They don’t really want new contractors and there is too much competition.
They want to know who they are doing business with and have confidence that they will perform and know how to play the paperwork game.
So how do they accomplish this without taking sales calls?
- By getting referrals to buyers from other federal buyers.
- Asking their colleagues who they are contracting with.
- Taking calls from prime contractors (the ultimate insiders) and favoring them in many ways.
None of these things happen without having contracts or relationships with buyers.
Contracts beget more contracts.
Knowing who has the cards and playing the contracting game the way the government wants it played can more than offset the government’s inherent power.
You can offset the government’s edge by:
- Understanding that they are under a spotlight by the public, the press, and even the Congress who gave them all the power. They do not like using their power publicly.
- Yet if you make the waves on paper they will slap you down in a number of ways, i.e., putting an informal line thru your name, denying a protest, taking you to court, etc.
- If you embarrass them by cheating they will put you in jail
- Understanding that intense scrutiny causes buyers to be exceptionally risk averse. Heads do roll when contracts mess up publicly. (e.g., Obamacare web site)
Insiders (companies with contracts):
- Play by the rules and help buyers justify contract awards and performance ratings on paper.
- Stay out of trouble by performing at a B level or better.
It’s a paper game with the paper showing that (1) awards were made in the best interest of the taxpayer and (2) contract performance was adequate. (What the paper says may not reflect reality.)
Don’t cross them by protesting or making waves.
They want you to play the game by their rules and if you don’t watch out.
In short, by playing their game and being a stellar business partner, i.e., these people know what I need and help me in any way they can.
Unfortunately, you can’t learn to play the game without a contract.
The process of arranging meetings with federal procurement officials (end users) is not an easy one. End users are busy and vendors from countries all around the world are trying to sell the end users their wares. On the other hand, end users are expected to be open to meeting with all vendors and are not supposed to show favoritism. Getting through the door of an end user’s office requires people and sales skills.
The most important thing to remember is that end users are people trying to do their job. They are naturally more eager to meet with those who appear to understand their problems and offer solutions. They will figure out a way to avoid meeting with vendors who appear to be on a fishing expedition.
An obvious question is, “How can I know an end user’s problems without meeting with them first?” Identifying problems is not easy but it can be done. Use the Internet and phone calls to conduct research on the targeted agency’s programs, the structure of the organization, and each individual’s job responsibilities. Talk to other vendors, use your networking contacts, and deduce what their problems may be.
Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts are becoming the preferred way that federal buyers make purchases. In order to compete in either the federal product or service sectors, your firm must have an IDIQ. As the use of IDIQs becomes increasingly more predominant, those which do not will be squeezed out of the market.
Looking at the issue from a practical perspective, one could say that those who have IDIQs have a hunting license. More specifically, such companies have a license to seek and bag a particular species in a specific jurisdiction. In the case of the federal market, only the holders of a specific IDIQ are permitted to bid on designated projects. Don’t be caught out in the wild without the proper license!
Federal agencies are awarding contracts to low price bidders more often because of budget constraints. Low price awards are particularly prevalent if the bidder is offering a product that meets the solicitation specifications. Inherently, low price awards are made for purchases that have well defined specifications (products) and nearly equal evaluation scores for services.
Entrenched and incumbent contractors are crying foul because a low price approach encourages awards to newcomers in general or an experienced contractor that is new to an agency.