July 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm #166400
Its a very strange environment. I used to work for local government in procurement. Now I am in private enterprise and I have to sell to government. My company installs fiber optic cables in buildings
We are a small company based in Virginia. We don’t have a SWAM (small woman and minority) certification yet. We don’t have our 8M certification as well. It could be as late as November if we get our SWAM certification. .
Yet we have a good track record selling to private companies. We have been in business for 8 years and our private contracts are drying up quickly. We want to explore selling to the government but everyone has said unless you have a SWAM or 8A or 8M don’t even bother talking to the government.
Since you are the contracting experts I thought to ask your opinion.
Is there some way of selling to the government in our present state or is it totally pointless? Are there any other approaches?
July 20, 2012 at 9:58 am #166410
I would suggest looking for partners that have experience in selling to the government as well as existing access to the preference programs (8a, SDOVSB, SWAM, etc) . We are an SDVOSB company and while we have yet to really capitalize on that status by receiving a preference program specific contract it has opened doors for us and led us to places where we have been able to compete and win business including USDA, VA, DOI, and HUD. It also depends on how quickly you need revenues. The federal market has long sales cycles and you may spin your wheels for a year or more getting traction. If you can’t be patient in your approach you may need to look for existing contractors doing work in your field and look for sub-contracting opportunities. Best of luck…
July 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm #166408
July 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm #166406
Regardless of government customer base (e.g. federal, state, local), step one to get your foot in the door is normally creating relationships with those that already have established footprints with the organization you are trying to sell.
Teaming and subcontracting is a vital strategy for start-ups, since the established track record with the government is not there. However, the buying practices of the state and local governments are more aligned with standards business practices, so corporate experience is a more powerful differentiator than at the federal level, where little to no government experience is usually a death blow to new opportunities.
Nonetheless, being able to add value to a business relationship is where I would recommend you of focus. Find those firms that are selling the products and services to the organizations you are targeting, meet with those vendors and organizations, and find capability gaps where your products and services can fill.
July 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm #166404
I agree that teaming is the way to go to get your foot in the door until you get your certification. You should be able to offer larger contractors very competitive rates because your overhead is so low, or should be.
July 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm #166402
That was my thinking as well. We bid on a project put out by a very large hotel chain. We put in a very responsive bid that was well below everyone else. But because we are a small company they asked for an immediate price drop of 10%. We complied with that and immediately they came back with we don’t want materials just labor. So we have just become marginalized and possibly we can only get a 1% profit margin. These are very tough times and they don’t show any signs of getting better.
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