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Winning government contracts can be a lucrative opportunity for many businesses, but navigation can be difficult. Here are some steps that can help your business win government contracts:
- Register your business: To be eligible for government contracts, your business must first register with the relevant government agencies, such as the System for Award Management (SAM) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) for federal contracts.
- Do your research: Research government opportunities that are relevant to your business and align with your capabilities and expertise. The Federal Business Opportunities website (www.beta.sam.gov) is a good place to start, as well as state and local government websites and certain bid aggregators (websites like DemandStar, OpenGov, Bonfire, and others).
- Understand the procurement process: Understand the government procurement process and the requirements for submitting a proposal or bid. This may include meeting specific criteria, such as certifications, licenses, and security clearances. All solicitations issued by government agencies will contain a section that outlines their minimum and mandatory requirements — pay very close attention to them and ensure your bid or proposal addresses all of them explicitly.
- Build relationships: Establish relationships with government officials and decision-makers who are involved in the procurement process. Attend industry events, participate in networking opportunities, and reach out to government agencies to learn more about their needs and requirements. However, be mindful that during a solicitation that you participate in (or might), your ability to communicate with certain stakeholders might be restricted to ensure fairness and prevent the appearance of collusion.
- Respond to RFPs: Respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or Requests for Quotes (RFQs) that match your expertise and capabilities. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully and submit a thorough proposal that highlights your strengths and differentiators.
- Be competitive: You don’t have to slash your margin, but do be competitive in your pricing and offer pricing that is in line with the market. Definitely don’t consult other companies in your market, as that can potentially lead to anti-competitive behavior which can result in serious legal issues. Instead, be competitive and don’t forget to emphasize the value you bring to the project, not just the price.
- Be responsive and reliable: Be responsive to communication and provide quality work on time and within budget. This will help establish a positive reputation and lead to more opportunities in the future.
- Manage risk: Manage the risks associated with government contracting by reviewing the contract carefully, ensuring that you have appropriate insurance coverage, and complying with all applicable regulations. Don’t be afraid to challenge contract provisions that expose you to excessive or unnecessary risk.
Selling to the government can be a great opportunity for many businesses, but it can also be a complex and competitive process. By understanding the procurement process, identifying opportunities, building relationships, and providing quality work, you can sell to the government and establish a positive reputation that can lead to more opportunities in the future.
Overall, winning government contracts requires persistence, professionalism, and a focus on building strong relationships. By providing high-quality work and demonstrating reliability and responsiveness, you can establish a positive reputation and win government contracts that can help your business grow.
There are a few things to remember when dealing with government purchasing:
- Governments always have thresholds after which their purchasing process becomes more complex (e.g. purchases under $500 might require only one quote, while purchases over $5,000 might require three and purchases over $50,000 require a formal, sealed bid be submitted).
- Register with the entities you want to do business with before they publish a quote or bid request (most will require basic information: W-9, insurance, licenses (if applicable), etc.).
- Know who the purchasing/procurement department contacts are, along with end users who will ultimately need your product or service.
- Most agencies publish their policy manuals online. Review them to get a better understanding of what their process is so you can be ready when an opportunity comes your way.
- Know what the protest procedures are. 99.99% of government procurements happen without a hitch, but every so often, something gets missed and you might be at a disadvantage that was totally unintentional. Make sure you know what the protest procedures are so you don’t miss out because of a mistake someone else made.
- Attend trade shows and make sure you’re highlighting your company’s strengths (for all customers, not just government).
- Understand public records laws. In most states, everything you submit to a government agency (including emails) is a public record and is disclosable to anyone who asks for it. Don’t submit confidential information that you’re not comfortable with your competitors getting ahold of. If you have to submit trade secrets (see our post about what is intellectual property) or other information that should be exempt from disclosure, work with an attorney to understand what you have to do to notify the agency that that information is exempt from disclosure.