Government contracts will help your small business in many ways, but the process of winning a bid can be a long and tiring one. There are unspeakable amounts of paperwork, you have to search through tons of contracts to find the ones that your business has useful goods and services for, and, on top of that, you should learn the correct language to understand everything clearly.
These are all important aspects of landing your contract, but what usually gets left out is the fact that business, even the government side, is all about human interactions and learning how to use those to your advantage.
Build Lasting Human Relationships
Even though the government can seem impersonal, relationships are very important for securing a government contract and for the agency contracts you may wish to pursue in the far-off future. Cold calls and databases can only take you so far.
Even though the process of winning a bid relies on heavy paperwork, you need to get out of the office and network. You want to meet (in person, if possible) important people who will assist in the decision-making both within the government and in the large contractors.
The best way to go about meeting the right people who will help you is to choose between a couple of agencies where you believe you can do work. Go to any events you can to learn about opportunities and to network with these people.
Perhaps the prospect of making these human interactions scares you, or you are not familiar with the correct etiquette. Here we equip you with the best networking tips so you can work any room or event and come out a winner (so to speak).
Networking Tips and Tricks
1. Know who’s who.
It is important to know exactly to whom you are talking. Remember that there are many key players who can potentially help you land a contract with the government.
Whether you are talking to another business owner, or someone high up on the federal ladder, know how to communicate with them properly. Know how they can potentially help your firm. The way you communicate with each person at these events will differ according to their specific roles.
You should do your research before the event and know how to correctly approach different people.
2. Be yourself.
Much like your company needs its own identity to set it apart from others, you need your own personality to set you apart – in a good way. If you try to be something you are not, this will show and not make a good first impression.
Anyone speaking with you, and anyone who potentially will conduct business with you, should feel comfortable and should never have to question if you are genuine or not.
3. Only discuss what is set in stone.
While it is easy as an entrepreneur to get excited and discuss future products or services that may help a contractor, don’t get ahead of yourself. Be sure to only speak about services that are available now: something they can benefit from immediately.
4. Follow up.
This is highly important when building these relationships. Make sure you follow up to stay on important influencers’ radars. Always ask for a business card so you have all of their contact information right in your hand.
To further your connections, shoot them an email to follow up. Message them via LinkedIn – anything that will keep you in their memory as a potential client.
This is an especially helpful tool if you are nervous. Prepare by doing research on key people who may be there. Think of some ice breakers beforehand. Practice your handshake and pick out a professional outfit that you feel confident in ahead of time.
Taking all these measures ahead of time will help calm your nerves and allow you to feel more confident when you enter the event.
6. Practice good listening.
What is just as important in any conversation is the ability to listen. It is always refreshing to have a conversation partner who knows when to speak and when to listen. Plus, talking too much with little to no listening skills will end up coming across as rude. That is something you want to avoid when making a vital connection that can help your business’s future.
Once you have these under your belt, feel confident when going to agency events. Meet people who may help you secure the correct contract for your company, and enjoy finally being able to land on the government’s payroll.