Finding work with the federal government takes some pretty fancy footwork. First you need to make sure you’re talking to the right person, and then you need to show how you’re right for the contract.
Before you get too far with a pitch, make sure you’re pitching to the right person. Ask qualifying questions that will determine if this is the person in the agency who has both the money (decision-making power) and the requirement for the specific services you provide.
Just like our team at TAPE did after our dance party, you’ll probably go from person-to-person, from chance encounters to meetings at high levels, down to meetings at mid-levels. In every meeting, it’s up to you to always be asking, “Where’s the beef? Does this person have money and a requirement that we can satisfy?”
Doing your footwork also means taking care of all the little things that make it easier to do business with you. After our own chance encounter led to a meeting with a high-level decision maker, the very first question he asked us was, “Are you registered in our small business database, and are you certified by this agency?” Hearing yes to those questions meant he could do business with us without having to jump through any hoops.
As a side note, registering in the small business database of a specific agency is a different process from registering your business with the federal government. You can usually do this online via the agency’s website, or through their OSDBU.
Another major dimension of successful prospecting is how well you know your customer. And I don’t mean whether you’ve been introduced. It’s about knowing why the customer would be amenable to you doing the work as opposed to someone else. And making sure the customer understands these issues as well. Which of their unique needs are you perfectly set up to address?
What’s the solution to their problem, and do you have that solution as a capability? It could be as simple as a customer who needs their grass cut and you have a lawnmower. Keep in mind, you still may lose the contract to someone with a riding mower. So if all you’ve got is a push mower, you’d better be looking for a customer with a small enough property that doesn’t need a riding mower – because someone with a riding mower can get it done faster and cheaper.
Once you know you can meet the customer’s needs, get on the phone! Statistics show that 12 calls are needed to make the average sale, and that the average company only makes three of those. So stick to it!
I’ve already talked about making sure the agency actually has the money to follow through, and it’s worth repeating. Sure, they may have the desire to complete a project, but with the tight budgets everyone is facing, they may not have the money. And that will definitely hinder your success.
Keep in mind that even if you’ve done all of this fancy footwork, you can’t stop now. There are other people who want the work – never assume you are the only one who knows about an opportunity. If a customer is willing to talk to you, they’re willing to talk to anyone. And under federal acquisition regulations, they have to give the same information to everyone who asks. You need to keep demonstrating that you understand this agency’s requirements, and why your business is the best one to meet these needs.
We’ll talk more in future blog posts about how to find customers. In the meantime, keep up that fancy footwork!