One of the wonderful things about seeking small business government contracts is that there is so much information on government spending available online. When complete budgets are public information and entire websites are devoted to publishing upcoming purchasing initiatives, it can start to feel like something of a seller’s buffet.
However, that isn’t always the case when it comes to IT. Computer spends within agencies often aren’t very well-documented, just lumped into “IT” without much other elaboration. Also, IT spends are often a major component of classified initiatives such as cryptography research. So, a company looking to sell computer services to the government will need to put in extra legwork to make those sales.
The experts at Asher Strategies have a few tips on the topic…
Ways to Discover “Hidden” IT Opportunities for Small Business Government Contracts
Despite all the online tools available, government sales are still very much a “who do you know” game. This isn’t just about getting contracts approved, it’s about finding out about new opportunities in the first place. Making friends in government IT departments can get you a lot of important tips.
Look at public budgets carefully, and constantly ask the question “Would they need computers or software to support that purchase?” If it seems plausible that there’d be an IT component to an otherwise innocuous-looking budget item, start putting out feelers and contacting your sources.
Obviously, some agencies are going to be more computer-focused than others. The IRS, for example, probably has their computer needs met for the most part. On the other hand, science-focused groups like NASA and the various military R&D groups are going to be constantly looking for hardware and software to support their ongoing initiatives.
This is a case where specialization could be a major boon.
New developments in software are coming fast and furious, and it is unlikely government agencies are all keeping up. Try putting together a “new idea” sales presentation for a small list of agencies needing your services. Be president to get your idea in front of the decision makers to show them what’s possible with your solution. Even if they don’t buy right away, you will get some great feedback, they will expand their knowledge of your offerings, and pave the way for future successes.
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The next few years are looking to be a lean time for many government contractors, since the current administration and Congress are both largely focused on cost-cutting. Even the President’s “southern wall” is having trouble getting full congressional funding approval.
This means that contractors looking to pick up a new IDIQ contract in the current environment are going to need to be smart in how they go about making contacts and marketing themselves. Just sitting back and waiting for contracts to become available isn’t an option. At Asher, we know good strategy and proactivity will be the keys to IDIQ contract bids until at least 2020.
Adjusting Your Bidding Strategies to The Reality of The Current Government
Leverage all your internal resources.
It wasn’t too long ago that a business development manager’s list of contacts was a closely-guarded secret. This attitude needs to go away. Contract development and bidding should be seen as a collaborative process, with everyone working together to make it happen. Team approaches to growing your business are needed now.
Likewise, any bonus policies should be restructured accordingly. This is not the time to encourage cutthroat competition among your business development staff. Incentivize some good business development teamwork too.
Make more external contacts.
How are your relationships with other businesses in your industry or area of expertise? Work on those. Remember, many government contracts allow, or even require, partnerships to make them happen. Being on good terms with the competition could easily make the difference on whether you’re invited to share in someone else’s good fortune.
Just remember that they’ll probably want a piece the next time you have a contract that needs to be split up.
Make a structured plan for growth.
Don’t simply assume making an IDIQ contract happen is as easy as placing a few phone calls and submitting your bid. Think about your target agencies and make solid plans for how to increase your standing with them. This could include:
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Few forms of government contract are more prized among private contractors than Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Supply contracts (IDIQ). IDIQ government contracts are incredibly lucrative, and can often set up a business for years of ongoing work tasks if they deliver great results. Winning those contracts, and then retaining them across multiple contract periods, is a major priority.
However, it’s not as easy as it once was. A few years ago, with the US in multiple wars, IDIQ government contracts could be a bit easier to obtain for some products and services. We have a war-weary public opposing many foreign interventions. Our President is more internally focused and cutting costs of government. Getting IDIQ contracts can be a lot more difficult.
One potential solution to this problem, which we suggest here at Asher Strategies, is to simply focus on being more proactive about your business development processes.
Getting More IDIQ Contracts as A Proactive Government Contractor
While certainly not universal, it’s common for government contractors to become a bit reactive – that is, watching for good opportunities on FedBizOpps or, with a good enough personal network, simply waiting to be told about upcoming opportunities. When there are fewer opportunities, such contractors will need to step up their game to keep the contracts coming in.
This means adopting “sales” tactics from the B2B and B2C realms, such as:
Don’t take your agency contacts for granted. Be willing to spend more time and money maintaining those relationships, growing them, and increasing your network of contacts. Otherwise, someone else may be wining-and-dining them under your nose.
How close of an eye do you keep on internal performance? You should be tracking everything via computer systems, and focusing on Key Performance Indicators to visualize your progress. This will help eliminate inefficiencies in your own operations, making you more attractive as a contractor and usually lowering your costs.
Is your business development team still jealously guarding their contacts and refusing to share key information with each other? Does your marketing team often not know what sales is even doing? These traits may have been standard in the 20th Century, but they can be deadly today. Your internal culture should be more collaborative, focused on team efforts to bring in contracts.
Asher Strategies Can Help You Succeed
We know how government sales are changing – and we can teach you too!
While government marketing is different from B2B and B2C marketing and sales in a lot of ways, one thing isn’t different: The need to differentiate yourself from the competition. With so many companies all competing for the same contracts, particularly IDIQ contracts and tasks, it’s vital to find ways to make yourself stand out. This can even help you expand services rendered on an existing contract, which can be a wonderful way to boost your profits.
With our decades of experience at Asher in government marketing and sales, we’ve seen plenty of successful bids – and plenty of failures as well. Here are some tips for standing out when you make your proposals and present new task ideas to government customers.
Four Ways to Stand Out and Increase Your Contract Bid Successes
Every government agency has their own internal processes, as well as their own distinctive set of jargon and acronyms. Learn these! Use them in your contract bids. It’s not just familiar to procurement teams, but it directly says, “We understand you and your processes.” This directly indicates you’ll be easy to work with and be able to conform to their internal needs.
There’s an argument to be made for trying to be “all things to all people” at times in the private sector, but that will not fly in government marketing. Don’t overpromise, and don’t be vague. Be as precise -and concise as possible in your bids. Pitch exactly what you can do. Exaggeration and hyperbole will get you nowhere.
Are you a small business? Are you owned and operated by women, minorities, or disabled veterans? There’s a good chance you qualify for special consideration – so use it. Almost all agencies will have quotas covering how many small businesses and other special categories they give contracts to per year.
Never rely solely on electronic communications, or it could backfire. Turnover in government procurement roles often exceeds 40% per year. You need to be constantly refreshing those contacts, and staying current on personnel changes, to ensure your name is recognized when you call or email.
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It’s increasingly common for B2B companies to try to make a transition into the lucrative world of governmental sales, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a smooth transition. One of the key things a top government sales training program will emphasize is how B2G is not like B2B. Sure, they have similarities, but a company which goes into governmental sales thinking it will be just like B2B will not do well.
Any reputable governmental sales training program, like our very own at Asher, should spend a lot of time on this and help businesses break habits which could hold them back in the B2G world.
Three Ways B2G and B2B are NOT Alike
In the business world, large amounts of money can be spent analyzing purchasing decisions, doing research, and running ROI reports. This is very often not the case in government agencies. Their procurement teams are frequently understaffed, and lacking the time and/or resources to do detailed analyses.
This opens great opportunities for government contractors, since the procurement teams will often be much more open to “advice” from those making a sale.
It’s relatively rare in business contracting to see multiple businesses team up to all fulfill a single contract. However, it’s much more common in governmental sales. Often, it’s downright necessary, as the procurement needs of the government can be larger than what any single business can fulfill. In these situations, partnerships or extensive subcontracting are usually the solution.
A good government sale training class will always mention the importance of maintaining good relations with other contractors in your area of expertise, and always being open to partnership arrangements.
Government websites maintain a wealth of information about the internal operations of agencies, including details you’d never see about a private business. This can include their operating budgets, their small-business hiring quotas, their spending habits, and their upcoming expenditures.
Much of the time, the most successful B2G contractors are the ones who know how to leverage public information to better target their new ideas and proposals. Ignoring this information is a recipe for failure.
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Asher Strategies has decades of experience working with the government, and helping others do the same. We teach you the strategies that succeed. Contact us today to learn more.
When a company is looking to move from B2B or B2C into government marketing and contracts, they often look to hire a consultant to help make that transition The world of government contracting is considerably different than public areas of business, plus the consultant can often give them a leg up by putting them in touch with valuable contacts.
However, with so many “government business development consultants” out there, how does a company pick the ones which will be worth their costs? These are some key attributes you should look for.
Asher’s 4 Things to Look for In a Government Marketing Consultant
You know the saying, “Those who can’t do, teach?” It can be the same with consulting. If your consultant had only spent a few years in the work related to their consulting it may be a red flag that they were not successful. Years of longevity “in the business” can mean your government development consultant is well respected with a wide range of valuable contacts you need.
The government isn’t a monolithic entity, and your government marketing strategies will need to take that into consideration. You should be very targeted in which areas or agencies you’re likely to be presenting ideas and working contracts for. Pick a consultant who has experience with those same agencies and the exact kinds of business you are looking for. You’ll get information which is much more relevant to your needs.
Consultants live and die by their references; how big are the companies they’ve worked with in the past, and what successes can they point to while saying “I made that possible”? A quality business development consultant will always have a big list of accomplishments they can brag about, and be willing to supply you with contact details so you can speak to their past clients for yourself.
One important aspect of a government marketing consultant is that they will probably provide you with some contacts to get you started. However, beware those who ONLY talk about their contacts. Knowing the right people is just part of the game, and you need a consultant who can teach strategy/tactics as well.
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The world of government marketing is unlike any other area of business. It’s one that many companies would love to enter, but doing so successfully requires learning entirely new ways of doing business. This is what we at Asher Strategies help businesses do: make that transition from B2C or B2B to B2G, with time-proven strategies and tactics for successfully selling to governmental agencies.
While we go into far more detail in our intensive training workshops, here are some of the things a new entrant into the government marketing sphere must understand.
4 Tips to Help You Succeed When Marketing to Government Organizations
One of the best ways of learning the ropes is to partner with an established and usually larger company which has already been successful in government sales. The government maintains a mentor- protégée program specifically to encourage these sorts of partnerships, which usually see the protégée acting as an auxiliary arm of the mentor.
It’s free to participate and if you find the right mentor, you can receive invaluable on-the-job training as well as making vital connections.
Government marketing is not only for huge enterprises. Quite the opposite, in fact. Agencies are given specific goals to meet in terms of sending work to small businesses, which is tracked in the Federal Procurement Data System. This means that a smart small companies regularly check that system for agencies that aren’t meeting their quotas and therefore will be more receptive to meeting new possible vendors and service providers.
In B2B marketing, you often have to take guesses as to what the company might be interested in buying. In B2G, you often have that information in black and white, via the Office of Management and Budget. In some cases, you can get great information on what an agency will be looking to buy, and tailor your sales presentations to match.
You can’t market to the government without spending a lot of time following politics and even news information about departmental personnel and their projects. Having more sources you can connect with will help you “connect the dots” between news items. You will soon be better positioned to do th early work necessary to win new contracts. You might even get in on the ground floor when the RFP is being prepared. That’s the real key to long term success.
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We can quickly prepare you for the realities of government marketing. Contact us today!