5 Tips for Expanding into Government Contracting

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

There seemingly comes a time in every business owner’s life where they think: “I want to work with the Federal Government and be in Government Contracting.”

Maybe it’s the overtly appealing statistic they see that says the Federal Government spends on average $500B a year on products and services. Maybe it’s the appeal of a new and untapped market. Or perhaps the Federal Government provides driven business owners with the fuel they need: a problem, a challenge, a mission, and a way to give back to their country. 

Whatever the reasoning, most companies enter the marketplace ill-prepared to work in the field of Government Contracting. 

Why? Because the Federal Government is a very different beast compared to your typical commercial customers. The flow of information is more regulated, the sales cycle is slower and more cumbersome, and market research tools are rife with outdated technology and workflows. 

No doubt about it, Government Contracting is not for those looking to make a quick buck. You have to work for it. But if you’re willing – the juice is worth the squeeze. So after you take care of the paperwork, register for a DUNS, set up an account in SAM.gov, and identify your NAICs, then it’s time to consider the following:

1. Know What You’re Selling in Government Contracting

Understanding your company’s offerings isn’t enough – you also have to understand how your Federal customer refers to those products or services. In short, navigating the keywords and translations unique to this industry is key to success. Once you know your relevant keywords, it’s time to develop key communication tools. These are components of your Government Contracting marketing plan and include a capability statement, your solutions offering, and a focused website. Using these tools will help inform Federal customers on the specific issues that your products and/or services solve. It’s just as important that these items match in messaging and terminology as it is that they are visually appealing and easy to read. 

2. Make Opportunity Tracking Habitual

The speed of Government Contracting gratification isn’t for the faint of heart. With the slow Federal Government sales cycle, a company can’t just focus on one opportunity or relationship at a time. Government Contractors must leverage targeted pipelines of potential contract opportunities and potential buyer relationships in order to successfully manage, shape, and pursue opportunities best fit for their organization. Your pipeline should be a living, breathing document, and is the mechanism by which you track contract status, changes, dates, and how the opportunity matches to your company’s mission and/or service areas.  

3. Implement a Practical, Researched Government Contracting Communications Plan

Best practice in the Federal marketplace mandates frequent touchpoints with the decision-makers within your potential federal customer base. First and foremost, this means you have to know who these decision-makers are and what is the best way to reach them (phone, email, social media, etc.). However, any cold outreach method in this industry is not typically effective if you don’t initiate the conversation with some preliminary research. By researching and understanding what your federal counterparts buy (and how they buy) you will effectively connect your offerings to their needs, thus opening up a line of communication that would have otherwise been nonexistent. By being proactive and pleasantly persistent (because trust us, the practice of following-up is also key here), you are able to stand out in a sea of unknown email addresses. 

4. Make Friends and Influence Past Performance

Two things ring true in Government Contracting: first, it’s difficult to go alone; second, (good) past performance is king. Subcontracting is not only a viable way to get your foot in the door at a Federal agency, but it also helps you build your portfolio of past performance. One of the most effective ways to pitch yourself as a subcontractor is to offer your services to fill a niche need, labor category, or offer a cost-saving solution. Once you find out where that need is, research some of the potential bidders and reach out to sell them on your capabilities – the same way you would with a Federal customer. 

5. Establish Your Government Contracting Bid Response Infrastructure for Success

A successful Government Contractor needs to understand the bid-proposal process, but that understanding is meaningless unless they have the right resources in place to execute it. Set your company up for success by building your bid-proposal machine and divvy responsibilities accordingly. If you expect one person to identify opportunities, vet them, and develop the proposal response, then you’re looking at inevitable burn out. Invest early in people with the right, complementary skill sets to execute. 

If you are a new Government Contractor feeling lost in the fog, then let us help! The Pulse of GovCon offers tailored training and focused consulting services supporting each of these components. Reach out to us today to learn how we can help you #bidwithintent.

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