by Yolanda Cowart
July 31, 2017
Winning government contracts is a goal many small business owners have. It’s a smart one, too, because the government spends a remarkable $135 billion – yes, that’s a B – each year awarding contracts to small businesses. If your small business wants its share of those government dollars, pay attention to these four important steps. They’ll help you prepare to make your first winning bid and procure your first of many valuable government contracts.
- Start With Your Local Government
The first step is to identify government agencies and military branches in your area and find out exactly what products and services they use on a regular basis. Investigate exactly who does the purchasing. Get a name, email address, and telephone number if you can. Direct contact information is always better than a generic to-whom-it-may-concern salutation. Finally, contact your local resources who can assist, such as the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). They’re only one Google search away.
- Communicate Their Way, Not Yours
You may prefer a phone call or in-person conversation. The government, though, recently initiated its Cloud First policy. It’s how they speed up communication, discussion, bid comparisons, and contracts. Cloud technology is an essential tool for the government contract procurement process and your small business should not be without it. Cloud First is their communication choice and it needs to be yours as well. Don’t allow your proposal to get lost in a stack of papers on a desk while your competitor is sailing through the cloud to the top of the list.
- Obtain Every Certification You Qualify For
Leverage every government certification that will put you even a tiny bit ahead of the game. If your small business meets the qualifications for minority-owned, women-owned or veteran-owned status, those certifications may put you at the front of the line. There’s a helpful list from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) of what qualifies your business as a small business and what certifications you might be eligible to obtain. Make sure you’re aware of every key that may help you unlock a government door, including one of your team members having a physical disability or your company being located in a high unemployment area.
- Be Patient and Persistent
The average time from first proposal to winning proposal to successful contract award is somewhere around the two year mark. That may feel like an eternity, but patience and perseverance will pay off in time. Rejections and losing bids can take their toll if you let them. Instead, be prepared to learn from every “no” on the way to your first “yes.” Ask questions that clearly define why your proposal wasn’t accepted, then take the necessary steps to enhance, improve, and streamline your next offering.
Here’s a bonus step – find a mentor. Fellow small business owners who have been through the process and will allow you to pick their brains over a cup of coffee or a long lunch are worth their weight in gold. Many government agencies even have directories of mentor-protégé programs that partner you with just such contract procurement gems. Take full advantage of the steps listed above, then find a qualified mentor to help you get fully prepared to put your best foot forward and win the contract that will help your business grow.