For more information that can help guide your business in researching and securing government contracts, visit OPEN for Government Contracts.
The secret of making government contracts a key part of your business is gaining a thorough understanding of their specific demands. While the art of building a relationship with a government agency is essentially the same as with any other client, you must conduct your operations in a certain way to maximize your chance of winning the contracts, of fulfilling them to the satisfaction of the agency, then of consistently having them renewed.
In this sector, perhaps more than any other, you must be able to draw on deep reserves of perseverance and patience to deal with the circumstances that arise from working in such an accountable domain. Above all, the following five areas need particular attention when it comes to meeting the unique demands of the government market:
Know the Rules
To succeed in contracting, it helps to be intimate with the rules and regulations that govern the process. Otherwise, you may be at risk of doing something illegal that can put a contract in jeopardy. These rules are published in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, aka “the FAR ,” the bible of federal contracting.
When you meet with agency purchasing officers, you may find them referring to the FAR , particularly in terms of what they’re able and not able to do. The must-read sections are Part 19 (Small Business Programs) and Part 52, which details the standard terms and conditions of government contracts. Click here to view the FAR online.
Build Personal Relationships
The networking skills that benefit a business in the commercial world can be used in the government sector as well. Cultivate relationships with procurement officers to learn about bid opportunities and familiarize them with your skills. Get to know the client, so that you are fully aware of their needs. Take advantage of government outreach events, such as agency procurement fairs, contractor matchmaking sessions and conferences to cement relationships with buyers and suppliers. Finally, by attending sessions where your contracting contacts may be speaking, you can find out some more about them.
The government market is competitive, and to grow your business you will need to develop a solid marketing campaign that helps procurement officials understand the benefits of working with your company. Past contracting success can lead to future contracts, so leverage your accomplishments in your marketing efforts, using case studies that show how you solved an agency’s problem. Testimonials and referrals from successful government projects can also be invaluable. One caveat, however: Always get permission from the agency first – you need to make sure that your marketing collateral does not disclose any part of a contract that could be deemed sensitive.
Talk the Talk
Communication breakdowns are one of the most common obstacles that come between aspiring or inexperienced contractors and federal buyers. Contractors do not always understand what they’re being told by government purchasers, or they’re unable to read the purchasers’ messages as to whether or not their performance is considered satisfactory. The problem lies in the fact that governmental organizations often use language that can seem opaque to the uninitiated – so it’s not your fault if you don’t understand everything at first. But you have to get used to it, so learn government speak by attending as many information sessions as you can and perhaps even getting help from a contracting consultant.
Keep Your House in Order
The quality of your documentation can be the difference between keeping and losing government contracts. Develop a rock-solid paper trail by maintaining accurate records related to all facets of your contracts, such as important transactions and meetings – you may need to refer to such information during project debriefings. Above all ensure you have a Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QAQC) plan in place. Consider also using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to keep track of key factors such as bid status, award data and profiles of decision makers.
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