Every single thing you do is advancing (or not advancing) a sale. Maybe it is selling the meeting, a follow-up or your actual product or service. The important thing to know is where you are relative to your buyer’s buying motives.
Think about the federal buyer for a moment… What are some of the stereotypes that come to mind? Write them down and you have a great foundation of the make-up of a federal buyer and what they need from you…
If you are a typical business person frustrated with government bureaucracy and inefficiency, did you know that you probably are projecting those negative thoughts in your phone conversations and maybe even in person?
How? We as humans “can’t not” project these things subconsciously because we believe them. That is why we need to be careful about our belief structures and what we are projecting. In fact, if we understand what makes the federal buyers buy, then we can project the solutions to that and they will receive these positive reinforcements to their buying motives- and it all happens subconsciously.
Hard to believe right? Well think about this for a moment… How is it that you and your best friend can finish each other’s sentences, move the same way, act the same way without any scripting? It all revolves around rapport and rapport starts, or doesn’t start within milliseconds of meeting or talking with someone. You know it happens because sometimes you just “click” and other times you can’t seem to generate a connection.
Now, when it comes to federal buyers, there are two important components to understand. First, where are you right now, and second where are they and what are their buying motives. Federal buyers are not complicated, they are just like you – they want things to be easy. That doesn’t mean they don’t work, they just don’t want to have to do extra work to buy from you. So, if you can help them trim the work load, you are golden!
3 Golden Nuggets
Provide them with sample scopes of work that they can use in their next procurement. Provide them with Sample Standard form 1445 filled out with the appropriate boxes filled, ready to go with item descriptions and all.
Provide them with your certifications- especially the ones that help them like small business, 8(a) and SDVOSB.
If you get into their world and understand what they do, you can positively change your belief structure and become more aligned with them – generating real rapport.
Every day I am asked about key contacts in specific industries. Why? Because there are over 80,000 federal buyers with authority to purchase and there are probably a few hundred that purchase what you sell on a regular basis. Your proactive efforts should be focused on key contacts that are in line with your capabilities and past performance.
When we started isiFederal, it was critical to me that we be able to identify high probability targets. Sure, you can track an opportunity but that can take up to 5 years before that comes around again with that buyer. What about the other 25,000 or contracts that will be executed in that time period? Who handles those? How can you find them?
Great questions. The answer revolves around power. Power is money and budget is king. Nobody in DC or anywhere in the federal government wants to lose a dime of budget. It is clear in year end use it or lose it spending and it is evident in the contracts that you want to compete for. If the agency spent $100 Million last year, they will do it again this year and who do you think will be spending that money? That’s right, the same people as last year.
We have developed an advanced intelligence that sifts through the contract information and compiles a complete report of information that is pertinent for your company. Most importantly we cross reference the contracts with the contacts responsible. This gives us the contacts in context with your company’s strengths and capabilities. Here is a sample of what we have done, see what you think…
We are all looking for ways to get ahead of the RFP and not be reactive to bids and opportunity databases can help us know what contracts are expiring and give us enough time to get in front of the key decision makers often a year or two in advance of the recompete. Recently I have been having a lot of discussions with folks who are looking into the opportunity databases like Deltek (now GovWin), Centurion and Bloomberg.
This is important because without some pre-proposal insight, it is often too late to have any influence or really understand the requirement fully once the opportunity hits the street. We have a rule around here, if we didn’t influence the scope, somebody else did. Sometimes that is the incumbent, sometimes it is a new player and if you have some connectivity beforehand, you can be that new player. The key is to focus on the people with decision making authority and influence.
Several of our clients have databases and monitor for opportunities. Here is the main issue they find… all of the databases concentrate on opportunities that are $500k and above AND once it hits the database radar, they let everyone know and because of the threshold. Now the big boys are paying attention and those big boys are well entrenched and have a lot more resources than most of my clients. This does not excite me.
Whenever I use any kind of analysis tool I like to look at what I call “feeders”. Using construction as an example, look at the food chain of a construction project. It starts with planning, surveying and permitting – then architects and environmental engineers – then GC’s and specialty trades – then maintenance and grounds keeping. The person responsible for the build is often the same person who starts the planning and permitting. Get to them and you not only know of an opportunity way before everyone else, you can often influence the next phase of the process.
This works in almost all industries. A few years ago we began doing market research for clients to find the “under the radar” contracts and contacts associated with those contracts. It was a pretty cool expedition and we learned a whole lot in the process. We did research for industrial battery company and used pallets as a feeder because if a customer has pallets, they need a fork lift and half of the forklifts use batteries. This gave us hundreds of buyers that would never show up on FBO or even the individual agency monitoring sites.
If you want to see how it works, you can find samples here:
Now, this is a different approach than a bid database because it revolves around people instead of opportunities. If you know who the people are, then you proactively go after those buyers and PMs as you would any strategic account. A byproduct of this approach is identifying the firms/primes that are winning. Who could possibly be a better referral source than the federal buyer or PM who refers you to the company PM? It is a beautiful thing when you bypass all the vendor databases and get to the PM of the prime for the project. At least you have the chance to be on the short list…
What I like most is identifying the key contacts of the competitors so I can target them directly. Since most of the accounts are at risk at some point, being in front of the right people makes all the difference.
Last Friday, a storm blew through Maryland with 80 mile an hour winds and several inches of rain. Unlike any storm I have seen, the lighting was almost constant and the trees were being bent and twisted so much so that we lost several stout oak trees and branches were strewn all over the place. At about 11PM last Friday the power went down. The next day we saw the damage and it looked like a warzone. We have 5 poles down in different places so we can probably expect another several days of running on generator power just to keep the freezer cold.
Governor O’Malley has requested federal assistance for this event. This is a step short of Katrina where FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) was called in to help with the emergency. Now, FEMA is an interesting agency. They spend money quickly with pre-registered companies that provide specific services.
Registering your company is important because FEMA responds to emergencies like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural and man-made disasters. If your company is known before the event happens, you will be in position to jump on an opportunity when the federal government is called on for disaster relief.
Pre-disaster registration is mandatory. Just as important is pre-marketing your product and service offerings to buyers. isiFederal can help you find and reach key decision makers before they start spending the money. Companies that are known before the opportunity is posted are 5 times more likely to win.
By the way…
FEMA is an agency just like other agencies. FEMA’s published opportunities can be found at “New and Existing” but don’t stop there. FEMA is a DHS agency so there are many opportunities within DHS for you as well. Visit for details on doing business with DHS where you will find a link to the DHS forecast for DHS and all the sub agencies.
Contracting officers are busy people. One thing all procurement people look for is an easy way to fulfill the obligations of the contract. If you don’t have a contract vehicle, that means a ton of work for the contracting officer. There are exceptions to this rule like an emergency contract or sole source for a unique offering but most of the time contracting officers will make it difficult to move through procurement, even if you have a strong relationship with an advocate. Read more
I was looking through a recent construction association magazine about how bidding competition is off the charts in just about every construction field. Construction companies that were up against 4 or 5 bidders two years ago are now bidding against 25, 30 even 50 competitors today. Some of the construction folks I met with last week are seeing larger competitors try to make up for lost revenues by competing in new or smaller markets.
85% of federal opportunities have less than 4 competitors…
We recently compiled a federal intelligence report for our utility construction client located on the east coast… Over the past two years $3.9 Billion was spent with contractors on various forms of utility construction for the federal government and ¼ of the opportunities had only ONE response. 85% of the 11657 of the contracts awarded had less than 4 responses. That’s $2.7 B in awards that had less than 4 competitors.
Big successes for Small Businesses…
The largest “Small Business” contract discovered through intelligence was awarded in November of 2009 for a water and sewer project in New Orleans. The contract was won by Pennsylvania’s DV & Associates $31,186,659.20 and – get this – they are being paid in progress payments for percentage of completion. This helps offset bonding requirements and keep cash flow high. Even in this opportunity – only 9 offers were received.
Road and Roof Construction from Virginia landed over $25M in bite size chunks averaging $46k per job. TP Enterprises, Inc from Oklahoma won $14.5M, Sabre Communications Corp out of Iowa banked over $4.2M and has seven more zero dollar contracts that will help them minimize their competition over the next several years. This is great work at a great time and with minimal competition, is absolutely winnable.
More information from this Construction Intelligence:
Federal spending spikes 350% in September
Average contract size for utility work $413k
395 contracts for $321M were solicited to Small Businesses and No Responses were received
1569 contracts for $228M were solicited to Disadvantaged Businesses and No responses
1308 contracts for $556M were not solicited to Small Disadvantaged Business because the contracting officer didn’t know of one.
Dispelling the Federal Myth…
True, the federal space is confusing and time consuming. That is no different than when you got into business in the first place. There are three things you need to make your federal strategy successful:
1) If you rethink your timetable for return on investment. Turn your 1 year goal into a 3 year goal.
2) Find out what works. If other companies in your space are doing it, you can too. Learn how they are doing it and do what they do.
3) Build relationships with the right people. People buy from people, even in the government, and relationships trump check boxes every single time. That is how the big boys win and how the small businesses explode. Triple Canopy started in 2003 and have since sold over $1B to the government.
4) Understand the procurement process. Every agency is different, every sub agency has its nuances, and every person has their own buying motives.
5) Dedicate resources. You need to be face to face with decision makers.
Want to get smart about your federal market?
“Last year I was looking for ways to find high probability targets. isiFederal provided exactly what we needed and now we are gaining access to opportunities that we would never have seen. The fact that they are in DC every day make all the difference in building relationships at the right level.”
Brendan Skelly, President LINQ Services, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Initial Intelligence $299
This is our most introductory report. It will answer the underlying question of most business owners… Is there my kind of work out there? We can tell you for sure if there is enough activity for your offerings before you spend thousands trying to find it.
Find out where the federal market is for your services
Competition and Award report for your product or service offering
Identify Top Purchasing Agencies that are spending money now
Contact and Competitive Intelligence $3,000.00 Click here for Sample Excel.
This is our most popular report because it gives you competitive information and contact information –including e-mails – for who is responsible for spending the money. If you want to be considered for business in September, you need to be in front of federal decision makers by the end of July.
Identify Purchasing Agencies currently using your products and services
Identify and Verify Contracting Officers (with contact information)
Complete list of all competitors, who bought from them and how much they got paid
Identify Top Purchasing Agencies
Identify Top Contracting Offices
Identify Top NAICS
Breakdown by PSC
Action plan for pursuit
*This report takes 12 business days to complete.
Get your Federal Strategy started. Call 888-9-GET-isi.
And it is indeed a happy new year for federal contractors who were positioned to pounce on “Use it or Lose it” spending. While weexecuted a last minute proposal for $525k that was chump change in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, 49,199 contracts were awarded in the last 10 days for $6,452,379,288.03 and we still have until 11:59pm. With an average of $131,148.59 per contract, there more than are a few party poppers going off right now. The best part is many of these contracts are only partially funded, that means even more funds coming on these fine wins over the next few months.
FY2011 is looking like another banner year for federal contracting with significant opportunity in construction, facilities management, Information Technology, cloud computing and security. Other areas that will be gaining steam are telecom, furniture and supply.
Hot Initiatives for 2011
Green- LEEDs certification, energy savings and alternative energy sources will be huge in 2011. Read GSA announcement here. If you haven’t embraced green technologies, you had better get on board. Make sure your GSA schedule is up to date with new technologies.
Emergency Response- With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, hurricanes, blizzards and earthquakes, emergency response and preparation will be a key focus of expenditures in 2011. Make sure you have registered with FEMA’s contracting registry, click here https://www.fema.gov/doing-business-fema.
In-sourcing- The pendulum has swung firmly into government labor growth. That means anything to do with people in buildings is growing. Staffing agencies, furniture, phones, computers, software, security and office supplies are going to increase significantly in 2011.