Strategies for Success: Selling to the government? Be aware of subtle requirements

Strategies for Success: Selling to the government? Be aware of subtle requirements

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Last month we addressed some of the initial considerations of becoming a government contractor. This month, we identify some more considerations that are both salient and germane when thinking about becoming a government contractor.

Businesses which have special designations, i.e., Women Owned Business, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business, Businesses located in a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) zone, a tribal governmental entity all receive special consideration when the federal government evaluates contractual bids. This special consideration gives extra, i.e., additional evaluation points when a bid is being considered for award. However, do not become fooled that just because your business is in one of these categories that you automatically qualify for an award!

Do not succumb to the belief that because your business has a special designation, that you are special or unique. Yes, you have some socio-economic designator that the federal government has found to be useful in finding contractors that may not have had an opportunity to otherwise bid on a government contract. However, you must perform the work sought.

In many government, contractual solicitations, past performance is a key consideration in the selection criteria. What this means, in simple terms, is how did your business perform doing a similar or like task for another client? Was your firm successful—was the work satisfactory, was the client happy with the finished product, were all deadlines successfully achieved? Those are all factors that will need to be identified in your proposal if past performance is one of the evaluation criteria.

If your business is construction, a bonding requirement is often necessary for a government contract. Many small businesses do not have the financial robustness to gain a performance bond. If this the case, collaborating with a larger contractor makes sense, at least initially so that your firm can successfully bid on a large contract.

Reviewing the proposal evaluation criterion is another area where many new government contractors trip and fall. It is very important to clearly understand what it is that the government is seeking in terms of performance evaluation. In some cases, the government is seeking a vendor that has Lowest Price, Technically Acceptable (LPTA) proposal. In other cases, Best Value, with price, NOT the determining factor is sought. Paying close attention to what is being sought is important in preparing the bid.

Paying strict attention to any amendments that the contracting officer has issued since the original solicitation is posted is also important. Often, the contracting officer makes changes after posting the initial solicitation. If you are not aware of those changes, you may bid something that is no longer being sought, or the requirements have changed significantly. Strong attention to detail is important here.

If you bid a solicitation and do not receive the winning bid, you can have the contracting officer provide you with a debrief to understand where your proposal did not meet the expectations of the contracting officer. The Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) can help you here. We can as well. Receiving a debrief on your proposal is always a beneficial way to learn about what you may have failed to address or did not completely understand. You will also be able to see how the successful contract awardee prepared his/her winning bid.

Government contracting is a long-term strategy. If you elect to pursue government contracts, you need to dedicate the resources, i.e., personnel, marketing, travel to participate. In many construction contracts, you may be required to take a “walk through” the building or facility that is being remodeled, rebuilt or newly constructed. This takes time and money—you need to calculate those costs into your decision calculus to determine if such a solicitation is indeed profitable for your firm to pursue.

Government contracting can be a rich source of business and new income streams. However, go into the process with a full and complete understanding of all the nuances necessary to become a winning and successful government contractor.

In many government, contractual solicitations, past performance is a key consideration in the selection criteria. 

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