Vendors: be prepared for spike in demand during ‘federal buying season’
The government market is huge. Federal purchases of goods and services will exceed $1.2 trillion in 2010, according to estimates from St. Louis, Mo.-based consultants Macroeconomic Advisers, as reported in our mid-year 2010 Keating Report.
More importantly, the federal government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and that often means accelerated purchasing activity at federal agencies as the curtain comes down on FY 2010. It also means loads of selling opportunities for savvy government marketers between now and Sept. 30.
GovPro.com asked government market expert, Jennifer Schaus, about end-of-fiscal-year strategies for vendors to the federal government. Schaus directs Jennifer Schaus & Associates, based in Washington, D.C.
Schaus’ boutique consulting firm works on behalf of businesses to add their products and services to the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Supply Schedule. The organization also provides business-to-government sales strategy and business development support, including proposal writing and assistance in obtaining 8(a) Small Business Certification.
GP: Would you have any advice for government marketers as we approach the end of the federal fiscal year?
JS: A successful year-end strategy in the federal world should be one component of your overall B2G strategy. Vendors should not expect any quick wins without relationships in place (direct with the government and also with other established contractors) in this increasingly competitive market. This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel, as you have to start somewhere.
Should you have any “disadvantaged advantages” such as 8(a), veteran- or women-owned business designations, these should be leveraged to differentiate your firm from the competition and help the agencies meet their set-aside goals. By using free tools such as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Scorecard you can then map out which agencies have failed to meet these goals. Backing in and targeting these agencies who have a need that you can fulfill may help accelerate your sales cycle.
GP: Are there other tools you advise clients to use to succeed in the federal markeplace?
JS: Other government portals, such as FedBizOpps, should be used to identify commercial incumbents, as well as contracting officers. Here, you can increase your chances to know who the real players are, and then make a move to partner and/or directly contract.
GP: What about partnering and competition in landing federal business?
JS: Competitors should not always be viewed as competition; they can make great strategic partners and perhaps strengthen your offering. They may have something you need and vice versa. For example, “Company A” may have the relationship in place with “XYZ Agency,” while you may have the GSA Schedule and woman-owned designation that makes the offer much more attractive to the buyer. All of this is Basic Sales 101.
GP: Anything else you’d care to add about selling to federal agencies at this point in the fiscal year?
JS: In any vertical, and at almost any point in the fiscal year, it all comes down to relationships, as well as having a solid education/understanding on how this unique sector operates. Of course, a quality product/service from a reputable firm with a competitive price also factors into the decision-making process. There may be a sprint to the fiscal year end, but selling to the federal government is a marathon; it takes time and endurance, as well as some training.
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