Be proactive by building relationships instead of simply searching FedBizOpps for RFPs
According to USAspending.gov, the government spent $3.85 trillion dollars on contracts, grants, loans, and other financial assistance in 2016.
Because that’s a lot of cash, more and more government contractors are looking to get their share, making the space extremely competitive.
If you’re like many companies in the federal marketplace, you may believe that you’re doing your due diligence by searching the standard opportunity websites like FedBizOpps (FBO). Maybe you’re even paying for a tool like Govini or GovWinIQ to search for potential contracts to bid on.
While these software packages can help you identify potential opportunities, are they truly helping you win contracts?
Pros and cons of searching opportunity databases
One of the primary problems with the government contracting process is that there are contracts scattered across dozens and dozens of websites.
While FBO doesn’t have all of the government bids (no one does), it is the primary source for federal government contracting opportunities worth over $25,000, with over 40,700 active opportunities that have been posted within the last 90 days.
The site’s many search capabilities can be very useful to narrow down the list of opportunities that may be right for your company. FBO allows you to filter on areas such as your socio-economic status, primary NAICS codes, SIC codes, solicitation posting dates, agencies in a certain area, as well as others to help you narrow your search. You can set up automated searches to run on any given number of days and return the results directly to your inbox.
It’s great for research as well; you can search pre-solicitation notices for upcoming opportunities and award notices to research your major competitors.
Many federal agencies post their contracts to FBO to fulfill their federal acquisition regulation (FAR) requirements to allow for fair opportunity and increased competition.
But is increased competition something you want when pursuing opportunities?
There are certainly some drawbacks in using a tool like FBO as your primary source of opportunities.
First of all, many opportunities that are released on FBO are already teed up for a specific vendor to win.
This “pre-chosen” vendor likely has already forged a strong relationship with the buyer and gained a deep understanding of the project needs and requirements. Thus, if you’re responding to an opportunity on FBO, you may already be too late.
Additionally, many opportunities posted on FBO may have extremely vague requirements, making it very difficult to create a detailed proposal where you can portray that you understand the job that needs to be accomplished.
Is there a better way to source opportunities to improve your results and win more federal contracts?
Developing and tracking relationships throughout the process
In today’s competitive market, more and more companies are realizing the benefits of building a strategic business development process to increase the number of real opportunities and improve win rates.
Instead of being reactive to opportunities posted on FBO, smart government contractors are creating a sustainable, consistent business development process and forging a culture of proactivity with a focus on planning and analytics.
Relationship building is a key component of these winning cultures and processes.
Building relationships with agency personnel
The first tactic is to build relationships with agency contracting officers and other key personnel involved in the technical evaluation process.
By having consistent communication with contracting officers, you can better understand the problems they’re facing on a daily basis and identify ways to work together even before a formal solicitation is created.
Maintaining a good relationship with other technical personnel and end users can also benefit you when it comes to source selection time. While the contracting officer is the ultimate decider on who will win the contract, they rely heavily on the input from their technical experts and other personnel involved. Their positive input is very influential when it comes to the softer evaluation factors, such as project management approach and technical skill. So communicating these strengths to others who work with the CO can be very beneficial.
And when that solicitation is formally released, you’ll have a leg up both in terms of a deep understanding of the requirements and being at the top of the buyer’s mind.
Even if you’re looking to bid on projects under $3,500, these agency relationships can be super valuable. Many agencies are authorized to spend these smaller amounts via under the Government Purchase Card program without going through the contracting office. Program managers have the capability to purchase their supplies and services directly from the vendor of their choice, and having open and continuous communication can help give your company a competitive advantage for these smaller contracts.
Building relationships with other contractors
Networking with other government contractors can help increase your credibility as a vendor, which can lead to subcontracts, referrals for other projects, and introductions to people in key roles.
When a large federal contractor is awarded a contract they must, as a requirement of award, subcontract a certain portion of the project to companies meeting certain socio-economic standards. These subcontracting opportunities are usually not posted online and definitely not through a government site such as FBO. Thus, small businesses need to identify and target these larger companies and build lasting relationships with their procurement and sourcing staff.
Even networking with your competition may be a smart move.
There is a bit of co-opetition going on here. On one opportunity, you might be going head-to-head against your competition, and on another, you might work together to complement each other’s capabilities to win a larger contract.
You never know when you might need to work with your competition, so networking with them might be a good move.
Building a strategic business development culture is a key factor in today’s government contracting marketplace.
With competition increasing every year for government contracts, the need to spend more time managing the ones you have and less time finding new opportunities is crucial. This will allow you to increase your competitiveness by bidding on opportunities that demonstrate your core competencies and increase profit margins.
Are you simply searching for opportunities on FBO or other tools? Are your win rates meeting your expectations? If not, it may be worthwhile to diversify your approach by being more proactive in your business development efforts.
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