Tips for landing federal contracts near the end of the fiscal year
The federal government spends nearly 60 percent of the year’s budget during the fourth quarter July-Oct. 1. As a former scout pilot and senior staff officer in charge of budgets, logistics and contracts within the most deployable units in the U.S. Army, I was taught to never go into a situation blind—to know your enemy and the battlefield conditions. This same principle applies to business in terms of competition and market space.
I used to buy from hundreds of vendors and knew within a minute if they knew how to play the game or not. This inherent knowledge is rare in this industry, so if you are thinking about outsourcing, really ask the tough questions and make sure prospective partners have a background that brings together business, strategy, marketing and government in terms of actually “been there done that.” You have been warned. I call them GSA factories or monster-consulting firms that produce canned information and use the pass-around method.
So how do you make it easy for government buyers to do business with you? Various contracting mechanisms like IDIQs, BPAs, Sole Source or GSA can help make the sale quicker (14 days on average versus 248 days on the open market). By the time the fourth quarter comes along, a smart company will have done its homework and know who to target and why. Jumping in the federal market half way through without doing some important groundwork will result in frustration. You may get a few interested buyers but winging it is certainly not a long-term approach to success.
About 99 percent of the marketers I have encountered in businesses large and small do not know how to do effective market research in the government space or use appropriate terminology on crucial materials. Here are some tips on selling to the government:
· Market research—Competition, who and how agencies are buying what you offer, regulatory environment, conditions, potential partners, coding, etc.
· Keep your materials to a minimum—Brochures, capabilities statements, business cards, specification sheets, web page, etc.
· Present a clean image—Not too “artsy” but simple. Going with a high tech, aviation-related, sustainable/green or a corporate look is always good.
· Know who you are selling to—What are their motivations and why should they pay attention to you? How do you help them save time or meet a mandate or existing requirement? Are you talking to someone who is regulatory- or mission-driven? They each approach sales differently.
· Have a contracting mechanism in place to close the deal faster.
· Be proactive—Don’t just view current opportunities and be reactive. Be in the know before the offer hits the streets. Get out there and meet people.
· Be confident—Don’t waste federal agencies’ time. Pitch the way you always do but make it quick and use terms they understand. Cost is usually not the pain point. Time, mission requirements and the ability to perform well are paramount.
Erica G. Courtney is president of San Mateo, Calif.-based Courtney Consulting Solutions, LLC. She is an independent government business development consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an “insider” who knows how to cut through the red tape and help firms sell successfully to the government. As a consultant, she has earned clients millions of dollars in state and federal government contracts and contributed to their growth.