Last-minute pointers to close another federal fiscal year
Now is the time for vendors to land federal business, before FY 2010 ends on Sept. 30. Govpro.com spoke to Michelle Hermelee, a government consultant at Princeton, N.J.-based BH Sky Associates, to get some pointers on end-of-fiscal-year efforts that vendors should be taking to land federal contracts.
BH Sky Associates assists companies trying to enter the government marketplace by identifying, securing, negotiating, marketing and managing contracts with all levels of government, including federal.
Govpro: How did you get started advising businesses on selling to government?
MH: I worked in government sales for 12 years. I worked for an environmental firm that rented and sold environmental monitoring equipment. We were very successful in landing procurement contracts with the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. I founded BH Sky Associates five years ago, and we have helped hundreds of companies of all sizes. We assist small biz operations, medium size, manufacturing, medical equipment, IT and other kinds of companies to get started and navigate through the government procurement system.
Govpro: What fiscal-year-end strategies can vendors use to land federal business?
MH: It’s important to make sure that they — the vendors — know who is buying at the agency, as well as which agencies are buying the products and services that the vendor is selling. It’s also important to know what type of contract vehicle the agencies are using to buy the vendor’s products.
Govpro: What are some contract vehicles?
MH: I am referring to GSA schedule contracts. Federal agencies spend over $36 billion annually on GSA schedule contracts. It’s one of our areas of specialty at BH Sky. A GSA contract is like a license to hunt within the federal government, and it’s the most powerful contract a vendor can possibly get.
Vendors should make certain they are on a GSA schedule. It’s a huge source of potential business, so at the end of the fiscal year, if the government has some extra money, they can just look on GSA Advantage and procure that way, instead of going out to public bid. Businesses on the GSA schedule have already been vetted and approved by the government, so it’s a great source of business.
Govpro: Can you offer any other tips to prospective sellers to federal agencies?
MH: Vendors need to get to know their customers. Getting in front of them, finding out what their needs are — vendors really need to understand the federal customer.
And the only way to get in the game for public bids is to know what bids are out there. So I always tell my business clients that they need to know about current bids. I urge them to subscribe to a bid notification service. BH Sky sells one service, and there are a lot of services out there. The services notify their subscribing businesses about every available bid. Not just federal, but state and local government bids, and bids from colleges and universities. The notification services cover the entire government market. Vendors have to stay abreast of the opportunities; otherwise, they are not going to get in the game.
Govpro: Does federal spending accelerate at the end of the federal fiscal year?
MH: Absolutely. And especially for the purchases that come under the bid threshold that covers smaller dollar value purchases. That’s when it’s really important for businesses to know their customers. Because, maybe those procurements at the end of the fiscal year aren’t going to go out to public bid. The agencies are in a hurry; they’ve only got a couple of days. With the money to spend, and it might be a couple of thousand dollars, they might look in the agency’s own internal database of vendors. So, it’s important that vendors know who is buying their product or in need of their company’s service. Vendors need to get in their system and get in front of agency personnel. Give the agency a call. Get out there, and make sure you’ve registered as a vendor in the agency’s database.
Govpro: Do vendors need a consulting firm like BH Sky Associates to have success in the government marketplace?
MH: I think it really depends on how aggressive they are, the complexity of what they are offering, how well staffed they are, and their knowledge and understanding of government procurement and compliance. I think it’s helpful, and it gives them an edge to have a consultant such as myself to guide them so they don’t waste their time knocking on the wrong doors. Companies should spend time on their strengths, and let an organization like ours that lives and breathes the government market to focus on public sector selling efforts.
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