FEDERAL CONTRACTING: GETTING YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
BY NANCY DAHLBERG
If you are a small business that has met with a Procurement Technical Assistance Center consultant to determine whether federal contracting may be right for the business and you have identified some potential contracts to pursue, it is time to put your best foot forward to get in the door.
By now we hope you have read our two previous stories “Is Your Business Ready for Government Contracting” (Summer 2019) and “Researching Federal Government Contracting Opportunities” (Fall 2019).
Each federal agency has a small business office to ensure agencies follow small business rules and regulations — they are not buyers but should be your first stop at an agency. Scotty Wilson, Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) consultant who specializes in government contracting with the Florida Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College, recommends having a completed SAM registration — the government’s System for Award Management at sam.gov — and three opportunities in hand as well as your financial plan.
Ask the small business office for an email introduction to the contracting officer. Ask the contracting officer for a capability briefing, and schedule monthly marketing outreaches. Program managers also have agency knowledge and may be able to offer value to the solution you are offering to the agency.
“The business should be proactive in marketing products and services,” says Wilson. While the ability of the business to respond to opportunities will depend on what opportunities are available via solicitations, Wilson says proactively marketing products or services to contracting officers (where appropriate), user departments, primes and other government contractors will be critical in securing government contracts.
“One example of this would be to reach out to vendors being awarded large contracts in your area of work for subcontracting opportunities,” Wilson adds. “Another example might be to reach out to large primes within your area of work.” You can identify federal contract recipients at usaspending.gov.
“While the business is not specifically responding to solicitations the operator should always be networking and promoting the products and services,” says Wilson.
And about putting your best foot forward, Wilson recommends the business owner should:
• Make a good first impression. Be professional (including an email address using the business website’s domain) and triple check for typos.
• Make sure the company website is updated and typo free.
• Know and understand the company’s sweet spot and lead with you and your company’s expertise and experience. Emphasize your ability to mitigate risk and overcome obstacles.
And as a quick review, Wilson adds this advice in considering government contracting opportunities and developing the business strategy:
• Determine who buys what you sell
• Is the market large enough for you to be profitable?
• Prioritize your buying targets
• Determine which certifications you need to be competitive with your target buyers
• Determine if you need or could use a partner
• Strategize over potential partners
• Consider subcontracting
• Identify potential primes to target for collaboration (joint venture or
• Create a plan including these elements with timelines for completion
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers can provide no-cost assistance to small businesses looking to compete for government contracts, including use of the BidMatch program, which helps clients win more contracts. Consultants at PTACs can provide this no-cost tool that allows a business to efficiently identify contracting opportunities and access solicitations. Qualified clients receive e-mail notifications of bid opportunities for specific products and services from more than 800 federal, state and local bid-posting sites.
Once your company is ready for government contracting, the Florida SBDC at IRSC PTAC consultant, Wilson, can assist and guide you, the small business owner, with a series of next steps.
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