7 Steps to Discovering and Seizing Upon New Government Contract Opportunities
7 Steps to Grow Your Business by Seizing Upon New Government Contract Opportunities
We want to start our October newsletter by wishing all of the Govgistics friends, family, and clients a very happy Halloween.
Now for the scary part. When it comes to the business world nothing is more frightening than stagnation. Stagnation in the business world is a slow death of attrition. Let's face it, you have a vision to grow your business. You and your employees all want raises. And it is not as if your costs are dropping significantly from year to year. That means you must proactively seek out ways to grow. Government contracts should be an important part of your pro-growth agenda. Moreover, Washington D.C. is proposing billions of new dollars in defense, technology, and infrastructure spending. The potential for growth through federal government contracts and even municipal and state government contracts are enormous.
So how do you grow your business as a government contractor? In recent months we have spent a lot of time covering the basics of federal government contracts and specific interfaces. Suppose your team knows all the rules, understand all the basics, and are comfortable using all of the interfaces on all of the websites. What next? Maybe your firm is experiencing stability or even a little growth when it comes to government contracting. How do you ramp up this growth and take advantage of new opportunities? We have come up with 7 important factors to increase the amount of business you can do under federal government contracts.
1. Leverage Your Status
Many of our clients qualify for special designations, such as being veteran-owned, or being from a historically disadvantaged group. If nothing else, a significant percentage of our clients qualify as small businesses under the SBA definition. It is a great idea to leverage your special designation in order to secure new federal government contracts. Here is one helpful approach to doing just that. Each federal agency has a goal of dedicating at least 23% of their contracted dollars to small businesses, at least 5% to woman-owned businesses, and at least 3% veteran-owned businesses. You can find a list of which agencies failed to meet those procurement goals last year here. If your firm meets the SBA definition of a small business, a woman-owned business, or a veteran-owned business, it makes a great deal of sense to try and target those specific agencies or departments. Though there are not concretely defined annual goals for some small disadvantaged businesses, HUB Zone businesses, or disabled veteran-owned businesses, agencies and departments generally want to do more federal procurement through those designated businesses. That is especially true if they failed to devote a significant amount of resources to them last year. If your firm meets one or more of these special designations, you are solving two problems for the federal procurement agent – fulfilling their contract at a reasonable price, and helping them to meet their current procurement goals. Leverage your special status.
2. Find New Government Contract Opportunities
Obviously, the key to growing your business is to find additional contracting opportunities with the federal government. This is easier said than done. The obvious first step is to bid on new contracts with agencies with whom you are already doing business. This is relatively straightforward, so we won't spend much time on it here. To really seize on new government contract opportunities, however, you may need to begin working with different government agencies, or even begin tapping into opportunities on different bidding platforms.
Different Agencies and Departments
At any given time, there are scores of different government agencies and departments with thousands and thousands of open contracts to be bid upon. The problem is not a lack of contracting opportunities with the federal government. The problem is sifting through all the chaff to find the wheat. Many contractors struggle to find bids from new government agencies that they can fulfill, simply because the good opportunities are lost in a sea of open contracts that they can not fulfill. The government websites do not necessarily make it easy to find the right types of government contract opportunities for your firm. This is where Govgistics can really help. Using the Govgistics database, you can sort government bid opportunities across multiple agencies to find bids that are categorized similarly to contracts you have already won. This makes it much easier to find relevant federal government contracting opportunities that fit what your business does. There may be specific agencies or departments that you wish to target, especially in light of our first recommendation. If you discover an agency that failed to have 23% of their contracts fulfilled by small businesses, your small business may specifically want to look for bids from that agency that are categorized in your wheelhouse. The Govgistics interface makes it much easier to find relevant government contract opportunities for the agency with which you are trying to establish a foothold. One of the great advantages of working with Govgistics is finding that perfect contract opportunity through the database that would otherwise have eluded you. If you need assistance in finding the most relevant contract opportunities with the federal government, don't hesitate to contact your Govgistics rep today. They would be happy to help you find those hidden opportunities with the federal government.
Once you find the right opportunities, it is important to make sure that the competitiveness and bids for the new agency are similar to the business you have been doing with other agencies. This is not always the case. Once again, the Govgistics database can be of help. The interface can show you the winning bids of similar projects for that agency in the past. Use this tool to be competitive no matter for which agency or which platform you are bidding
One of the largest complications in finding contracting opportunities with the federal government lies in the fact that these opportunities are not centralized. Instead, these are spread over multiple platforms and websites, depending upon the size and type of contract. At first glance, this does not appear to be that large a problem. However, experienced federal contractors know otherwise. Each website, such as the GSA site, NASA SEWP, Fed Biz Opps, usa.gov, and usaspending.gov, is different in important ways. Each offers a different platform, with different methodologies and different rules that must be learned. This can be daunting for would-be government contractors. In recent months our newsletters have offered insights on several of these websites, including FedBizOpps and NASA SEWP. Once again the Govgistics interface can be an incredible asset. Unfortunately, no one has been able to integrate all of these platforms into a single interface. Fortunately, you won't find a better centralized database of government contract opportunities than Govgistics. Using our platform can save untold hours when trying to identify new opportunities across multiple platforms.
3. Know Your Scores
If your firm has been doing business with the federal government for some time then your firm will have been evaluated and given performance scores. Know your scores. And by know your scores we mean obsess about them. These scores may be the single most important factor in securing new federal government contracts. The scores one government procurement agent gives your business can effect how every other government procurement agent views your firm from then on. Assume every procurement agent will review your scores somewhere during the bidding or negotiation process. Try to keep these scores high. Find ways to improve them. If you believe there have been any errors in the scoring it is possible to appeal those decisions. We suggest doing so if the data backs you up. Know your scores and understand what they say about your business and your abilities to fulfill procurement contracts.
4. Use Your Scores (read more…)
So let's assume you are perfectly cognizant of your scores. If they are good, you want to seize every opportunity to use them for your advantage. If they are bad, you want to try to minimize the damage they can do. In either case it is often helpful to be proactive in pointing out your scores. If your scores are strong, we recommend emphasizing that in your first piece of correspondence with any new procurement agents, if at all possible. You want to let them know that you understand the importance of the scores, and that you belong in the trusted inner circle of quality contractors. If your scores are bad, it behooves you to explain them before they are discovered. For instance, you might note that your scores had been very good for a long time and an unusual series of events arose which damaged your scores. Or you might note that your team recognized the low scores were a problem, and have since taken steps X, Y, and Z to ensure that whatever shortcomings you had will never occur again. Feel free to talk about new leadership on your team and improved internal accountability, if it is relevant. Frame the discussion of your scores around the points you wish to make. It should also be noted that you can, on occasion, incorporate third-party scores into this discussion. For instance, Boeing and Lockheed Martin both have an intricate supplier scoring system, each of which is widely respected throughout the manufacturing marketplace. It is acceptable to point to a strong third party score, especially if you do not yet have many grades from procurement agents, or your scores are low. If you have limited experience fulfilling government contracts, and hence little for a procurement agent to draw upon, these third party scores can help to fill in the blanks and create a more balanced view of your capabilities. In any event, our recommendation is to proactively bring up your scores, emphasizing the ones that you feel are strong, and explaining away, as much as possible, scores that are deficient.
5. Build Relationships to Create Contracting Opportunities with the Federal Government
Leverage Existing Relationships With Procurement Agents
As we have noted in the past, one of the most important criteria for a government procurement agent is a feeling they they can trust and rely on the contractor. Trustworthiness and reliability can be elusive things to prove to a stranger. That is why it is important to cultivate relationships with your existing procurement agents. An endorsement, recommendation, or introduction from a procurement agent to a colleague can be worth its weight in gold. Even visiting with them at an outreach event can facilitate relationships with other government procurement agents at the same event. Cultivate these relationships. They are an important part of growing your business.
Building New Relationships With Procurement Agents
Ultimately, landing new contracts with new agencies means working with new federal government procurement agents. In a future newsletter we will focus specifically on these interactions and the best way to cultivate these relationships. For the short-term, however, know that a face-to-face meeting can make a world of difference. To that end, it behooves you to try to meet government procurement agents in person. There are a number of different outreach programs available to government contractors including this list. Once again, if you have a special designation, it is smart to use it. Special accommodations have been made to help open doors for small businesses through PCR (Procurement Center Representatives) events, and for other specially designated businesses through the OSDBU (Office of Small and Disadvantaged Businesses Utilization). The Veteran Business Outreach Centers also have outreach events, and can be very helpful at facilitating introductions to government procurement agents. All of these outreach events are designed to help small businesses develop relationships with federal agencies. This is a great way to get your foot in the door.
6. Land State Government Contracts
Opportunities that sometimes are missed by contractors are municipal and state government contracts. It is understandable that state and local government contracts are not a big priority for contractors, but to totally ignore them is a mistake. Businesses that engage in both federal and state government contractors report that, on average, federal procurement dollars account for 19% of their total revenue while state and local procurement dollars account for 14%. That means state and local government contracts tend to be undervalued, when in fact they constitute a significant revenue stream. If you can demonstrate, with your scores and endorsements from federal government procurement agents, that you are a reliable contractor, state and local officials are likely to be more receptive to your bids. Consider that most state and local procurement agents favor businesses with headquarters, or branches in the area. That means bidding on local and state government contracts in which you have an office or plant gives you an advantage. You will typically find the level of competition for local and state government contracts to be much lower than at the federal level. These contracts provide diversification. It can really help out your bottom line if you were to lose a large federal government contract, or if Congress were to cut spending on a project in which your firm is involved. There is one more big advantage to having a balance between federal government contracts on one hand, and local or state government contracts on the other hand. Most procurement agents initiate a flurry of activity as the fiscal year closes, since budgeted dollars must be spent or lost. That means a surge in both work and revenue near the end of the fiscal year for government contractors. State and local government procurement agents are usually busiest in Q2 because their fiscal year ends in June. Meanwhile, federal government procurement agents are usually busiest in Q3 because their fiscal year ends in September. Having local and state government contracts can not only boost your bottom line and diversify your business opportunities, they can help provide balance to your production and accounting teams by spreading the "busy season" out over a longer period of time.
7. Become a Sub-Contractor on Federal Government Contracts
One of the most important and often overlooked tactics to land new contracts is through subcontracting. Many times government contractors find it difficult to break through to new agencies or departments. This can occur for any number of reasons. If you find that repeated efforts to do business with a new agency or department are stonewalled, consider subcontracting has a way to penetrate those defenses. If your firm can't prove yourselves by landing a prime contract, prove yourselves through a subcontract for the same agency. The beauty of subcontracting is that it is the prime contractor, and not the procurement agent, who makes the ultimate determination of your level of involvement on the project. If you have a positive relationship with other government contractors you have worked with before, you can ride those shirttails into new business with new agencies. This is a great way to leverage your relationships with other contractors in order to build relationships with procurement agents. You can access the list of sub-contracting opportunities with the federal government here. Once you have proven yourselves and built relationships with a cadre of government procurement agents at the new agency, you can begin landing prime contracts yourselves. This is a terribly under-valued tactic to growing your business through government contracts. Strategically use subcontracting, and the other tactics in our list and you will definitely be able to grow your business by securing new government contract opportunities.