A vendor who targets her most promising buyers and builds relationships with them over time has a distinct advantage: she gets to know the needs and concerns of program managers and end users of her product or service.
Start building your key relationships long before the solicitation is posted. You can do that through formal pre-solicitation activities, but you don't even have to wait for anything on FedBizOpps to get started.
Related: The Five People You Need To Meet
When you've identified your target agencies, you can start to research those key contacts. One way to do that is to look through FedBizOpps for the point of contact on past solicitations in your target agency that are similar to the kind of work you're looking for. Federal agency forecasts and small business specialists can also help you navigate. Another comprehensive resource is a federal contacts directory you can buy from companies like Leadership Directories or Carroll Publishing.
Planning the initial marketing calls
When setting up calls on government officials in advance of an upcoming requirement, identify yourself and your company, and the procurement or requirement that you’d like to talk about. Confirm whether the person you’re speaking with can discuss the requirement, and whether there are limitations on what you can discuss. If you or your contact is uncertain about that, get answers before going further.
Be clear about which specific opportunity your company fits. Come prepared with questions that go beyond published information and that show you've done your homework. Ask what they like about the incumbent, and who else they've been talking with. Customize your capability statement, emphasize how your past performance represents low risk and high value to your buyer, and be ready to show how your company is different from your competitors.
If your meeting went well, plan your follow up. Ask how (and how soon) your contact would appreciate hearing from you again.
Related: Preparing for Teaming Meetings
Keeping in touch
If it's not competition time yet, how can you add value when you get back in touch?
Watch for informative articles in your niche, and share those that your contact might not have seen. Update and share your capability statement when you've won a new project. And of course you'd want to share leading-edge developments of your products and services. The combination of raising interest and showing off your latest offerings can influence the specifications for the solicitation that ends up in FedBizOpps.
When developing requirements, people turn first to people they know – even if the rules say they have to consider every offer.
Leveraging formal pre-solicitation actions
Once the formal competition process begins, all those calls you've made start to pay off. Requests for Information (RFIs), Sources Sought, and Draft RFPs don't promise any purchase or intent to purchase. But companies that respond have a powerful way for decision makers to get to know your company. And those pre-solicitation actions are critical ways that government buyers conduct market research to find out things like:
- Whether enough small businesses can meet the requirement to merit a set-aside
- Where is the leading edge of available technology
- Whether industry can meet a complex requirement at all
Read, read, read…and then respond carefully and thoroughly.You have to play if you want to win.You can't complain there's no set aside for you if you didn't speak up to say you can do the work!