SOCOM on the Rise!

Monday, March 12, 2012
Dan Callahan

Even during a drought, weeds seem to continue to grow.  This reminds me of when I was a kid, my dad had a full stock portfolio during the recession of the early 1970s.  And he made money!  He reminded me that thrift stocks and things like aftermarket auto parts grow because fewer car owners can afford to take their vehicle to the mechanic, so they fix it themselves.  These two examples serve to remind us that shifts are constantly occurring in any given market.  The key is to follow the flow of money, during the shift.


The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is actually growing during the current era.  It’s not that the military services are ineffective at what they do, it’s just that for fighting a global ring of terrorist cells and asymmetric insurgencies, the most effective techniques seem to be those employed by the special operations forces currently being used by SOCOM.


This combatant command, chartered to wage “low intensity conflict” is both broad in its mission and global in its purview.  It will realize a personnel growth of about 4.5%, dropping to between 2 and 3 percent sustained increase (over the next five years), with about 12,000 globally deployed at any one point in time.   The total roster will include approximately 70,000 persons (probably not including contractors).  The overall budget for SOCOM will reach roughly $10.5 billion; up from the year 2000 at a level of about $3.2 billion (see Defense News, 2/3/12 edition, page 6). 


The most important detail here is that as a small business selling to the IC and Defense markets, you need to ask yourself, can my product or service be of special use to this community?

If you decide the answer is “yes”, then the rest is a business development planning and execution exercise.  Here are my top level tips in selling to SOCOM:

·         Plan way ahead!  The conferences surrounding this COCOM and their mission space fill up very quickly!

·         Use retired general officers who understand the lay of the land; there are smart ways to do this and less effective approaches.  Find someone who knows what they’re doing, not a neophyte.

·         Retool your value statement so it’s crystal clear—to you and your SOCOM client, what the value of your offering is and how it supports their mission.  Generic value statements will lose.  Specified statements of your value will win.

·         Train your BD efforts on laser guided sorties, not shot gun approaches.  The latter don’t work in this market.  It’s probably easier to simply take out an ad in a magazine than it is to find the exact right person to speak with, but an eye-to-eye conversation will be much more efficient and effective.

This is the tip of the iceberg.  Can you suggest other ideas?  Good hunting.

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