The famous saying goes: “True love is like a pair of socks: you gotta have two and they’ve gotta match.” For you to succeed in winning government contracts, and find customers with whom you will stay for a long, long time – like in a marriage of sorts – you have to carefully match your capabilities with perfect contracting opportunities. Here are 10 tangible steps you can take for simple, no-nonsense market research, building your pipeline quickly, and deciding whether to go for it:
1. Determine which agencies pique your interest – narrow down the list from http://www.usa.gov/Agencies.shtml.
2. Take a look on each website and see – what is the agency’s mission? Then check what it buys. Go to the procurement section – “Doing business with,” “Business”, or “Procurement.” It should have a link to a web page that lists contracting opportunities. Go ahead and see what kinds of opportunities are on the horizon. Look up the same agency at www.usaspending.gov to see what kids of contracts the agency you are researching is issuing, and what contractors are leading for that agency. These are your potential teammates or competitors.
3. Decide how your capabilities and resources align with the potential customer needs. Can you fill the gaps by finding a great subcontractor, hiring additional personnel, or developing an in-house capability?
4. Define a clear set of criteria for yourself: what keywords will you search with; and what size, scope, and level of complexity of opportunities will you go after.
5. Search for specific opportunities in databases such as INPUT, ePipeline, Set-Aside Alert, www.fedbizopps.gov, and others.
6. Register where your customers post opportunities. Not all opportunities make it to www.fedbizopps.gov. For example, U.S. Army posts on Army Single Face to Industry (ASFI): https://acquisition.army.mil/
7. Go ahead and visit the potential customer to ask what their needs are (and how you could help) and what opportunities they may be planning to offer up for bidding. If you are a small business, start with an office of small business utilization every federal government agency has. They should be able to direct you to the right contracting officers and program managers.
8. Leverage your workforce and partners to find out about new opportunities. Keep your ear close to the ground, and see if anyone knows of any upcoming projects. Attend networking breakfasts, roundtables, trade shows, conferences, and other formal and informal events and social clubs with target customers. Come with a plan to meet specific people, and follow up relentlessly.
9. Register with large government contractor primes in their website procurement sections. Follow up with their business development person – you can find their personnel names on FedBizOpps or INPUT. Actively pursue being added to their teams on opportunities that are up their alley to chase.
10. When you qualify each opportunity to see whether you need to pursue it any further or abandon it, be picky – very picky. Have a list of criteria such as your capabilities and past performance, your understanding of the customer, your resources, and your level of readiness, to you apply consistently to your “pursue-or-not” analysis. Say “no” way more frequently than “yes”.
There are more techniques to match your capabilities with perfect customers and opportunities, but these are some of the basics that will get you well on your way. Let me know if you have questions about any of these techniques.
About the Author: Olessia Smotrova-Taylor is president/CEO of OST Global Solutions, Inc., a Metro Washington, DC consulting and training company that helps businesses grow by winning government and commercial contracts. She is a practicing capture and proposal manager who won more than $16 Billion in new business. She has 15 years of experience in proposal and capture management, marketing, and communications. Her self-study course, Executive Summary Secrets, sells worldwide. She is also an instructor in the currently ongoing, one-time only webinar series “Blueprint for Winning Government Contracts for Small Businesses” that shows how to catapult your business into aggressive growth in the federal market. Prior to starting her own consulting company, she won business for Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and wrote for the Financial Times of London.