The National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) just finished its How to Market to State Governments meeting in Atlanta. The conference took place March 20-22.

Each element of the conference was designed to build relationships among the supplier community and state governments. According to conference literature, “The conference is a place where partnering, networking and learning come together to develop business relationships to support public procurements that are effective, efficient, transparent and fair.”

One of the features of the meeting was the opportunity for state procurement representatives and suppliers to partner in pre-scheduled one-on-one appointments. Vendors and state procurement officials got acquainted at the one-on-one sessions, and state buyers were briefed on new vendor offerings.

The topic of one of the conference sessions was “Marketing to State Government: Navigating the Waters.” Debbie Damore, Purchasing & Contracting Director in Vermont’s  Office of Purchasing & Contracting, moderated the session. State purchasing officials from Virginia, New Mexico and Connecticut took part in a panel discussion. Benjamin Nichols, vice president of Grainger’s government and health care brand segments, also took part.

Carol Wilson, director of procurement programs and services for Connecticut, told suppliers in attendance that they should connect with each state’s central procurement agency first as they start the selling process. She also urged attendees to pay attention to the agency’s fiscal year-end, since the volume of purchases may accelerate and grow as the fiscal year-end approaches.

Grainger’s Benjamin Nichols urged suppliers who hold state contracts to stage vendor days or vendor education events at the agency level to show the value of the state contract. He added, “Vendors must get in front of end-users to show the product’s benefits, but it must be an appropriate contact.”

The NASPO publication, “2016 IT Procurement Reform Solutions,” was discussed at the Atlanta meeting. The research-backed compilation of best practices is designed to help state officials who are considering procurement reform. NASPO has endorsed five key areas of IT procurement reform as outlined by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.