When competing for government contracts, small businesses and entrepreneurs often start with their own local government systems. Generally speaking, these smaller offices lead to more manageable contract opportunities than the federal pool. With less red-tape and simpler rules, procurement processes are usually less cumbersome and are much easier to navigate at the local government level. Plus, there are thousands of opportunities and set-aside awards targeting small businesses that make the bid process a lot easier.
Knowing what opportunities are right for your business or agency is key to successfully bidding and winning a government contract. Here are some things to consider when deciding if a bid opportunity is right for you:
Can your small business complete the job?
Small businesses can’t let the contract award amount blind them from the details of the work that is required. Government agencies are looking for value solutions. Sure, they don’t want to overpay for a product, but they’ll never sacrifice the quality of service to save a few dollars. You need to evaluate your business model and make an honest assessment of whether or not you can deliver on what the government is requesting.
It’s much more important for small businesses to demonstrate that they can complete the job the local government is soliciting bids for by listing customer references, awards, and certifications, as well as any media mentions or recognition in the proposal. If your business has a great reputation locally and you have proven quality service backed by customer references, then the awarding agency will be more likely to select your business over other lesser-known entities.
Are you compliant with the local government agency’s requirements?
These vary tremendously from agency to agency so you’ll want to contact the local or state government’s procurement office for more information. Small businesses don’t need to hold a formal procurement contract, such as a GSA Schedule, in order to conduct work for a state or local government, but holding a GSA Schedule can be very beneficial in that it certifies you as an approved supplier of products or services, makes the process of ordering easier for government agencies, and generally opens more business opportunities for you. Take a look at “Working With the GSA’s Schedules Program” for more information and tips on becoming a GSA Schedule contractor.
Do you know the agency’s award schedule?
Understand the local government agency’s procurement processes and calendars. Getting to know the award process and cycle can give you an advantage especially if you start networking with government decision-makers ahead of time.
It goes without saying that you don’t want to miss any deadlines, but it’s also important to attend all information-gathering meetings and teleconferences so that you get as much information about the award as possible. These events are also important ways of getting your business noticed ahead of time.
Prepare to Network
Related to the section above, attending information meetings, roundtables, and conferences are vital to understanding key aspects of what will go into the RFP. Even after funds are appropriated it could take several months before there’s an RFP released. Knowing that an RFP is in the works helps you prepare for the work that you will be bidding on as well as help your own business make adjustments to fit the contract’s needs.
Stand Out in the Crowd
Make your small business appear as the best value solution to the awarding agency. This is especially true if you don’t have previous experience doing business with the government. You can do this in several ways, but simply put you want to communicate your business’ value by showing what sets you apart from the competition. Do you offer savings? Can you deliver your product or services ahead of schedule?
Lastly, remember to speak to the agency’s needs and don’t try to sell its products or services that aren’t in the RFP. A great way to do this is to follow the RFP point-by-point, as it’s written, and respond to every section as clearly and possible by not straying from what’s actually in the RFP. Government business is unlike marketing to other customers. Government agencies highlight their needs and want high quality, low-cost solutions.