What is the key to getting contracts with the Federal Government? You may think you have to be 8a certified, or take a course on how to get a GSA contract or perhaps how to leverage yourself with numerous tools and systems that for a “small fee” will all help you uncover the mystery to the secret of Federal Contracting and turn it into instant cash.
As an Air Force Contracting Officer for 23 years and a Contracts Negotiator for a couple of major defense contractors over the last 7 years, I can tell you the secret and it may not be what you think. Its one word – Relationship.
The following is the definition of relationship from yourdictionary.com:
Relationship Definition – re·la·tion·ship (ri lā′s̸hən s̸hip′)
You’ve heard the adage people do business with people they know, like and trust right? That phrase plays a key factor in the Federal Contracting process. As a past Government buyer, I wanted my job to get done quickly. Yes, there are rules for competition; for simplified acquisitions a formal bid process isn’t required in many cases and a simple phone call or e-mail would work. I solicited bids from people I had built relationships with. Those that I knew, liked and trusted.
I did an entire presentation for the Gas Company in Los Angeles CA entitled Turning Contacts into Contracts. That presentation focused on becoming known, liked and trusted by the Government buyers. In that presentation I told the story about being a buyer at a base in Texas. There was a concrete vendor who was one of our suppliers that had a blanket agreement to provide concrete. The concrete orders had a variation in quantity on all orders of +/- 10%. That means that if the delivery was 10% above or 10% below the quantity ordered, we would approve it for payment.
When I took over, the previous buyer had regularly authorized payment above the 10% quantity variation and from the historical records it looked like the contractor had taken advantage of that as every delivery was beyond the 10% variation in quantity. When I placed my first order with his company, he did his usual and delivered over there 10% variation. When the invoice came in for approval for payment, I contacted him to tell him I was reducing his invoice down to the 10% variation in quantity amount. He proceeded to scream at me and threaten me. A short minute into that rant I told him I didn’t have to listen to that kind of talk and hung up on him. Guess what? The next time I had a concrete order, I called someone else I knew, liked and trusted and it wasn’t him!
There are a few keys to getting known, liked and trusted:
1. Attend industry days, trade shows, pre bid conferences and any other events where your type of product or service has a gathering of people from the Government. For industry days or trade show type environments, exchange business cards, get information from the booths, talk to the people from the companies, get a point of contact and ask them if they are the people to keep in touch with.
2. Attend events at the Small Business Development Center and other Centers of the Small Business Administration. Many times they have workshops on different topics relating to the Government Contracting Process. That’s a great place to meet potential people to collaborate with. Search http://sba.gov for the local offices in your area and see what workshops they are offering. Most of the time they are free or a very nominal fee.
3. Do your research ahead of time. If you are going to attend an event where several companies are involved, do some research on the people you want to chat with. Have a strategy in place in advance in order to make most effective use of your time.
4. Get set up online and bid! Submit bids to get used to the process. If you did not win, you can request information about the winning bid. Depending on the type of contract it is, the winners’ information will be announced publically. Use this information to build a better strategy for the next bid or even contact the winning bidder and see if you can subcontract under them to provide a portion of the contract service.
5. Get a coach to help you with the process. For those of us who have navigated the Federal Contracting Superhighway, it’s a simple process. We know what exits to take and the shortest route to get to the destination. For those who have not it can appear to be very complicated or impossible to achieve. The Federal Government is a multi billion if not multi trillion dollar industry. If you provide a product or service in the commercial world, chances are there is a Government application for it.
The key to success is not paying some company thousands of dollars to tell you how to do it. You have to use one of my top 10 negotiating tips which is Build Relationship First.
Contact me for coaching or questions at Eldonna@PinkBikerChic.com