With over 11 million new contracts signed and $1.5 trillion dollars awarded each year, the U.S. government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. In 2012 alone, the government awarded just under $90 billion in contracts to small businesses and agencies. This means there are plenty of opportunities to tap into the steady revenue stream that only the U.S. government can provide.
While there are several ways to find government contracts (check out GSA.gov’s Seek Opportunities article), when you find the right opportunity for your business or agency, you’re still tasked with researching and submitting a winning bid. The bid process may seem overwhelming at first, but here are six keys to improving your chances of winning government contracts:
Register with the System for Awards Management (SAM). Government agencies, more often than not, require you to register with the SAM website before allowing you to conduct business with them. This system collects all of your business or agency’s details and validates, stores and disseminates this data to several federal agencies. In addition, you are added to the bidders’ list which is also used by federal officers to solicit bids from prospective vendors and contractors.
Know all of the key players who will be evaluating your bid. In business, networking is an extremely valuable method of making your brand stand out above the rest; in government business, this practice is no different. It’s important to spend time throughout the year attending procurement seminars. Building relationships with government decision-makers goes a long way when you want to set yourself apart from the competition. It also gives you an inside scoop on how the government spends its money.
Research the government agency’s needs. Government contracts at local, state, and federal levels vary in award amount, the scope of work, and length of time. You want to take the time to review the RFP or bid opportunity thoroughly and understand what the awarding agency wants. Remember that the government solicits bids in order to find solutions to a very specific need, whether it’s a service or product.
Research and understand your competitors. You will not be alone in bidding for any one government contract and will more often than not be competing against several dozens of other businesses or agencies vying for the same award. Understanding the competition and—more importantly—knowing how to beat them is vital when writing your proposal.
Understand your product or services. A great way to make your bid stand above the rest is to provide a detailed explanation of how your product or service is the perfect solution to what the government needs. Write your bid so that it’s clear that you are providing value in your solution. Though the government is concerned with cost and being accountable for its spending, it doesn’t mean it will simply award the contract to the lowest bidder. The government will never sacrifice value for the cost.
Prepare your bid with great care. You won’t have an opportunity to make changes to your bid after you submit, so make sure all required information is included. A contract awarded on erroneous information may result in financial loss or other difficulties for your business, so it’s important you pay attention to every detail and make sure you can meet all of the deliverables listed in the RFP. Thoroughly understand the awarding agency’s stipulations regarding a purchase, delivery of goods and payments. Your bid should clearly define the items and services you can provide, your delivery schedule, and detailed cost analysis.
Government bid requirements vary from contract to contract. There are several RFP and bid software services that can help with gathering and organizing information, as well as keeping your team on track keeping important due dates and communication.
It’s also very important to keep track of your bid after you submit. Once all bids have been submitted the awarding agency begins the process of evaluation and may contact you for a pre-award survey, a chance for you to demonstrate that you can deliver the items in your proposal.
Once the contract has been awarded the awardee and contract price become public information. Whether or not you win the bid, keeping this information is vital as you move forward and submit future bids to this or other agencies.
The biggest lesson is to stay proactive: Research the agency’s needs and show that you can provide the best solution. Using the right tools can go a long way in making sure you bid intelligently and increase your chances of winning government contracts.