Contracting Mechanism: GSA Contract is Usually the Easiest
Establishing a contracting mechanism breaks down so many barriers for federal buyers. Their job becomes much easier when working with a GSA Contractor because there is much less paperwork. It is all about creating the path of least resistance, and getting onto a GSA Schedule for your products or services will give your company a competitive advantage.
Search out Federal Bids
You must put in the time to find the projects or orders, I recommend using a service like BidSpeed to automate as much as possible. Go after projects that are expiring and coming up for renewal. It is true that many RFQ’s out there are already highly influenced by one company, and it may not even be worth your time to go after those, so look for signs that you are fighting a losing battle and save your time and resources by not going after those projects. Pre-solicitations, and Requests For Information (RFI’s) are great ways to get to a customer early, before they have even drafted an RFQ.
Offer Competitive Prices, and a Solid Value
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It seems obvious, but prices are by far the most important part of any proposal you hand in. Try to establish strategic partnerships with manufacturers and dealers where you get a better discount through GSA Contract orders. This is where your negotiating skills can really translate to success as a federal contractor.
Listen intently to federal buyers and offer solutions and value-additions in your proposal. If you are an expert in your field, then it shouldn’t be too challenging to find solutions to the problems an end-user are trying to solve. However, if you want to win, try to find problems that they don’t know exist, and solve those as well. The challenge is to try to do this while still offering a highly competitive price.
Many federal contractors do not have websites, and I think they lose as a result. I believe that most federal buyers use the web as their primary resource to investigate an unknown company. Make sure your website has a ‘Government’ section where you offer direct information about your government services.
Network and Follow-up to Keep Relationships Alive
Strategically select networking events and conferences around your industry, and attend them regularly. Be friendly with everyone, get their business card, and connect with them socially (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). This will keep the relationship alive without a massive effort on your part.
Learn From Your Losses
Request a debriefing when you don’t win a contract. This way you will know if you lost because of price, or if your solution didn’t meet their needs. Either way, you need to know your weaknesses and improve them.
Don’t be Lazy
There is no such thing as an easy path into winning federal contracts. It takes time, money and focused learning to establish a contracting mechanism and/or win contracts. You will be approached by many offering an easy way in, but there are many predators. If a company promises you the world, then that should raise a flag that they are selling magic beanstalks.