Too many business owners who miss out on this great opportunity because they don’t understand much about what happens behind the scenes in government procurement. Here are a few things that can help businesses owners get behind the curtain to improve their chances of landing government businesses.
Small business owners should take advantage of free resources such as FedBizOpps.gov and the several government purchasing forecasts to find out what government agencies have purchased in the past, using an aggregated database of government purchases, and what they are planning on purchasing in the future. All purchasing information is public and provides insight that will help bidders develop effective marketing strategies to highlight their products and services as well as discover new selling opportunities that may not have been previously apparent. For instance, business owners may only consider selling their top products but find that there is value in marketing second or even third line of products to the same government agencies for more business.
2) Find out how government agencies are buying.
No two government agencies follow the exact same procedures when they purchase from the private sector. Some agencies like to bundle several different components into a large contract which they award to a single entity, encouraging that entity to parcel out and subcontract the work into manageable parts. Other government agencies prefer to break components down and award several smaller contracts amongst several vendors. For small business owners, the trick here is knowing how those specific agencies they are interested in doing business with have handle their contracts. There is no better way to find this out than by researching past awards and gathering as much information about contract lengths, award amounts and even who the past contracts have gone to. Knowing this certainly gives business owners a leg up when narrowing down their prospective bid opportunities to a just a more manageable few.
3) Get registered to do business with the federal government.
Business owners should register their businesses in all of the required registries as early in procurement process as possible. Besides getting a necessary step out of the way, registering in these databases makes it easier for government agencies identify qualified businesses when they are building their short list for solicitation announcements. Registering in SAM, for instance, requires businesses to enter NAICS codes that apply to their industry and specialized services or products. When government agencies need specific products they will often search for businesses that list those NAICS codes in their business profile and send them information about an upcoming award and even an invitation to bid on the award.
4) Become experts in market trends, advancements and technologies in their field.
Recently transparency laws requiring government agencies to more clearly justify expenses and purchases as well as make them public have meant that purchasing agents have had a greater interest in finding the best value when awarding government businesses to the private sector. Government agencies are in dire need to spend less without sacrificing high quality products or the best of services. This leaves a great opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs can to take advantage of by establishing themselves as industry experts with a full understanding of market conditions and trends. Small businesses that demonstrate this knowledge are often keen of up-coming or expected changes in the market and can present innovative or creative solutions to keep costs down without sacrificing quality service or product. Purchasing agents value these kinds of applicants and will often reward them down the line with government business.
5) Network with government officers early and often.
All of the above hard work will be for naught if business owners don’t bring it to together and use it to effectively network with the procurement officials who will ultimately decide which businesses win contracts and which don’t. Procurement conferences and seminars are held throughout the year and the most successful vendors have used these events to establish the groundwork they need to win government contracts. Networking allows business owners to find out about contracts long before there’s even an RFP to bid on, and sometimes business owners become integral in the procurement writing process by contributing ideas and structure.
From start to finish government contracts take a long time to procure, usually anywhere between 18 to 24 months. On average, entities bidding on their first contracts could submit as anywhere between four and six proposals before winning their first bid. This all means that small business owners and entrepreneurs shouldn’t be impatient as they navigate the waters of government procurement. Staying proactive and working the scenes from behind the curtain should pay off with great rewards in the long run.
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