Navigating your way through the federal contracting maze can be very difficult if you have not taken the proper steps, even experienced contractors can become complacent or even to busy to keep up with the changes in how the government awards it's contracts. Obtaining contracts can be very competitive and sometimes you may feel like the same businesses continue to win all of the contracts. In reality any ethical and professional business can achieve success, it's all in knowing what approach to take based on the way that your business operates. Below are some things to consider if you want to increase revenue in the federal market.
Are you properly registered?
All contracts start with proper registration, without it you are destined to fail. Whether you're a new vendor or already established, purchasing agents can not award a contract to a business that has an incomplete, expired, or improper registration. All data must coincide with what has been supplied to D&B and the IRS. Often vendors slip up when it comes to choosing the correct NAICS codes for their products and/or services. Missing codes can cause you to miss out on opportunities. Many mistakes are made when it comes to registering in agency databases that are optional, although there are many RFQ's available that fall under the No Bid threshold. Businesses can avoid these mistakes by working with a Government Contracting consultant to ensure their business has all the bases covered.
The Small Business Administration
The small business Administration has several programs available for businesses that qualify under certain social economic statuses called set-asides. These programs can help small businesses get their foot in the door much faster if they understand how to participate in them. Though some of these can be very intense, the benefits are well worth it. Be sure that you actually qualify before you begin the process as misrepresenting your company's status can have serious consequences.
Marketing to the Federal Government
Marketing to the federal government is nothing like marketing to the public. You must know which government customer or agency has a need for your product or service. There are three types of government customers and each have very different roles and influences. Procurers which are the gate keepers to the program managers, Influencers which are the program managers/high-level decision makers, and the End Users which are the staff that use your product or service. Without past performance you must do everything you can to break the barrier and establish your business. Once established things typically get easier. Email your capabilities to the contracting officers, set up a profile on all of the procurement websites, and keep up with trends and changes as things can change very quickly if a purchasing officer that uses you decides to move or retire.
Contracts under $25,000 do not require more than one quote and are often purchased using a government purchasing card. These contracts rarely make it out to bid because the process is much easier on the purchasing officer to utilize the No-bid process. The problem is they usually struggle to find a local small business that is registered properly to handle the contract. It is important to build a relationship with any agency that has a need for your product or service. This is one of the most important rules for small businesses trying to establish themselves. If you have the capabilities needed and put on a good show, when they have a need for your product or service, your credibility should not be in question.
Subcontracts can help small businesses with little to no past performance get recognition from contracting officers. Most importantly if they are a new business and do not have many references to back them. Most large companies subcontract a big portion of the contracts they're awarded. In fact, most large contracts require the prime to subcontract a large portion of the work to small businesses and businesses that qualify under certain social economic statuses to stay in compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Subcontracting allows smaller businesses to get their feet in the door and learn contracting procedures while allowing them to build past performance.
Request a debriefing
Requesting a debriefing gives you the opportunity to learn from each bid that was not awarded to you. If your entity loses a bid, you have the right to request a debriefing. The contracting officer must explain where you were weak and where you were strong. Most successful contractors request debriefings on a regular bases. This is a powerful tool in helping you understand which parts of your marketing and bidding strategy's need improvement and which were effective.