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.
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!
The five C’s required to write a winning proposal are: customer knowledge, creativity, compliance, clarity and conciseness. All five C’s are needed to maximize proposal evaluation scores.
Newcomers to the federal market underestimate the importance of the five C’s and typically think that slapping together a quick proposal is enough. Proposal evaluators love quick and dirty proposals because they can reject them within minutes and cut down on the work of proposal evaluation; they can get on with evaluating the others in the huge pile of responses. Evaluators hope that many proposals in the pile will lack the five C’s.
Customer Knowledge: The federal buyer must know you and what you can do to solve their problem. You probably should not waste valuable resources writing a proposal without customer knowledge beyond the Request for Proposal (RFP). Advanced sales and customer contact provides (1) the federal buyer with the comfort of reduced risk in selecting you for an award, and (2) you learn what the buyer really wants in order to create a tailored and creative solution to the buyer’s problem (the most critical part of the proposal).
This is what the insiders do (companies with direct federal contracts). They live with the customer and can’t help but understand their needs.
Compliance: Complete compliance with every requirement of the RFP is a necessity because any compliance flaw in your proposal can cause an immediate proposal rejection. Any missed compliance requirement, however small, can relegate you to the reject pile.
Creativity: Once you know the customer, you must creatively present your solution to their problem. A creative technical approach seals the deal. A winning technical approach emanates from (1) customer knowledge and (2) a highly structured proposal writing system. A structured system can take various forms, but the essential element is that the system should produce a detailed proposal outline containing legacy content and instructions before any writing begins.
Most technical writers (the people on the firing line) need structure and guidance to write a clear and concise technical content. Without a system, chaos usually results, particularly if there are several technical writers involved.
Clarity and Conciseness: Your English teachers probably taught you that clear and concise writing begins with a tight outline (organization structure). Government proposal evaluators do not like evaluating lengthy tomes and demand clarity and conciseness. Your proposal evaluation scores will suffer without it. A structured proposal writing system enhances clarity and conciseness.
Avoid letting your CEO throw in self-serving sales pitches without backup and clear evidence relevant to the requirements. An example of this: “ABC Co is a World Class or Best of Breed Company.” Proposal evaluators laugh at such statements; they are the polar opposite of clarity and conciseness.
Fedmarket uses a structured RFP-driven proposal process that ensures proposal compliance. We win a majority of the proposals we write and almost all of the multiple award (IDIQ) bids. Yet some of the single award proposals we write proposals lose. Why, because the customer:
- Was stretching its capabilities and experience and corporate egos hate to admit it.
- Did not write the critical technical content required to win (a proposal service company usually cannot write complex technical solution content. This has to come from the customers technical staff or proposal library.
- Won technically but lost on price.
- Did not understand what the customer asked for in the RFP, e.g., they wanted experience in building barracks and the fact that you built huge shopping centers did not score points.
And sometimes the customer just wanted to work with the company they know and love.
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.
Fedmarket predicts that federal contracting officers will use the OASIS Unrestricted and OASIS Small Business Government-wide acquisition contracts extensively for the following reasons.
Contracting officers are using multiple award contracts (MACS) extensively because they eliminate the staff heavy requirements and excess lead times of single source public bids.
A government-wide MAC has never before been available that allows:
- A wide scope of almost any professional service
- Task orders of any contract type including fixed price, time & material and cost reimbursement contracts
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“Capture Planning” in the federal market usually involves opportunity identification, plan of how to “capture” the opportunity, and write the proposal in response to the solicitation.
Some federal contracting companies are finding that the capture planning process is not as effective as hoped. Most, often the company lacks a company-to-customer sales process.
Selling is hard. Most technical staff members and subject matter specialists are good at performing contract tasks. But few are good at selling a customer and at the same time appearing like they are not selling, but solving the customer’s problem.
The second reason for the consolation step is the lack of an effective proposal writing capability. A winning proposal documents the solution that you have already sold the customer. You must sell it first and write the solution in a clear concise, and convincing manner. These two critical elements are often missing in a capture planning process.
Learn more about capture planning and the federal sales process at http://www.fedmarket.com/contractors/Sell-It-Then-Worry-About-Capturing-It
Or call me directly, I’m happy to answer your basic federal contracting questions.
301 908 0546 (cell)