by Karen Krymski | December 18, 2020
Many small business owners look towards the new year with goals of working with the federal government. Many want to take advantage of certifications to make them, in their minds, more appealing to get a contract.
While that may be true, let me start by saying that a company will not get a contract because of a certification alone. There are several other reasons that a company will be selected, with one of them being relationships.
I recently had the opportunity to coach a client as to the best approach to get started.
In every scenario of doing business with the government, just like any business transaction, it starts with a relationship. And that relationship is more likely to flourish if the vendor does as much research as possible before making contact.
In order to make your company stand out from the other 95 percent of companies who are contacting everyone in the government to buy their product/service – with no focused message or agency knowledge – I encourage clients to research past agency buying, how the agency buys (no, you may not really need that GSA), who the agency’s top customers are, and what is projected (procurement forecasts) for the agency to purchase in the upcoming year(s).
I also suggest that the client create a list of any contacts they have within government contractors or any government representatives. This is definitely a good starting point. Remember that if you are doing business with a large commercial business, they may well have a “government side” to their business. Do not be afraid to ask to be introduced to someone who handles government contracting.
Armed with your researched information, this provides a great starting platform to open a conversation so you don’t waste the federal representative’s time by asking questions you could have learned online. A secret: I was called out by a federal representative years ago for doing just this – asking questions that I should have known coming into the meeting…don’t do it!
Before you contact anyone, there is a piece of information that is invaluable to have prepared – a Capability Statement. This is your business’ resume. A document that quickly provides an overview of the company, its competencies, past performance (commercial business is fine), your contact info, DUNS, CAGE and NAICS codes, and more. Your local Florida PTAC office can provide a template to assist you in building your statement. Having this document prepared will allow you to follow up with any contacts that you make. It is usually the first item requested, as in “Please send me your Cap Statement.”
So, next action is, to whom should I direct my questions within a targeted agency that I have researched? In every federal agency (and most military installations) there are small business officers. This is a starting point. You could also reach out to contracting officers or other points of contact that your research reveals.
Your conversation could start like this: “This is XYZ from ABC company and I’m interested in the Yada Yada opportunity that is projected for 2021. I’ve read the presolicitation and I have questions,” or, “This is XYZ from ABC company and I’m interested in an expiring contract in Q3 of 2021. I noticed there is no acquisition information (or maybe there is, and you have clarifying questions.). Is the agency planning to put this out for recompete or will the opportunity be complete? Can you tell me who the best person would be to learn more?” BOOM! You have moved up on the ladder. You are not the person who is looking for anything the government offers….you have some knowledge and are interested in the agency, not their spending capability.
This is how the process begins. Knowledge of the agency and how they do business are your best power tools. Yes, a socioeconomic certification can help, but it’s not why an agency will initially let you in their door.