One of the initial challenges for those new to federal contracting is to resist the urge to go after everything that seems to look good. When prospective contractors first catch a glimpse of what initially appears to be a very attractive opportunity, there’s a tendency to want to jump right in. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a risky strategy that can quickly lead to a tremendous waste of time, money and enthusiasm.
Regardless of whether you operate in the commercial sector or federal sector, all leads need to be qualified. In this blog, we will explore several practical strategies for identifying and pursuing the right kind of opportunities. The focus will be on how PHA can help you create a selective pipeline of opportunities that yield the highest probability of success for your company.
Understanding Your Organization’s Unique Strengths and Capabilities
As the inscription in the Temple of Apollo in the ancient Greek precinct of Delphi said: Know Thyself. While this may sound a bit dramatic, you must understand your unique strengths and capabilities first, in order to be a successful federal contractor. You must be able to differentiate yourself from your competitors in meaningful and quantifiable ways. You can’t be all things to all people, so you need to identify several key attributes that define your company. This is your “solution”.
Understanding Agency Objectives And Requirements
Another foundation of successful federal contracting requires a clear understanding of an agency’s objectives and requirements. Once you Know Thyself, then you must Know Thy Agency. Aligning your company’s capabilities with an agency’s requirements helps ensure that there’s a good match, that resources are invested wisely, and efforts are directed towards the most promising opportunities. In today’s GovCon (Government Contracting) buzz words, make sure your “solution” closely aligns with the agency’s “problems”.
Analyze Agency Buying Patterns
A crucial step in the strategic identification of the right federal opportunities is the analysis of key agency buying patterns. Among the most critical questions you should be able to answer before you even look at a specific opportunity include the following:
- What agencies buy the goods or services you sell?
- How much of it do they buy?
- What contracting offices are involved?
- What kind of contract vehicles do they use?
- Who are the major competitors;
- What do their procurement forecasts tell you?
These are not the only questions you need to ask, but having the answers to these will begin to move you strategically and methodically towards the right kind of opportunities for your organization.
Proactive Networking and Relationship Building
In the world of government contracting, relationships matter. I really had no appreciation for this when I first became involved in federal contracting. My initial impression was that the sales process was very structured, highly regulated, very mechanical, and there wasn’t much benefit to try and develop professional business relationships. Big mistake! Proactive networking with key stakeholders and decision-makers is always important and can foster valuable relationships that open doors to opportunities for which you may be uniquely suited.
Contractors should attend industry events, engage in online forums, and establish meaningful connections within the federal ecosystem. Building a robust professional network not only provides insights into potential contracts, but also enhances a contractor’s reputation and credibility in the eyes of government agencies.
Understand the Competition
One of the major differences between the commercial and federal sector is the amount of public information that is available to analyze the competition in the federal sector, including, for example:
- type of business entity
- past and current contracts
- contract pricing
- contract issues and/or problems
- contracts terminated
- lobbying reports
- political contributions
Developing a comprehensive understanding of the competition is a prerequisite to making an informed bid/no-bid decision. Building a profile of your competitors from the vast amount of information that is publicly available will help you find the right opportunities…and stay away from the wrong ones.
Understand How to Read the Handwriting on The Wall: Learn How to Tell if it’s Wired
In general, federal purchasing is supposed to be transparent, conducted fairly, equitably and on the proverbial “level playing field”. Despite numerous laws, rules and regulations designed to ensure fair play there are several ways that contracts can be “wired” to a favored contractor. Some are obvious; others are much more subtle. Over time, experienced contractors come to recognize some of the telltale signs of a contract that’s wired:
There are no Sources Sought, RFI, Industry Day or other announcements before release.
- The formal RFP is issued without any advance notice.
- The opportunity never appeared in an annual agency forecast.
- The NAICS or PSC code assigned to it is incorrect, or not the most relevant.
- The submission deadline is too short to allow enough time to prepare a competitive proposal.
- The scope of work calls for services that seem to “have someone’s name on it”, or, only one company can deliver the services.
- The contracting officer does not respond to requests for clarification.
- The former agency employees have been hired by a prospective competitor.
When these kinds of characteristics emerge, there’s a good chance the contract is wired, so you’re best to read the handwriting on the wall, and walk away. There will be plenty of other opportunities that will not be wired. If you do your homework properly, you may find yet another contract that’s wired, but this time…it’s wired for you!
Staying Informed about Government Initiatives
Government initiatives, policies, and programs are constantly evolving. Contractors must stay informed to adapt their strategies accordingly. By keeping a close eye on legislative changes, budget allocations, and agency priorities, contractors can position themselves to align with emerging opportunities. Resources such as government publications, industry reports, and PHA’s expertise can help contractors select the right opportunities to go after.
Identifying Niche Opportunities
Niche markets or specialized areas within government contracting do exist. If they align well with your company’s key strengths, they may be among the right opportunities to pursue. Contractors can achieve this by conducting thorough market research and positioning themselves as experts in niche areas, making them more attractive to government agencies seeking specialized solutions.
Leveraging PHA’s Market Research and Analysis
As mentioned above, there’s literally an endless supply of publically available competitive information and business intelligence for federal markets. Knowing what sources are most relevant, and knowing how to access them, however, is another thing entirely. Enter PHA, a key player in the realm of federal market research, business intelligence and business development for federal contractors. Their expertise becomes invaluable in the process of identifying the right opportunities to pursue. Specialized market research is the cornerstone of this approach, providing contractors with a deep understanding of the market landscape, trends, and potential opportunities. This not only streamlines the decision-making process but also empowers contractors to make informed choices that align with their objectives.
In conclusion, strategically identifying federal opportunities is a multifaceted process that requires a combination of clear objectives, market research, and effective strategies. The approaches outlined in this blog, coupled with PHA’s expertise in market research and analysis, will help provide contractors with a roadmap for success in federal contracting. By understanding their objectives, leveraging specialized research, and implementing targeted strategies, contractors can position themselves successfully as key players in the dynamic world of government contracting.