One of the most common questions many new government contractors want to know is… “What do I need to do to be successful in the government market?” After hearing this question being asked over and over, I decided to write this article with my thoughts of what I think it takes to position a company to have the greatest chance for success in the government market.
So here they are, my top 7 KEYS to becoming a successful government contractor.
1) RELATIONSHIPS: You win contracts because you have the right relationships. It's not what you know or who you know, but it's who knows you back. Your goal is to establish KLT = Know, Like and Trust. When you have established strong KLT with a government buyer, your chances of winning contracts are much stronger than any other factors. You may be awarded a sole sought a contract, be asked to define the requirements for a specific solicitation, or the project may be written in a narrowed scope to where you're the only company that qualifies. Yes… there is a procurement process that has to be followed, but ultimately it is a person, contracting officer(s), who trusts you and will do the awarding of the project.
2) PAST PERFORMANCE: Past Performance is the ability to demonstrate relevant experience through previous successful project delivery. Showing that you have the capability to deliver a product or service through relevant experience gives you an advantage over your competitors. This can be your own corporate past performance, a teaming partner's past performance or sometimes, you can use individual past performance. The government is RISK AVERSE, so they use past performance as a way to gauge your capacity to deliver. In addition, past performance is another way of narrowing down the large number of interested vendors.
3) PROPOSAL: Writing a winning proposal is about crafting an image on paper to demonstrate that you can be successful on delivering the product/service with the least amount of risk to the agency. Your proposal is your response to the solicitation and have to meet all the requested specifications in the exact way the buyer is seeking. Oftentimes, this may be the only perception that the source board see of you before they award a contract.
4) CERTIFICATIONS: If you're a small business, you'll need to explore which certifications you qualify for. Certifications such as, 8a, HUBzone, SDVOSB, ED/WOSB, Section 3, MBE, DBE, WBE, SWAM, HUB, or others, can allow you to win sole source contracts or set-aside contracts. Certifications often can serve as a door opener into agencies or large primes that you're trying to establish a relationship with. If you're a large company, certifications are important to you because you'll need to develop a subcontracting business plan on larger projects as part of your proposal. Oftentimes, working with small businesses will allow you to win set-aside projects as a subcontractor to the small company.
5) CONTRACT VEHICLES: Obtaining the right types of contract vehicles can open doors to certain agencies for your company. Contract vehicles such as: IDIQ, GWAC, GSA Schedules, BPA and more specifically; Seaport-E, Schedule 70, STARS II can limit your competitors and allow you to be more successful. Keep in mind that each agency have their own preference of the type of contract vehicles they use. Ultimately, it comes down to which contract vehicle allows them the quickest path of securing a qualified vendor with the least amount of paper work.
6) IMAGE: Your brand or your image is very important. Having a strong image is about how the buying agency sees you. Remember, they may not know who you are, so you have to portray a capable brand. Your business name must demonstrate a solid brand. For example, let's compare these two company name: "John Harvey Janitorial Services of Mossy Point" vs. "Janitorial International". Which name appears more capable? Something as simple as your business name can win you contracts over your competitors. Change your business name or use a DBA if you have to in order to present a better picture. Secondly, your website, logo, business card, email address must look professional and speak to government buyers. You should have a government menu tab on your website, your DUNS number on your business card and a professional email that says: firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com. Lastly, you'll need the right marketing collateral. The government does not use brochures, so you'll need to create a Capability Statement. You'll need to create a short one page version, for initial marketing purposes, and a 4 page or longer version which has more details upon request from the agency/buyer.
7) REGISTRATION: Most companies start with registration as their first step in the government market. Getting registered in SAM.gov, DSBS, FBO, GSA, state vendor database or local municipality's vendor database is a step that must be completed in order to bid on projects. It normally doesn’t take a long time to get this step done. Keep in mind that approximately 66% of businesses which register to do work in the federal market, never win a single contract. So, yes… you need to get register as a vendor, but winning contracts is about all of the 7 Keys which we discussed here.
In this article, we were only able to address these 7 Keys from a high overview perspective. If you’re interested in more specific details, check the GovFastTrack Software which was developed with these keys in mind to help government contractors. Check it out here: www.GovFastTrack.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Abraham Xiong is President of Government Contractors Association, Inc., a professional association dedicated to supporting businesses in the contracting market. He is a social entrepreneur, a business coach, and an avid advocate for small and disadvantaged businesses.
Mr. Xiong is the creator of the software program called “Gov Fast Track”. It is available to help businesses approach government contracting through a step-by-step methodology.
You can find more information about the program here:
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