4 Keys to Success in Government Contracting
by Yolanda Cowart | February 6, 2018
Government contracting can mean big business to many small business owners. The U.S. government has a lucrative marketplace – so lucrative that the law mandates that 23 percent of these marketplace dollars must be awarded to small businesses. These four keys will help you get in on the action and propel your small business to increased profits and success.
- Use The Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation
Federal data systems like https://usaspending.gov and https://fpds.gov allow you to gather valuable business intelligence. Use the information you find there to identify key personnel and players, start conversations with the right buyers and contract specialists, and build a network with businesses and suppliers that can help expand your opportunities to strengthen your supply. The Federal Procurement Data Center contains detailed information on contracts from 2004 through the present year where the dollar amount spent was greater than $3,000. The details in these data bases also tell you the following information:
- Who’s buying?
- What they’re buying?
- How they’re buying?
- How much they’re buying?
Analyzing and understanding past spending habits helps understand future spending habits. Also, knowing what made past contracts successful gives you a jumping off point for future contracts.
- Gather Business Intelligence
Stay a step ahead of your competitors by looking further than FedBizOpps (FBO) when searching for federal procurement opportunities. While the federal government’s website, fedbizopps.gov, does post all Federal procurement opportunities with a value of $25,000 or greater, there are many other government vendor portals that should be considered along with FBO. For example, the DLA Internet Board System (DIBBS) is the main supplier for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) where procurements are conducted. DIBBS provides access to 85% of DLA’s solicitations supporting America’s combat logistics. In short, be sure to explore the entire federal marketplace and all its subsets, including:
- Department of Defense (DoD), Army and Air Force (www.fedbizopps.gov)
- Department of Defense FedMall (www.dla.mil/info/FedMall)
- Navy & Marines (www.neco.navy.mil)
- US Army Corps of Engineers (www.usace.army.mil)
- DLA Internet Board System (DIBBS) (www.dibbs.bsm.dla.mil)
- Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) (www.dibbs.bsm.dla.mil)
- Defense Supply Center Columbus (DSCC) (www.dla.mil/LandandMaritime.aspx)
- Defense Supply Center Richmond (DSCR) (www.aviation.dla.mil)
- Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) (www.dla.mil/TroopSupport.aspx)
Use the sites above to find out what each entity is buying, what contract vehicles they prefer, their contract requirements, and your current competitors. This information can save a ton of paperwork and, if completed and submitted successfully from the beginning, can lead to greater probabilities of success.
- Start the Conversation
Once you have completed your market research and business intelligence gathering, you’re ready to establish your target market, complete a capabilities statement, and start developing your marketing strategies. You’ll want to tailor your capabilities statement to each individual agency by communicating your values proposition, capabilities, and qualifications. Be prepared to discuss your unique selling position and how your company can help each agency support and meet their goals and objectives.
After you have presented your experience, expertise and relevant past performance, then you can begin to market your business certifications to the appropriate buying agents. Gauge your readiness using the following criteria:
- How can your company can help federal agencies meet their goals?
- Do you have the right federal vendor registrations and certifications for the contract you’re seeking? Those certifications could include, SAMS, DIBBS, SDVO, 8A, and HUB Zone.
- Does your value proposition statement align with and support their goals and desired outcomes?
- Have you clearly defined what sets you apart from your competition and makes you a better choice?
- Have you created a niche that piques the interest of federal buying agents?
- Build Trust with Federal Buyers
There’s a tried-and-true business adage that says, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Networking is the key to establishing relationships and building trust with government procurement officers and contract specialist. Start by reaching out to key contracting officers and asking if it is okay to send them your capabilities statement. Then explore whether or not there are opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships, joint ventures, or subcontracting relationships? If so, what will you bring to the table?
Make a point of attending vendor industry days and conferences, like the Defense Logistics Agency’s Training Knowledge Opportunities (TKO) and the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. Peruse the websites above and set up Google Alerts to continuously identify opportunities for you to expand your network.
As an added bit of advice, consider joining the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program. It pairs socially and economically disadvantaged businesses that qualify for SBA’s WOSB and 8(a) Programs with an experienced mentor who has previously found success in the federal contracting process. Using the four keys above will help you start procuring government contracts and growing your small business with the right contacts, contracts, and connections.
Florida PTAC at Pinellas County Economic Development
Yolanda Cowart has more than 20 years of experience in public service at the local and municipal levels. Early in her career, she worked as a human resources and relations professional while serving as a liaison to the business community and advocacy groups. Her prior experience includes being a human relations specialist for Lee County Government, and an equal opportunity director for the City of Fort Lauderdale. Her background combines public service and human relations experience with hands on leadership in equal opportunity, supplier diversity, business certifications programs, organizational training and development, and managing workforce diversity principles. Cowart is the procurement specialist for the Florida PTAC at Pinellas County Economic Development. She connects businesses to resources and tools for state, local, and federal contracting opportunities. She is a Certified Procurement Professional (CPP), a Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP), and a Certified Verification Counselor. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor of arts in political science and history.