The Essential Small Business Guide to Federal Contracts - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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More Tips to Help Land a Federal Contract

3. Learn which federal agencies buy your type of products and services

Before any solicitation goes out, learn as much as you can about your prospect and with whom it currently does business. Successful government contractors routinely peruse FedBizOpps.gov, an online listing of government contracts that detail all contracts with a value exceeding $25,000.

You can better understand the government as a customer by visiting a site called USAspending.gov. It details how our tax money is spent, what agency issues contract awards and who the federal government buys from and for how much. An educated business owner is a successful business owner.

"I would add that small businesses submit sources-sought statements and request that their local SBA office submit SBA Search Letters for upcoming procurement opportunities," says Kendrick. "Federal procurement officers use these documents to identify set-aside and sole-source opportunities for certified disadvantaged businesses."

4. Check out the procurement forecasts for your targeted federal agencies

The good news is that the government is a transparent customer, which makes it easy to find out its future purchasing plans. Every federal agency produces -- and is required to post on its website -- an annual procurement forecast, maintained by its Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) or equivalent.

Contact each agency OSDBU at FirstGov.gov to see what goods or services they anticipate buying. Once you have an idea, get to know your potential customer by visiting the agencies' websites. Familiarize yourself with their missions and assess what you can offer to help them fulfill their goals.

5. Make your price list easy to understand

Address all required items, even if they're not applicable. If you're in a competitive area, you may need to discount your top commercial price. But don't discount so much that you will lose money on the transaction, and keep in mind that government agencies seek the best value, not necessarily the lowest price.

"To increase the likelihood of success, it is important for small businesses to be realistic about their scope, capabilities and experiences," says Kendrick. "Small business owners can spend quite a few resources to submit proposals when they may only meet a few of the criteria. These strategies may work in local or regional markets, but federal markets are far more competitive."

6. Sharpen your elevator pitch

When courting customers -- even Uncle Sam -- it's critical to summarize your firm's capabilities clearly and succinctly. A successful pitch includes, but is not limited to, a company overview, core competencies, past performance, differentiators and company data.

7. Look for micro-purchases or credit card purchases to get your foot in the door

These types of small purchases let the government make non-competitive bids for agency requirements. The government defines micro-purchases as expenditures of less than $25,000, while the bar for credit card purchases stands at less than $3,000.

Important: the small size of the contract doesn't matter; you can now add past performance to your company's capability statement. Federal agencies have a specialist to assist small businesses, so start by contacting the small business specialists at the agencies you are targeting. You'll find contact information for these specialists online at the respective agency's website.

8. Team with another SMB to improve your chances

A study by American Express OPEN found that business owners that team with another business win 50 percent more contracts. Teaming can also help novice business owners gain the experience and credibility they need to win more government contracts.

With various set-aside contracting programs for small businesses, partnering with an 8(a) or with a women-owned firm can help increase your chances of winning contracts. To find teaming partners, visit USAspending.gov  and Federal Procurement Data System. These two websites offer a wealth of past-performance information that lets you see buyers and competitors. You can also customize the information and pursue teaming relationships with those firms currently doing business with an agency you are targeting.

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This article was originally published on November 28, 2012
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