Who does the government purchase from?
Search the same sites www.fedbizopps.gov and www.bid-search.com for awards. Look for opportunities that you are interested in and see what company was awarded the last contract and the terms – public information
Who am I competing with locally?
See which local small businesses in your industry have registered to be able to sell to the government (under www.ccr.gov under dynamic small business search or directly: http://dsbs.sba.gov/dsbs/dsp_dsbs.cfm
Where and how do I start?
Don’t forget the business basics and first make sure it is a good fit!
- Business Plan
- Marketing Plan
- “A” customers – overall and within the government
- Cash Flow
- Often takes time to win a contract (often 1 year or more)
- Most contracts pay 30 days after you perform and correctly invoice.
- Return on Investment (ROI) – time & money
- Get set up
- Federal TIN (Tax Identification Number)
- Merchant account
- Internet access
- Email account
Be honest with yourself
- Do these agencies buy what I have to offer?
- Do they buy from companies like me?
- Can I show past performance?
- The government doesn’t want to be your first customer
- The local agencies often share information on successful relationships and poor performance.
- Know your timing.
- How soon do you need money?
- Where are you in your business development?
- Where should your time be spent today?
- Listen to others, but go off of what you know and have seen in the past for YOU.
- Don’t believe in someone else’s lotto ticket
- It is ok to still try if you think it is a fit (but be careful with your time)
- It is ok to start with a smaller contract than you would prefer. It can build history.
- Leverage your successes.
- Take reasonable steps. If you are at $50,000 in sales, don’t take on a $300,000 contract unless you are partnering with someone or have done it before in another capacity.
- Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Remember past performance is important. You can also run out of cash.
Get your numbers in line (visit the following sites)
Get a DUNS number, find your FSC codes, find your SIC codes, and find your NAICS codes
- DUNS: www.dnb.com
- NAICS: www.census.gov/epcd/www/naics.html
- SIC: www.osha.gov/oshstats/sicser.html
- Central Contractor Registration (CCR) http://www.ccr.gov. CCR is required if company’s want to do business with the federal government. It is required for two reasons: First, it provides the federal government with a central database of all its vendors. Second, the government is able to make payments for contracts by accessing company-banking information in the CCR database.
- Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) ORCA is an e-Government initiative that was designed by the Integrated Acquisition Environment (IAE) to replace the paper based Representations and Certifications (Reps and Certs) process. http://orca.bpn.gov/
Work with PTAC or find assistance online
Go after opportunities
- Search bids
- Seek sub-contracting or partnering opportunities
- Build relationships
- Attend classes and networking opportunities
Promoting your business
- When talking to someone who can make referrals, make sure the person you are talking to understands what your business does and who would be interested in it (don’t assume they will know).
- Work with the person you are talking with to determine if you offer something that is purchased within their dollar thresholds (keep in mind there are often publicly bid contracts for frequent purchases)?
- If you have existing contracts with other agencies – BRING A COPY!! If you have other customers that show you can perform – share a list of customers/completed projects. Your past successes will help you.
- Identify the agency’s process for accessing the individuals you want to promote to and provide your information in a clear format that provides capacity, benefits, and pricing.
What do you do if your first attempt was not successful?
- If you feel your contact with that agency was supportive of your efforts (thought it was a fit, had a system that they felt would work for you, or had the ability to try a new system), follow up and ask for feedback.
- If you feel there are opportunities with that agency for small purchases with companies like yours and you feel your contact was not interested in your business. Identify if cold calling purchasing/departments would be appropriate. You can often find these contacts by doing creative searches on their websites, calling the general number on their website, or looking in the phone book.
- Build relationships (support their goals; don’t do pressure sales).
- If you don’t have very good luck, look at your marketing plan. GO FOR THE DOORS THAT ARE EASIEST TO OPEN – YOUR ‘A’ CUSTOMERS.
How to leverage your business for competitive bids
- Be prepared – know if what you offer is publicly bid and when it is expected to go out next.
- Know your competition and the needs of the agency.
- Know HOW the bid usually goes out. If it is narrow in scope (say only X manufacturer), let the contracting officer know the value of competitive products with proven history. If they want the same scope, see if you can create new relationships before the bid goes out.
- Be creative. If you can think of another contract they can “piggy back on” that you have, share. If you can think of an added value that your company can offer, let them know. The person designing the next contract may find enough value that they include it in the contract.
If you were not successful
- Ask to find out who won the contract and at what price.
- They can’t offer the detail, but are required to offer the total dollar amount and awarding vendor.
- If there were factors other than price, ask if they have any tips where you can improve (they can’t compare you to the competitor).
- See how close you were. It probably only makes sense to bid on similar items if you are in a close range.