In 2018, many companies are looking for innovative ways of expanding their businesses. One of the biggest opportunities for expansion is often overlooked. The U.S. government remains the leader and largest procurer of goods and services in the world shelling out an estimated $500 billion. 23% of those government contract dollars are reserved for small business owners.
Strativia, is a leading provider of technical and professional services to the government and I asked CEO, Kenneth Kelly, to share effective ways small businesses can position themselves to win. According to Kelly, companies that perform well in the government contracting space have a solid grasp on how to:Target government agencies that need their services Target specific agencies who buy goods and services Align their services, corporate credentials, and contract vehicles with the target agencies' procurement guidelines
The following are his recommended 6 steps to win more government contracts.
1. Color outside of the lines.
Innovative business ideas and concepts aren't typical in government. By nature, the government is designed to support its citizens and isn't tasked with or tracked by its innovation. This growing gap leaves a wide open opportunity for small businesses who can deliver fresh energy, different perspectives and offer relevant solutions. Your innovative idea, especially one that has already been proven to work in the private sector, will help your bid stand out.
2. Sell What You Know
Since the government is interested in high-quality work that fulfills a specific need, it only makes sense to sell them on your "genius factor" -- the things that you do exceptionally well. Oftentimes, small businesses can feel like the underdog or marginalized when competing against bigger competitors.
"Many small business owners think that the government's not going to buy what they have," says Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN. "[But] they buy almost everything." Small businesses can feel like they're at a disadvantage but don't underestimate your unique selling proposition (USP). Your company solution may prove to be more agile, efficient, and responsive in delivery because you don't have to deal with the bureaucracy of larger organizations.
3. Identify and Understand Your Customer
By far, the most effective strategy is discovering your customer's needs, then delivering them. While this is easy to say, this simply concept is more difficult for contractors to grasp and consistently execute. Just focus on the customer's problems first, and then offer your solution. Remember, your solution is not more critical than their problem. Contractors who win have developed the art and discipline of customer-focus first, understanding what the clear needs are, and providing remedies to alleviate their customer's pain points.
4. Don't Circumvent the Process
There's no progress outside of the stated process. Therefore, if you intend to do business directly with the U.S. Government, your company first must be registered with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database. CCR gives you a real-time view of how many competitors in your industry are already doing business with the government. There are lots of government contracts out there; however, the process isn't always pretty and must be articulately followed. "We were one of nine bidders; seven got tossed because they didn't cross their t's and dot their i's. Working for the government is like filling out tax forms. You don't leave things blank," says Mario Burgos, The Burgos Group.
5. Innovate Through Collaboration
Relationships are essential in government contracting -- especially with government procurement officers. Some agencies have liaisons who will lobby on your behalf. "You think of the federal government as this cold entity, and that it's all about putting together a big proposal, but it's still all about relationships," says Maureen Borzacchiello, CEO of Creative Display Solutions.
Partnerships with other small contractors are also critical. Bidding for contracts as part of a team is another good strategy to position your company to win more contracts. Team up with an experienced prime contractor or a bid with another small businesses. You'll learn the system and establish a track record so that the next contract win can come faster and with less of a learning curve. After your firm has amassed some solid past performance, then you can begin to target agencies as a prime contractor. Just be sure to work to keep subcontracts going while you are adding on new prime contract bids in an effort to remain diversified.
6. Leverage What Is Already Working
Business leaders and companies that don't invest the time and resources to learn, understand and adapt will decrease dramatically their chances and opportunities winning government contracts. Research and study other successful government contractors that provide similar services as yours. Learn what contract vehicles and corporate certifications they have. Then understand if your target agencies procure services using these vehicles or require the same corporate certifications. If they do, then work to obtain those vehicles and certifications. This ensures you have what you need to win more contracts now.
For more info and more helpful insights, see www.SBA.gov and www.FBO.gov