As federal stimulus funds start trickling down to states, counties and cities, small business owners are going to find plenty of opportunities for contracting with the government and getting their piece of the “stimulus pie.” But contracting with the government can be full of problems so you’ll want to use caution as you explore this area of business.
To help you out, Lourdes Martin-Rosa, American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting, offers seven common missteps to avoid when promoting services to the public sector:
- Don’t: Underprice yourself. Being the least expensive provider won’t necessarily win you any business, and it may make some officials question the quality of your products or services.
- Don’t: Give a sales presentation or talk “at” your prospects with slideshows. Take the opportunity to sit down and hear what challenges they’re facing so you can fine-tune your offer to their needs.
- Don’t: Waste money on print mailers. After the anthrax scare, it became difficult to get unsolicited mail through to federal agencies. However, you can often reach contracting officers via email.
- Don’t: Exaggerate. Be careful not to overpromise on what your products or services can achieve. Make sure you can back up your claims and deliver on agreements, and you’ll be more likely to gain a positive reputation among government buyers.
- Don’t: Spread yourself too thin. It’s tempting to respond to every opportunity that crosses your path, but that’s an inefficient approach when marketing to the government. Intensely focus your sales efforts on a few select agencies so you can gain an in-depth understanding of their people, processes and needs.
- Don’t: Wait for a request for proposal (RFP). Well before an RFP is issued, you should make yourself known to the right contacts at target agencies and have a keen understanding of what they’re looking for. The most trusted vendors are sometimes even asked to help formulate RFP guidelines, which gives them a significant advantage.
- Don’t: Make assumptions about evaluation criteria. If you’re not sure how an agency is making its decision, ask the agency to clarify its evaluation criteria, and cater your proposal around it.
For additional information on contracting with the government, hop on over to the American Express OPEN site and pick up your copy of the Introduction to Government Contracting Book (pdf).
Do you have other tips to share? Please leave a comment.