It is not uncommon for small businesses and entrepreneurs to offer services and products to sell to the government. They will often strive to make the sale happen; however, most of the time they have no idea of the process of government contracting itself.
Even though the government is the world’s largest consumer, it is a totally different world than the commercial space. So, selling to the government means you need to obtain a completely different knowledge and skill set then you have had before.
If you want to successfully sell your goods and services to the government, it is helpful to know and understand the process. Without at least a basic knowledge of the practice, you could put your business in potential danger.
Below is a short explanation of the overall process. Keep in mind that bids that are either very large or very small will probably have a different practice, but this serves as a general guideline.
If you’re a business owner looking to enter the world of government contracting, this will provide you with a good place to start.
We can’t say this enough. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Along with extensive planning, you will need to conduct research. These two basics will better equip you with the proper way to go about securing government contracts.
This is the most crucial first step you can take. Without the proper planning and research, you will have a harder time adjusting to the process.
Once you’ve obtained all the basic knowledge you can, now is the time to respond to and Invitation for Bid or IFB. This is either a written or electronic document that is issued by an agency that includes all the vital information you need to determine if this is the correct one for your company to pursue, and, if so, how to submit your bid.
IFBs should always include a thorough description of the service or product the agency is looking for. Additionally it should list all the purchasing conditions, type of contract, and delivery schedule.
It is important to note that you should be prepared in advance. This means that the company description, service/product description, and character references should all be ready ahead of time. This will enable you to turn around a bid quickly and efficiently.
Please keep in mind that an IFB is different than a Request for Quote (RFQ) and a Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFQ is specifically issued against the General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule Program, whereas the RFP is a broader request and more open-ended than an IFB; RFBs are used for projects where the government is looking to the contractor community for strategy ideas.
Now is time for the bid submission. All the planning and research you should have done (see step one) prepares you for this. You should now understand the overall market for your services/products, along with your target agency’s history of buying.
Keep in mind that your prospect isn’t always looking for the lowest price. Be sure to adequately price your company based on quality and experience. Government agencies focus more on experience, and value customers’ positive past performances and stability.
The government wants to trust that you and your company will get the job done efficiently, rather than save a few bucks here and there.
After you submit your bid, it is likely that you will be asked for more information. This could mean that you will get asked to give an oral presentation.
This presentation may be asked of you if the agency wants to make a decision between two or three bidders. You will want to go over details of the bid and describe how the work will be accomplished.
These oral presentations are usually more common with RFBs, but all vendors should be prepared to give one.
Throughout the entire decision process, keep in mind that the government agency will most likely keep asking for more information. Take this as a good sign! They are interested enough to keep requesting additional information, so make sure to accommodate them and provide all of their needs.
Once the federal agency makes their decision and your contract is rewarded, you will then be in regular communication with the agency. Both parties need to communicate to set up initial meetings, deadlines, and all the other gritty details.
Remember, as we stated before, the government puts a high emphasis on past performance. So strive to do an outstanding job, so you can later use that reference to continue to build your government business, one contract at a time!