My company, Strativia, was awarded 50 million dollars in government contracts in 2016 alone. But it didn't happen right away—we started out in Prince George's County Technology Assistance Center (TAC) incubator and worked alongside various other firms that were more mature, industry-savvy and already doing business with the government. Eventually we partnered as their subcontractor and responded to smaller portions of the overall proposals. This allowed us to gain invaluable experience and insight.
Once you learn how to properly bid on government contracts, the process becomes easier. Your ability to write solid, effective proposals will develop and increase. As time progresses, your company will become more proficient at responding to solicitations and your overall response times will become faster as you build your historical proposal library. Your library is crucial and will be comprised of “boilerplate content" (templates) that can be re-purposed for future solicitations. As you expand that library, your company can leverage historical content, including management, technical and even pricing approaches. But if you're just starting out, the bidding process to compete for government contracts can seem overwhelming. These 10 tips have helped my company, and they may help yours as well.
1. Find a mentor.
Find a mentor early to avoid many common mistakes made by new companies entering the government contracting space. Be sure your company is properly registered and credentialed to perform on government contracts. This is a basic thing to do, but many new companies aren't registered and as a result many government buyers do not take them seriously.
2. Only bid on what you can deliver.
Never bid an opportunity unless your company has the knowledge and resources to deliver the sought-after goods and services. This is a cardinal rule; if you win the work and don't deliver, your corporate reputation could be damaged which could prevent you from winning new work in the future.
3. Know that your past performance matters.
Understand that every bid you win can help you win your next. This is called past performance. Government is risk adverse; they tend to want to work with companies with demonstrated past performance.
4. Know your competitors.
Study other successful companies that provide the same or similar products and services as yours and work to implement things that appear to be working for them. This is known as corporate blueprinting; don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to.
5. Stand out.
Strativia has worked to create corporate differentiators that help us to stand out for other competitors. For example, we work to bring technology solutions to low-tech problems. When done correctly, we can clearly demonstrate cost savings and efficiencies to the client. This is the kind of innovation that is necessary to stand out from the competition and positions our company as a provider of choice for a range of clients.
6. Don't bite off more than you can chew.
In the beginning, focus on winning smaller efforts and work your way toward the larger efforts. This may mean that you need to focus on being a subcontractor to a larger prime in the beginning.
7. Be patient.
Understand that government buying cycles can be slow, often as much as 18 to 24 months out. During this time, market your company to the government, learn more about the requirements and do what you can to position your company for the win.
8. Know your potential clients.
Be sure you know where and how your target agency buys its products and services.
9. Diversify your clients.
A good mix would be federal government, state and local government, and include some commercial clients as well.
10. Learn from your losses.
Be persistent and don't quit. Each lost opportunity should take you closer to your next win, assuming you learn from each opportunity. When you lose, ask the government for a debriefing to learn what you did right or wrong, what was missing within your bid response and overall what could you have done differently.