In an average year over $90 billion federal dollars are spent with small businesses, providing you ample opportunity to grow your business with the world’s largest customer. And , according to The Washington Post, approximately 33 percent of all contracts are awarded during the fourth quarter of each federal government fiscal year, which ends September 30th. While the clock is ticking down in terms of federal opportunities for this fiscal year, here are a few tips to help you get in on the action.
Do your research. Focusing your selling efforts can be difficult, especially when you are dealing with the complicated federal marketplace. To help streamline the process, reach out to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) to find the agencies that are most likely to be receptive to your capabilities and gain access to their contracting officers (i.e., buyers). It’s important to know what agency is buying your goods and/or services but you also want to know which of these agencies have a history of being small business friendly. Fortunately someone is keeping score and you have access to that information.
Use the SBA Scorecard. The SBA publishes an annual Scorecard each June or July as an assessment tool to measure how well federal agencies are performing in reaching their small business and socio-economic prime contracting and subcontracting goals. By analyzing the scorecard for each agency you select, you can target those that are falling short and offer to “help” them meet their goals. This is a great way to establish new clients and create a win-win situation.
Find those who are looking for you. During federal Q4, the government contracting offices search the marketplace looking for qualified small-business vendors. They do this using market tools and announcements such as “Sources Sought” and “Requests for Information (RFI).” A Sources Sought notice is put out by a buyer essentially to communicate “I have a need or requirement to fill and I’m looking for a source for that product or service.” They use the amount of responses to gauge if the contract can be set aside for small business or other certifications.
An RFI is usually less specific than a Sources Sought. This can take the form of a government buyer asking for input from vendors to “see what’s out there” that matches the capabilities I need. During Q4, the best way to seek out Sources Sought and RFI announcements is via the Federal Business Opportunities website, www.fbo.gov.
Give yourself an advantage. Once you’ve educated yourself on where your company’s small-business status can make a difference and who is buying your products and services, you should aggressively communicate with those agencies that both buy your goods and /or services and have not met their small business goals. One way to make yourself stand out is to let the buyers know that you accept charge and credit card payments. The current simplified acquisition procedures allow for purchases up to $100,000 via credit or charge cards and the limit on government micro purchases is $3,000. That means without an existing contract you can sell office supplies, chairs, computers, software, training services and many other goods and services to the government via charge or credit card payments.
For established contractors. It is always more effective to market to someone who knows your business, and this is particularly true during the Q4 Federal buying season. So if you’re already an established contractor, begin by reviewing your existing customer relationships and contracts. For example, maybe a client mentions a wish-list item that you can follow up on by asking if they would like to add that item to your existing contract. Also consider former government customers who liked you to remind them that you are ready to provide a product or service during their Q4 buying season. This is a great way to reacquaint an old customer with a possible new service or product provided by your firm.
Doña Storey is the president and CEO of management consultancy Quality Technical Services and the creator of GOVtips.biz. She is also American Express OPEN's advisor on procurement.
For more resources and tips on how to pursue federal government contracting opportunities, visit http://www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting.