Use it or lose it.
That’s the philosophy many federal agencies adopt in Q4 as they look to spend their remaining contracting dollars before they disappear on Oct. 1.
According to reports on U.S. government spending, federal agencies spend nearly a quarter of their contracting funds in August and September each year. With FY17 coming to a close at the end of September, it means there is once again a timely opportunity for businesses to land a government contract during this high spend period.
For businesses looking to bid on contracts at the end of the government’s fiscal year, below are some tips to help your business strategically pursue contracting opportunities this summer.
1. Start with your existing relationships
With the fiscal year ending, one of the smartest places to start seeking out new opportunities is with agencies that have already awarded you contracts. Reach out to the representatives on existing contract work to see if they have any purchasing needs for the end of the fiscal year. After all, agency contacts who already know and like your work are more likely to award you a contract.
If there are other relationships you’ve been nurturing that have yet to produce a contract, this is a good time to rekindle a conversation. Check in and find out what agency contacts need and offer specific suggestions about how you can help. A year-end contract could be a foot in the door for future work.
2. Make yourself visible to agencies
Get on the radar of key agency contacts by making sure your business is properly registered on SAM. For small business contractors, consider expanding your capabilities into other databases such as Dynamic Small Business Search, DSBS, to extend your footprint. Also be sure to set up automatic contract alert opportunities on FBO.gov. Set a calendar alert to quarterly review your information for accuracy and any new updates.
Check that all the required NAICS (e.g. industry and economic sector) codes and any additional applicable certifications (e.g. 8(a) and WOSB) and are listed in your profiles on the databases. Both are critical to the process of finding and securing a contract as procurement officers can use these to search for specific types of businesses.
3. Gain advantage with teaming
Once you’ve identified an opportunity where your goods or services might be needed, seek out teaming partners, both large and small businesses, to strengthen your bid. Whether you’re finding new partners or reconnecting with old ones, teaming up with a more experienced contractor can help your business gain credibility with federal agencies. In addition, teaming with a business who has different capabilities can help broaden the contracts you are eligible for. This is also a good time to connect with large businesses who are looking for subcontractors.
4. Let the professionals help
Whether you’re seeking teaming partners or contracting opportunities, there are procurement assistance professionals at the local, regional, and federal level who are ready to help. As a government contractor, I regularly connect with procurement professionals in my area. As a result of our strong relationships, they have alert us about specific bidding opportunities, provide guidance on agency procedures and invite my team to events.
If you’re a small business, you’ll find small business procurement assistance professionals in an agency’s Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). You can also reach out to Procurement Contract Representatives (PCR), which are located in most SBA local regional offices. Make sure to introduce your companies’ capabilities to your local PCR, they are a valuable resource to obtain contract activity in your home town.
For businesses of every size, the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC) provides helpful resources online and in their 300 local offices around the country.
5. Refine marketing materials to stand out on paper and at events
Whatever path you take to pursue new government contracting opportunities, clear and concise marketing materials and messages will help busy buyers get a clear view of your business.
I recommend attending agency events regularly to build relationships and learn about procurement needs. To prep for these events:
- Position yourself as a problem solver: Differentiate your business by showing how you can help an agency solve a specific problem.
- Do your research: Take the time to gain in-depth agency knowledge prior to the event. Understand the agency’s missions and goals prior to your meeting.
- Practice, practice, practice: Perfect your elevator pitch and look like a professional.
GovEvents curates an easily searchable calendar of agency events that you can search by location.
Before events, use LinkedIn to connect with management-level employees at many federal agencies and present your business. Updating your profile and researching new contacts can go a long way to building important relationships before you meet in person. Plus, if you have some additional marketing budget, you can create LinkedIn ads that target buyers directly.
Hopefully your efforts will result in additional projects from 2017 budgets, and if not, don’t get discouraged — the work you put in now will not be wasted. All the marketing work, contacts made, and research you do today will give you a head start on next year. And fortunately, the federal budget outlook for FY18 spending looks strong, with spending priorities looking similar to 2017. For more insight on end of year spending and contracting opportunities, visit USASpending.gov and FBO.gov.
Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the president of Government Business Solutions (GBS) and the American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting. Since winning its first contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2009, GBS has worked with numerous federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense.