An announcement from the GSA Vendor Support Center.
GSA eBuy will be updated on August 1, 2020 to allow you to self-certify under specific Special Item Numbers (SINs), subgroups of products and services your company offers on contract.
The scope of certain SINs can be very broad. Subgroups were created to highlight specialized products and services that are offered under those SINs. By selecting the subgroup of offerings your company specializes in, your customers can find you more easily in both eBuy and eLibrary when they conduct their searches. As some SINs contain thousands of contractors, this helps the customer to identify the segment of contractors that can perform. Not all SINs have subgroups.
You may have used this functionality under your legacy contract, but you must reestablish these subgroups under the new SIN structure.
Identifying the subgroups of your contract offerings benefits both you and your customers. This function allows your customers to do better market research and email eBuy RFIs/RFQs directly to contractors that can satisfy their requirements.
Please note, the selection of subgroups does not prevent you from seeing opportunities posted for the SIN(s) you have been awarded. Your ability to review all eBuy opportunities on your awarded SIN(s) does not change.
The following SINs will have subgroups starting August 1, 2020:
561210FA, 541690E, 332311P, 532490P, 333241, 336999, 333318F, 335999, 325612, 325998, 325611, 54151HACS, 517312, 54151S, 54151ECOM, 511210, 33411, 339940OS4, 541611, 562112, 541211, 522310, 541330ENG, 562910REM, 541930, 541614, 541620, 561621H, 339113LAB, 334515, 334516, 333997, 332439.
The below steps outline the process to select your SIN subgroups for both eBuy and eLibrary.
How to select SIN Subgroups:
- Step 1: Login to your vendor profile in eBuy
- Step 2: Click on the Modify Subgroups button located on the right hand side of the screen
- Step 3: Select applicable subgroups
A note from Bill: This is really important for those with specialized NAICS and sub-SINS to see the specifics here and make sure to register, since this is an opportunity to register for more and different sub-SINs.
This is guest post by Judy Bradt of Summit Insight.
The federal contracting landscape just changed dramatically. Now what?
I love pretty much everything about geology: The ancient stories in layers under our feet. The slow, relentless, way the earth moves and transforms every day, even when we don’t notice. The way relationships within ecosystems affect each other. And the sudden, dramatic, changes that take us by surprise when pent-up energy suddenly releases.
The pandemic sent shock waves like tectonic plate shifts through our federal contracting world. First, we heard and felt tiny rumblings. Then we were all shaken by unmistakeable, giant waves of change. And just like after an earthquake, we were left to make sense of the aftermath and understand the story that’s still unfolding.
As we get deeper into the pandemic, notice three things about the new federal contracting landscape:
- Some things are still standing: federal departments themselves. Extraordinary federal employees (and their contractors) activated continuity of operations plans to keep government functioning with minimal interruption.
- Some things are completely new: federal agencies are awarding contracts for products and services to carry out programs for pandemic response and recovery.
- Some things have been postponed indefinitely, and we don’t know when they’re coming back: including but not limited to the vast majority of in-person office meetings, conferences, and events.
All three represent opportunities to serve our country as federal contractors, and to thrive as business owners.
Here are five tips that, despite all the challenges and disruptions of life in a pandemic, are bringing wins to my clients right now, and might make a difference for you.
- Go narrow, go deep.
Know who the actual users and choosers are in your niche. Use the bounty of public information (much of it absolutely free) to identify individual federal humans that you know, based on their missions and their spend and your experience, that you know you are meant to serve. Pick only as many as you have the time to research and commit to really getting in front of, no matter how long it takes. Identify the end users, program managers, contracting officers and specialists. (HINT: 99.9% of the time, the Small Business Specialist is not your buyer.) Look ‘em up. Be like a detective: how much can you find out about them? Who they do business with? How they contract? What’s in their forecast? When are their contracts going to be recompeted?
- Federal buyers are answering their phones. Call them.
Federal buyers are working right now. In fact (like you, I’ll bet), many are working even longer hours now, especially those who have extra pandemic responsibilities. If you know you have a product or service they need RIGHT NOW, then put the name of that thing in the email subject and at the top of your voicemail. The phone is the single most overlooked tool for reaching buyers. Expect that it might take a while to get through. Dedicate yourself to persistence. Most people give up after two or three tries. Now you know better. When you leave voicemail, make your tone cheerful and upbeat, let them know when you’ll call again. The “two-fer” is working well these days: when you leave a voicemail, also immediately send a follow up email saying, “Hey, sorry I missed you when I called today. Here’s what’s up…”
- Show up with empathy.
Are you working from home? Got four-footeds underfoot? Naked toddlers zooming through your home office? Having a bad hair day and not enough domestic bandwidth for three online classrooms, two Teams meetings, and why is Aunt Marcie calling now? Your federal buyer is having that life, too. So when you reach them, take your time. Ask, “How ARE you?” and really care about the answer. Really listen. Don’t be in a hurry to sell stuff. Slow the heck down. Maybe what they need more than anything is a chance to just vent, or a reason to smile. Ask them what would make their day a little better. Keep a handful of cheery, hopeful pandemic memes to brighten someone’s day. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Help them shine.
Federal employees compete for promotions. Your federal buyers are heading for the end of fiscal 2020 with all the same professional goals they started out with last fall. The pandemic probably overloaded that plate. Which means they have all kinds of projects that falling off the bottom of their performance appraisals as “INCOMPLETE.” Even if the pandemic wasn’t their fault. How could you make a difference for that person? How could you change the promotion game for them? What could you help a federal employee finish or achieve by the end of September that would have been otherwise impossible?
- Up your online game.
Sure, in-person meetings and events and conferences and networking are up in the air at best. Many are cancelled for the foreseeable future. So get with the program. If your company isn’t located in or near cities with lots of big federal offices, cheer up: the playing field just tilted in your favor. NOBODY can get into those offices right now in person. Flip side: ANYBODY who has something buyers need and persists in making the connection can set up a video meeting. Not comfortable doing that? Invest in learning how to be an online meeting pro. You’ll get almost immediate, satisfying return on a modest investment in bandwidth, background, audio and video equipment. Then, find a couple of friendly feds to rehearse with, and work out the challenges. Find out what video platforms your target agencies use (it’s almost never Zoom), and master them. See details in this article by the National Security Agency on how agencies make their teleworking choices.
As for networking, get with the program. In particular, see which federal agencies and industry associations are holding online or hybrid events. Register early, and ask the organizers for a briefing on how to master the mechanics of whatever online matchmaking they set up. If you are matched, research in advance as much as you can about the person you’re meeting. Don’t try to sell anything or to recite your capabilities. Try to have two of you from your organization on the call. Get full contact info for the people you’re meeting with. Make your “ask” clear up front. Leave plenty of time (even if it’s only a ten-minute matchmaking slot) for conversation, and make your objective to secure a commitment for a specific date, time, and topic for a follow up call.
Judy Bradt helps established companies win more federal business faster, by getting you in front of your buyer waaaay upstream from everyone else’s pipeline! Find out more at www.growfedbiz.com or book a complimentary call today to find out how she can help you.
This is a guest post by Morgan Taylor of Winvale.
Having a GSA Schedule contract can provide a whole new world of business opportunities for your company. Billions of dollars go through GSA contracts each year, and there are millions of GSA contractors. The GSA Schedules program is a great way to break into government sales, but it can be a lengthy and confusing process if you’re not familiar with the requirements. Check out the steps to getting on a GSA Schedule below.
It is important to determine if you are eligible to submit a GSA proposal before beginning the proposal process. Below is a list of requirements to keep in mind:
- Must have financial stability
- Must have been in business for at least two years (unless it is a Schedule 70 Springboard offer)
- Must be able to prove that proposed products/ services have been sold commercially
- Must be compliant with the Trade Agreement Act (TAA)
- Must have a DUNs Number and active SAM.gov registration
If your company meets the above requirements, then you are ready to begin the proposal process. There is a great deal of required documentation that must be submitted with a GSA proposal. The documentation is separated into three main sections: Administrative, Technical and Pricing.
The administrative section gives GSA a background of your company. This includes documents such as financial statements, the employee handbook, the company organizational chart and SAM.gov registration. Additionally, at least one person from your company must have an active digital certificate upon submission. The administrative section also consists of various required training courses which prepare the vendor for acquisition and maintenance of a GSA Schedule.
The technical section of the proposal gives GSA a deeper look into your company’s experience and expertise. The technical section requires corporate experience and quality control narratives, which highlight the company’s skills and abilities as well as organizational functions. The technical section also includes descriptions of past projects completed and a customer ratings report called the Past Performance Evaluation.
The pricing section is the bulk of the proposal. Offerors must provide pricing support for all proposed products or services that support the company’s commercial price list or market rates. If offering labor categories, you must provide detailed descriptions of functional responsibility, education and experience. In addition, the offeror must disclose all commercial sales practices, commercial prices, and GSA proposed pricing. The pricing section itself can include up to 15 different documents upon submittal.
Proposal to Award
Once the proposal has been submitted, GSA can either reject the offer due to insufficiencies or request clarifications. If the assigned Contracting Officer feels that the offer is sufficient, he or she will next aim to negotiate for lower prices. Once negotiations have concluded, a Final Proposal Revision (FPR) will be signed, and the contract will be awarded.
Submitting a GSA proposal can be a complicated process that requires a great deal of GSA knowledge and experience. Winvale has highly experienced consultants who have worked on proposals for nearly every GSA Schedule. Winvale consultants can support your proposal process from the very beginning all the way to award. Looking to acquire a GSA Schedule? Give us a call!
Morgan Taylor is a consultant for Winvale’s Professional Services Department where she provides GSA Schedule acquisition and maintenance support to her clients. Morgan is currently a member of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA).
This is a guest post by Morgan Taylor of Winvale.
At Winvale, we are constantly challenged by organizations new to the federal market with questions around why a GSA Schedule contract is so valuable. Any savvy consultant should be prepared to adequately describe the benefits of a GSA Schedule contract program and even articulate drawbacks of having one in place.
Let’s focus first on this contract vehicle’s benefits.
What are the benefits of a GSA Schedule contract?
NO. 5: COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
FAR Subpart 8.002 and 8.004 describes the order of precedence for federal agencies considering sources in procuring goods and services. Federal agencies have a statutory obligation to consider mandatory sources of supply of goods and services, and the use of Federal Supply Schedules (i.e., GSA schedule contracts) are encouraged in advance of “commercial sources in the open market.”
This means that your organization will have a competitive advantage when compared to competitors who do not have a GSA Schedule contract. This is significant, because it puts you in an elite group of organizations who may receive preference (in most cases, chances are in your favor) when an agency is considering how to meet its needs.
Having a GSA Schedule is also a great asset to advertise on your company website and marketing materials. Having a GSA Schedule provides a great deal of visibility in the federal marketplace that can be used to win GSA bids and even Open Market bids.
NO. 4: A LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP
GSA Schedule contracts can last up to 20 years, do not have a sales limit, and everyone in the federal government can use them. Specifically, GSA Schedule contracts have four five-year option terms. It is one of the most widely used government contacts available and they are recommended to anyone serious about selling to the federal government.
Of course, vendors will need to remain productive (generating at least $25,000 annually) and ensure they are properly administering their contract from a reporting and compliance standpoint, but the contract can help facilitate a long-term relationship with agency customers.
NO. 3: ENJOY EASIER AND FASTER PROCUREMENTS
Schedule orders do not require much of the extensive documentation and competitive analysis that is required when vetting commercial sources in the open market. This is why the GSA Schedule contract is so valuable. The contract pre-qualifies you to sell to federal buyers because the GSA has already negotiated fair and reasonable pricing for those federal buyers and made the requisite responsibility determination. This means it is significantly easier to win government business, as individual agencies do not have to go through the process of determining if your pricing is competitive in the market.
As can be seen under the FAR subpart 8.4 language, depending on the specifics, agencies can order directly from a GSA Schedule holder and do not need to make that public. By placing an order against a GSA Schedule contract, the government buyer has concluded that the order represents the “best value.” Less work makes contracting officers happy.
Another way GSA Schedule contracts lead to easier and faster procurements is through pre-vetted technical capabilities.When submitting a GSA proposal, offerors must provide technical narratives that capture a company’s experience in the field and specific expertise related to the proposed Special Item Numbers (SINs). In addition, offerors of SINs such as the Highly Adaptive Cyber Security (HACS) SIN 132-45, must undergo a verbal technical evaluation to ensure the main criteria is met.
While this can sometimes make for a lengthy proposal process, it allows agencies to buy from contractors with the assurance that the work performed will be satisfactory and meet all requirements. This can prevent GSA Schedule holders from having to submit separate technical narratives in each individual bid proposal.
NO. 2: ACCESS TO EXCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITIES
Once you have a GSA Schedule contract, you gain access to GSA sites that other companies do not. For example, GSA eBuy is a website that only contract holders and agency buyers may access. This acquisition tool is where agencies look to request information and quotes from GSA Schedule holders. GSA eBuy often houses high-dollar, high-profile contract opportunities not available anywhere else. GSA eBuy makes it easy to find business opportunities, respond to government requests and establish new business relationships. An impressive number of orders are transacted through this exclusive website.
…AND NO. 1: EXPAND YOUR CUSTOMER BASE
This is the absolute key for anyone pursuing a GSA Schedule contract. The vehicle widens your customer base and has great potential to lead to increased revenue over time. A GSA Schedule contract is also accessible by state and local markets. The Cooperative Purchasing Program under the GSA Schedule program allows state and local governments to purchase from Schedule 70 for information technology and Schedule 84 for law enforcement and security products and services, at any time, for any reason, using any funds available. Having access to this additional market is a key differentiator that again exhibits the value of having a GSA Schedule contract.
The U.S. government is the biggest buyer of goods and services in the world, and a GSA Schedule contract could mean new business relationships and major opportunities with a reliable customer and source of income during tough economic times. Any business should certainly take notice.
What are the disadvantages of a GSA Schedule contract?
GSA Schedule pricing is determined by establishing a company’s Most Favored Customer (MFC) and discounting from there. GSA is obligated to make sure that the government receives the best pricing possible, so maintaining the established discount relationship is an essential part of having a GSA Schedule. Once your ceiling GSA rates are awarded, you are required to charge at or below this rate to government buyers. You may never charge above the GSA established ceiling rate if you are selling through the Schedule. You must also maintain the discount relationship, meaning that you may never charge a commercial customer lower than your MFC rates, or you are required to revise your awarded Commercial Sales Practices (CSP).
These rules require that you monitor the amount you bill and the discount you provide to every customer class, which can sometimes cause unwanted administrative burden. However, structuring pricing this way can help establish firm guidelines for sales desk and business development departments within your company.
COMPLIANCE AND MAINTENANCE
The GSA Schedule should change and grow with your company. Schedule holders should be monitoring the contract pricing and Terms and Conditions throughout the life of the contract to ensure that all changes made commercially are updated on the contract through a contract modification. To remain compliant, contractors are required to report all GSA sales, accept Schedule refreshes and keep the contract terms and conditions current, accurate and complete. Having a GSA Schedule does take some extra time and effort, but if maintained correctly, can be a valuable tool for your company’s continued growth in the federal marketplace.
The GSA Schedule has clear advantages but does require companies to take on additional compliance and maintenance concerns. Looking for compliance and maintenance assistance? Give us a call!
Morgan Taylor is a consultant for Winvale’s Professional Services Department where she provides GSA Schedule acquisition and maintenance support to her clients. Morgan is currently a member of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA).
This is a guest post by Judy Bradt of Summit Insight.
Judy Bradt has surveyed federal contractors about their top business challenges since 2012. Her company, Summit Insight, provides business training, sales plans and mentorship to grow your federal business.
Early results from her 2019 survey show that the number one challenge to landing millions in federal wins is “getting in front of federal buyers.”
Is that true for you?
Tackle that one problem, and 2019 could be your best federal year ever.
Judy says, “There are five steps you can start taking today to get in front of your federal buyer and build the trust to become their first choice next time they are ready to buy.” Here are those steps:
1. Hot wash
A year-end hot wash is where you look at the process, patterns and outcomes of the year, along with lessons learned. What worked, what didn’t, and what’s promising? This gives you a foundation for what’s next.
Sample areas to check are:
• Data: Plan versus actual
• Marketing: Keep/change/drop
• Intelligence: Where wins came from
• Strategy execution improvement
• Win rate and profit
• How can buyers get to us?
Look back at who is winning the contracts you’ve lost. Doing a competitive analysis lets you create opportunities.
• Research players and layers
• See who they love
• Know how they behave
• Start with who you know
• Solve their problem
• Start small. Be persistent
3. Lower risk
Low risk attracts buyers when you can leverage your past performance. Do this by collecting:
• Business process data: systematic capture
• Summary table
• Key case studies
• Examples for tailored capability statements
4. Make it easy
Make it easy for them, with micro-purchase options, simplified acquisition, and by using their favorite vehicles.
Make is easy for you by using these tips for writing winning proposals:
• Better bid/no bid criteria
• A streamlined proposal process
• Mitigate risk
• Write like a pro
• Prevent fatal errors
5. Launch FY19 NOW
• Clean up your collateral like your core capabilities list and certifications
• Refresh your profiles with the Federal government, including GSAAdvantage, System for Award Management, and Dynamic Small Business Search; on state government vendor sites; small and minority certifications (federal, state, local, and commercial supplier diversity); prime contractor portals; social media (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook); and industry association member profiles
• Purge your pipeline (let go the stuff that you’ve realized are long shots you never had a hope of winning)
• Update and organize your contact lists
• Give gratitude by writing thank you letters to everyone who helped or spent time with you in 2018
For more guidance from Judy on how to make FY19 your best year ever, download her complimentary Federal Q1 Launch Checklist, FYE 2018 Edition at http://growfedbiz.com/Q1 (email subscription required).
Judy Bradt, Summit Insight’s founder, brings you 30 years’ experience working with more than 7,000 clients across diverse industries who credit her expertise in achieving wins worth in total over $300 million dollars. In addition to offering free monthly public webinars on federal contract success and high-value public and private training classes, Judy is the Vice President for Education and Training for the National Veterans Small Business Coalition.
Judy Bradt of Summit Insight wrote a popular guest post for us back in 2015, with her expert tips for how to prepare for the fiscal year end. I asked her if she had any updates, and she had this to say:
These are all just as relevant today. I would add this:
While the White House has proposed spending cuts in every agency except DHS, DoD and VA, Congress is pushing back hard. That means federal buyers are uncertain about what FY18 will bring…and are eager to spend every last dollar they have in the current year’s budget! So get a jump start on Q4 with the tips in this article. If you haven’t started doing these things now, you can bet your competitors have!
Preparing for the fiscal year end (in the Trump era)
In a series of three blog posts, Judy Bradt of Summit Insight put together a list of things government contractors can do to prepare for the fiscal year end. Here is a snapshot of her points, along with my own thoughts that build on her recommendations.
- Revisit your forecasting
- Ask for referrals from your best customers
- Stay top-of-mind
Bill says: These points go back to what Judy and I have always been preaching – success in federal contracting is about building long-term relationships.
Revisit your forecasting – that’s the FOCUS – see who you can really touch and make a part of your business. Referrals are what I’ve been calling “nearest neighbors” – friends of your customers’ friends.
And finally, this is a continuing process, so stay with these folks. See them on drop-bys and wherever they are. For example, if you notice they’re speaking at an event, show up – even if only to listen and say hello.
- Give the golden leave-behind: gratitude
- Plan multiple touches, tactics, channels
- Update and share your capability statement
Bill says: TAPE leaves behind little chocolates branded with our logo, but the key here is to make sure you express gratitude to your customers for their business. Build those relationships (see above) with the multiple touches of being where your customers are.
Maintain your currency by keeping up with your customers’ hot buttons. Does your one-pager (description of your company’s capabilities) hit those hot buttons?
- Refresh and maximize your online presence
- Leverage customer feedback and testimonials
- Expand thought leadership
- Be ready to sell the way they want to buy
Bill says: Maintaining and keeping your website fresh is critical. People look at that and if the visual picture doesn’t align with what you’ve told them, you can lose out. Include a prominent display of your CPARs (ratings in the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System) – especially the really good comments, and your kudos letters. Leverage these positive testimonials in call-out boxes on your website as well.
The best road to thought leadership? Blogging! You can always think of something to say about your industry, and the problems you solve for your customers, even if once a month. Feature your best staffers as bloggers also – they’ll love the publicity.
Always sell what your customers want to buy – your people, your best product ideas and innovations, and keep it up. Never forget what you’re selling, and what your focus is, that’s how you’ll succeed.
Lastly, remember to keep your certifications and small business status handy – sole sources and simplified purchase opportunities can be leveraged handsomely.
Thanks to Judy Bradt of Summit Insight for pulling together these crucial points!
This is a guest post from Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc.
One of my fellow scholars from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program called me recently to inquire about the difference between the 8(a) Program versus GSA Schedule, and why BucknerMT recently elected to get a GSA Schedule instead of pursuing the 8(a) Program. Below is what I shared with her:
8(a) Program versus GSA Schedule
It is important to understand that the 8(a) Program and GSA Schedule serve two totally different purposes. The first is a business development program to assist in growing your business and the second is a negotiated contracting vehicle for the government to purchase their services.
Both are great tools to grow your business. In fact, the SBA encourages 8(a) contractors to consider participating in the GSA Schedules program to increase their sales.
As you determine the next step for your business, here are a few things for you to consider:
- The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program designed to assist small disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. It is a two-phased program over nine years – a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.
- 8(a) program participants are consistently encouraged to “ensure you build a pipeline prior to entering the program.” Meaning, it is to critical to build relationships with both potential clients who may use your services, as well as graduating 8(a) companies who are potential partners. The goal is to maximize your time in the program.
- Having a GSA Schedule contract simplifies the acquisitions process because terms and pricing are negotiated up front. That makes it the contracting officer’s vehicle of choice. Getting a GSA contract gives you that prestige of being an approved vendor.
- The greatest benefits of being a schedule holder are that there is less competition, access to exclusive eBuy opportunities, and the average award period is two weeks. As well, GSA Schedules can be negotiated for as many as 20 years with step increases in rates.
- As a GSA holder, you will receive a listing in GSA Advantage and GSA eLibrary. However, you must also actively market your schedule to potential buyers, i.e., put it on your Capability Statement and all of your company’s digital media, and notify current and potential clients, your peers, OSDBUs, etc. We also shared our news in a blog post.
Both the 8(a) program and a GSA Schedule are great tools to grow your business. We are positioning BucknerMT for the 8(a) program, however we made a business decision to pursue the GSA IT70 Schedule first. This decision allowed us to position ourselves for prime opportunities and, most importantly, it is the method by which our target clients purchase their services. In the meantime, we are focusing on building our pipeline to maximize our time once we are in the 8(a) program.
Lastly, it is critical to understand and remember that both the 8(a) program and the GSA Schedule give you a license to fish, but neither guarantee opportunities. Working with the government is complex, but if you are willing to put in the effort, it is also very rewarding.
This is a guest post by Judy Bradt of Summit Insight.
Ever hear people complain that you’ve gotta have connections to win a contract? Well, they’re right! Here are the five kinds of connections you need to get on the fast track to growing federal business!
- Connect with passion.How excited are you about the difference you make for your federal buyers when they choose you instead of your competition? Bring the team together and refresh your key differentiators. Know how your past performance clearly shows your unique value to every federal buyer who is a true prospect. If you’re not special, you shouldn’t be there. If you are special, you need to know why, and articulate that in ways that each unique player cares about most. When you’re charged up about that, you’ll have the substance as well as the energy and determination to build the interest, enthusiasm and trust of your prospects on the road to “yes.”
- Connect with data. Past contract data is one of your best clues to the decision-makers you need to meet. Use my favorite super-powered tool, the Federal Procurement Data System, to dig in and figure out where your best prospects are. Then concentrate your efforts in those two or three agencies. Once you start making calls, one leads to another. The effort in each target agency, to develop each relationship, expands significantly once people start to open up to you. Expect to focus intense, methodical efforts on the right players, in the right layers, in your target agencies. Go deep.
- Connect with intelligence.Ever meet someone you were determined you wanted to date? And you wanted to make the perfect first impression? You asked their friends about what they enjoyed, how they like to spend their time, so you could start a conversation and propose a date with confidence! You might not have succeeded the first time, but you kept finding ways to woo your sweetie until he or she said “yes!” Think of wooing federal buyers the same way – the more you find out about them, the easier the conversations get. Beyond choosing your focus agencies, dip back into the data for what it tells you about your federal buyer, who they do business with, and how they buy. You can have that first conversation with a lot more confidence because you’re going in knowing things about them that they don’t expect.
- Re-connect with people you know. Invite your trusted friends, best clients and close contacts out for conversation and coffee. Let them know that you want to grow your federal business. You’ll find they’re eager to help you, with everything from references and resources to actual introductions! You just need to know what to ask them.
- Connect with new people.Want to win more federal business? That takes the courage, time, and money to go out and talk to a lot more people you’ve never met. Does the thought of going out and meeting new people and talking to them feel uncomfortable? Good news: you’re human. Just about everybody finds this challenging at least some of the time! The other four connections make that a lot easier.
Always remember: It’s the connection between that people opens the gate.
Any company that is just trying to stay in business and “keep on, keeping on,” will not be profitable in the long run. When you really think about it, you know contracts will end and you will have to move on – what is your plan to replace those contracts?
The process for this is to have a pipeline of potential income. Think of your pipeline like a funnel. At the outer edge up at the top it’s very wide, because at first glance there are always many possibilities. That’s why the first and most important step is qualification, that is to ask:
- Does this customer have money?
- Does this customer have a problem that we can solve?
- Does the customer know that our company can solve their problem?
If you can answer those questions with yes, then you try and capture the work, which is to say shape it so that you are more qualified than other potential competitors (your OSDBU office may be able to help). Thereby (through this capture) you learn the things you need to do to bid successfully.
You always want your pipeline to be full at every level, so there is a mix of some opportunities you’re qualifying, some stuff you’re capturing, and some proposals you’ve already written and sent, that may or may not come to pass in various time frames. Flexibility is essential, as new things come along that may bump aside a well-qualified, or even well-captured opportunity.
So your pipeline will be filled not with oil or gas, but with a continuum of opportunities. Some might not become proposals for a year or even more from now, some things you might start writing in the next three or six months, some things you’re writing now, and then things you’re waiting for awards on.
The most important question is how to fill the top of the funnel. Of course we’ve talked many times about how relationships with the people you already know are the heart of your capture process. Even if a customer doesn’t have more work, they have friends in other agencies and contacts in other places they work for.
But your own contacts can only get you so far; sometimes you also need outside help. Along with proposal consultants, you can also hire people just to do the research and uncover new potential customers for you. There are always opportunities that you’re not going to hear about that these people will uncover.
Now if you’re only pursuing opportunities from these data sources, you’re probably not mining your own customers enough. You really need to determine if such a service would be worthwhile for you to have, and if the benefits outweigh the costs.
Having a full pipeline means when one contract ends, you don’t have to worry where the next job is coming from. The capture process for that one, and many others, is well under way.
In a previous post, we looked at the Small Business Administration’s FY2015 Small Business Scorecard for how federal agencies did in meeting their goals to set aside a specific percentage of contracts and award them to small businesses.
So one of the things we can see is we’ve got five departments that achieved 40% or more: Agriculture has 50%, Interior 55%, Transportation 51%, State 44% and Commerce 43%. In addition there are several in the 30s.
Five years ago, none of that would have been the case – departments issuing 30-55% of their total acquisition for the year to small businesses was simply unheard of. Today there is a true migration towards more and more activity, including very robust contract sizes, being awarded to small businesses. This is clearly represented in the scorecard.
I think this trend will continue, and there are several things that growing and mid-sized small businesses need to understand to be ready. As it always comes back to on this blog, it’s all about relationships. Here are some specific relationships to think about:
- Large business partners and bigger small business neighbors – When they are awarded some of these robust contracts, they are going to want to flip them to other small businesses. They’ll keep a share, of course, and though they can’t get more than a 49/51 split, this still gives them a piece of the revenue and can be a win-win-win for all sides (you as the small business, the bigger business, and the end customer).
- Potential mentors and/or protégés – Another thing that we are tracking is the emerging regulations on extending mentor-protégé joint venture arrangements to all specially certified businesses as well as regular small business, where this was previously limited to 8(a) businesses.
- Small business partners – It is important to build early and often good solid relationships with your competitors that are doing the same kind of work. In fact, if one of your partners already has previous relationship and experience with a customer, that will count towards your joint bid for new business with that customer.
- Seemingly limited departments – Use the scorecard to focus on the departments that are clearly moving more and more work to small business. For example, Interior and Agriculture may have awarded small amounts compared to the giant amounts spent at DoD or Homeland Security, but when you look at the percentages these are no longer less desirable prospects. It is possible to design a robust portfolio and pipeline of opportunities from agencies you may have previously thought of as limited.
As you do your strategic planning, look at these entities and percentages and make some decisions – not just about who your prospects are but who your partners are. Consider whether you will build a true mentor-protégé partnership with bigger companies, and also whether you’re in a position to mentor another small business or mid-sized small business.