Tactics for buyers and sellers as the federal fiscal year draws to a close
As the curtain comes down on the 2012 federal fiscal year, Govpro asked David Sonde for some federal marketplace pointers. Sonde is managing partner at Washington-based Winvale, a General Services Administration (GSA) consulting company. Winvale provides government contract support and scalable demand generation services for commercial companies looking to sell their products and services into the public sector. For government customers, Winvale offers software, hardware and services through a variety of contract vehicles, including Winvale’s GSA Schedules 66, 70, & 84.
Govpro: How can federal purchasing and contracting managers adequately control purchases as the federal fiscal year ends — to ensure that the purchases are appropriate?
David Sonde: In general, government buyers should purchase products off of contracts that meet Buy American (FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) 52.225-1) and Trade Agreements (FAR 52.225-5) acts. The most obvious contract would be the GSA Schedule for your respective product and/or service offering. Additionally, they can purchase products and services following FAR 8.002 (Priorities for use of government supply sources). These are approaches and processes that should always be followed regardless of the time of year.
Govpro: Are there any vendor strategies that can boost federal sales as the end of the federal fiscal year approaches?
DS: Like any other customer, the more closely aligned you are with the customer’s needs, the better off you’ll be at meeting them. If you consider your sales cycle, and most importantly the average days-to-close, you should get a good idea of when your marketing activities should start. That said, you can assume you’ll have a much easier time capturing year-end dollars if you’re selling a commodity-based product and/or service. Don’t assume you can win an agency-wide sale by starting in July. For the year-end, you need to be satisfied with winning small projects with potential toward a bigger and longer-term contract.
Vendors also need to have the appropriate procurement vehicles in place — GSA Schedule(s), Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP), Electronic Commodities Store, Seaport-e — and be prepared to respond immediately to any inquiries. Vendors should initiate and publicize the following activities:
• Provide customers with pre-sales support
• Extend their sales hours
• Provide an expedient quoting service
• Give the customer a phone number and email address that are manned 24/7
• Create separate web pages or microsites that are tailored toward year-end purchases
Finally, contractors should produce white papers with content that could influence upcoming RFPs and RFQs.
Govpro: Will some federal agencies try to push through last-minute acquisitions?
Govpro: In the past, there were news reports of accelerated federal purchases as the end of the federal fiscal year approached. Is accelerated purchasing still possible as FY2012 draws to a close on Sept. 30?
DS: It’s hard to say, since this is the end of the current administration’s term. One could argue that the current administration will continue with accelerated purchases to solidify or conclude any programs/projects it didn’t get completed. One also could argue that it will hold off on any accelerated purchases because it also is looking at re-election and probably wants the voting public to see it as prudent and not wasteful.
Govpro: Are there any federal agencies or product/service categories that offer special opportunities as this federal fiscal year-end approaches?
DS: Yes, but they are likely to be products that are consumed on an individual basis. These will be low-cost, highly consumable products (think items that get used by employees to complete their day-to-day jobs). However, considering the state of our economy, it being an election year, and the unprecedented sequestration, it appears that we will have a perfect storm on our hands. I would add that no product/service can substantially be sold into the federal government without it genuinely meeting a core requirement of an agency. The tale of The Ant and the Grasshopper holds true. The ant worked hard consistently and had a plan to store food in anticipation of lean times; the grasshopper on the other hand, had no plan, no forecasting, and simply lived for the day. Then, during the lean winter, the ant and its colony survived but the grasshopper did not. The impending perfect storm we are entering in Fiscal Year 2013 means that strategic planning is all that more important, not just to succeed, but in some instances, to survive. At Winvale, we help organizations focus on their strategic planning in order to survive and thrive within the federal government marketplace.