions when election time comes around again. In fact, one of the best ways to get their full attention is you letting them know in your initial letter that if they help you, you'll be more than willing to let them promote this fact to their constituents. So if you believe strongly in one party over another, only contact the above Congresspersons that are in your party of choice. Also realize that the hard-core members of the other party might not then want to give you business. However, if you do go with them, at the very least, they'll point you in the right direction. Best of the best, they'll shepherd your request all the way through the government channels and make sure those in those channels know that a US House Representative and/or US Senator is shepherding you through the system. You'll want to go to www.ccr.gov and get registered there. If you're a small business, be sure to click on that tab and follow their directions there, too. Then, go to www.gsa.gov and go down to the bottom and click on the links about GSA Schedules and follow their directions there. Then go to www.fbo.gov. These folks are very helpful, so if you get stuck on something don't be afraid to call them. (NOTE: You'll need a DUNS number, but if you don't have one, they'll direct you from the first website I listed). My guess is that most high-tech 'stuff' gets into the marketplace because of the SBIR. (Small Business Innovation and Research) http://www.acq.osd.mil/sadbu/sbir/ - Briefly, you must find a government agency, department or individual who would have an interest in what you intend to develop or make. You then find yourself somebody from the Small Business Development Center at your nearby college to help you write the proposal. Usually the first contract will be awarded to you for a proof of concept and the amounts range from $50k to $100k. Once you have demonstrated that your idea is feasible, you go for the second round of funding with the final idea that there will be a market other than the government agency, department or whatever that first sponsored your idea. This second round should be enough to produce a limited number of items or software or whatever that can be used by the contracting agency - government or defense, whatever. Many high-level institutions are set up to help test and evaluate your work, such as Sandia Labs, JPL, and so on. Most can help you find the links you need to make it work. By links I mean people in the SBDCs, the labs and military/government procurement or researchers. You will find a lot more in the site I mentioned above. It is worth your time to read. And yes, a lot of paperwork is involved, but then if you are passionate about your idea, so what? What else do you have to do?