SELLING IN THE FEDERAL MARKETPLACE ON A MODEST BUDGET
I recently read a survey where the result was that the average small business wanting to break into federal contracting needed to commit over $75,000 to get to the point it could win its first contract. I remember reading that amount at the time and thinking, no wonder the reason the entrance of new small businesses in the federal marketplace is so low. A small business working on a 10% profit margin would require expending the profits on $750,000 in sales to win its first contract, and then there is no guarantee it would ever win one. It is simply a bad bet for most small businesses. Suggestions in the Article contained many of the listed items below:
Inefficient Federal Marketing
1. Attend Government Contracting Events - Networking Events and Fairs, meet people and talk to them and exchange information.
2. Work with Government Resource Centers - ASBDC Centers, SBA SCORE
3. Work the Social Media Angle - Twitter/Facebook, make sure your presence is out there.
4. Look over agency budgets to see what they are procuring in the next calendar year.
5. Monitor Federal Bid Sites - fbo.gov
6. Find a Strategic Teaming Partner
7. Hire Consultants
When looking over these suggestions it is clear why it was a long and expensive process for firms in the survey to break into this process. All these suggestions are activity, however following these seven actions is hardly a recipe for successfully selling to the federal government.
Efficient Federal Marketing
Step 1: Identify Agencies with locations near you that you would like to Target
At some point during the federal purchasing decision it is likely you will need to meet face to face. This is helpful for you as for making sure you are meeting expectations as well as to build relationships for future work. It is difficult at early stages to pursue opportunities to far outside of your firms geographic service area.
Step 2: Identify who at those agencies makes the purchasing decision on buying your product or service
This can be done by searching through federal databases, and Fedvital.com can provide the results of a search such as this for approximately $400. It will contain useful information such as, sales data, names phone numbers and emails of the federal buyers.
Step 3: Consider a GSA Schedule
I generally advise firms to think about obtaining a GSA Schedule Contract early in their federal marketing career. Not all small businesses have sales with their GSA Schedule Contract however the average small business does over $1 million per year in federal sales. Having the contracting vehicle provides firms with a universal way of making FAR (Federal Acquisitions Regulations) compliant sale. Firms with a GSA Schedule are also pre-vetted by the GSA which increases a firms stature when communicating with procurement officers.
Step 4: Create your Federal Government Elevator Pitch
Think fast and short. Come up with a 30-second pitch you can deliver to a federal contracting officer once you get one on the phone. Key elements of your pitch should include:
- Who you are;
- What your company is wanting to do for the government;
- What is the main problem you feel like you solve or what you excel at;
Your credibility as a contractor such as your past performance; you’re available for small contracts; you provide emergency work; you qualify for one or more set-asides; key differences between you and your competitors.
Step 5: Sending emails
Convert your federal government elevator pitch into an email. This email should include a few bullets that summarize everything you include in your pitch. Send this email to federal procurement officers from the list Fedvital.com has provided. Make sure to add something personal to each email, so it doesn’t appear that you are spamming them. Include information in the email such as Cage Code and GSA Schedule and Contract Number. Include a link to a page within your website that is setup to market to the federal government.
Step 6: Follow up… Follow up… Follow up…
Clients often ask us when to follow-up with a procurement officer. We’ve put together the following guidelines, however over time you may modify this process:
1. Call at least every other week till you make verbal contact with the contracting officer.
2. Call three to four time over the six months that follow your initial conversation with the procurement officer. After that call once per quarter for follow up.
3. Through this process you should be able to identify the procurement officers who seem more excited about your offerings. Call these procurement officers more often, it is ok to call these procurement officer at times as often as once a week, especially if you know the procurement officer is about to put out a solicitation.
4. Call after you’ve submitted a bid.
5. Call after you’ve lost a bid and find out why. Procurement officers are often willing to tell you why they went with a different company (this is called a debriefing).
6. Call to say thank you after you’ve completed a contracted job.
Over time following this simple plan can build can quickly and inexpensively build your federal contracting business.