You would be surprised at how much the government spends a year on private-sector contractors – about 500 billion dollars! Half a trillion dollars is a huge amount and, as a small business owner, you probably want a piece of that pie!
However, it is hard to land a government contract. It is all about who you know and playing the game by the rules. When an agency puts out a request for proposals or RFP, it is vitally important to respond with accuracy. If you do not provide the agency with the right information, communicate with the right contracting office, and with the right goods/services required by the agency, you have a slim chance of winning the bid.
Government contracting is a meticulous game to play, but, when done correctly, your business can reap many rewards. While it is good to know all the rules, regulations, and methods to secure these contracts, it is also beneficial to gain an edge over your competition.
There are several small yet significant steps any business can take to help land that government deal. Below we provide you with insider tips to help you and your business succeed:
1. Find a mentor.
As a business, you have probably found your niche. Creating something that is specific but at the same time needed will take you far. What will help your services even more is knowing the right people who may need your goods or products themselves or know of someone who needs them.
Take this extreme example from NFIB. In 2000, the Navy went looking for new technologies to protect its fleet after an attack on USS Cole. It just so happened that an engineering firm outside of Massachusetts created a product that could use technology to stop cross-compartment flooding.
Although the engineering company had a narrow niche, the Navy was in dire need, and they had it. What does this have to do with landing government contracts for small businesses, you ask?
Well, the deal was secured through a friend on the inside. Although this key player wasn’t a decision maker, he paved the way for the deal. Likewise, a friend might not win you the contract, but they can lead you in the correct direction.
While tried and true, it really is all about those you know. So, make those connections in the community. Network at government agency events. Getting yourself out there, and your company being on the right people’s radar may secure you the contract you need.
2. Talk the talk.
You may not realize it, but language can serve as a huge barrier when it comes to securing your government contract. Government solicitation usually contains hundreds of acronyms that are hardly ever spelled out. Plus, there are about 60,000 of those acronyms.
When you don’t know these, you can potentially damage your credibility, misread criteria that can lead to losing a contract, or worse, win one you wish you hadn’t.
Before you get ready to walk the walk, take the time to research and study the talk. Learning the lingo before your small businesses responds to an RTF will greatly help you.
You don’t want to ruin your company’s reputation, especially because the government looks heavily on past experience. Secondly, you don’t want to get into an agreement with the wrong agency or in a contract that is not what you initially thought.
3. Answer the question asked.
In eager attempts, small businesses will often hand out too much information to an agency when responding to a bid. While businesses may think this is helpful, what they don’t realize is that it usually fails to answer the question.
This disconnect between what is asked for and what is delivered can cost you that coveted contract. Businesses need to strive to clearly answer the question that is asked of them.
The government is the one deciding what it needs and defining the need as it sees fit. When your company prepares proposals, avoid not responding fully or attempting to “sell” the government what your company has to offer.
Instead, remember to answer the particular requests or questions the government asked for. When you don’t, it is called leaving the mail unanswered, and it will not get you any closer to landing that contract.
What is important to take away from these insider tips is that if your small business can answer the mail, talk the talk, and find a mentor, then you will have a better than average chance of receiving your piece of the government pie.