The number one question I get from companies new to selling goods or services to the Federal government is, “How do I get the government to buy from me?” No doubt, this question appears quite straightforward. However, as simple as it would seem to answer, there are volumes on top of volumes of regulations on how best to answer that question. Because the government purchases goods and services with taxpayer dollars, the process by which the government procures its mission-essential needs is set up to ensure maximum transparency and fairness.
The keyword here is “process.” If you, as a company, are accustomed to wheeling and dealing and working your sales leads in more of a relationship-driven manner, you are going to struggle with the Federal procurement process. That is not to say relationships don’t matter, because they do; however, the Federal procurement process is focused on following the instructions contained in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and its many agency supplements. Access to this regulation can be found here: https://www.acquisition.gov/browse/index/far
So, after a few paragraphs into this blog post, the question still has not been answered. You should see that a specific answer is somewhat elusive. The most common response to this question, and just about any other question you ask associated with the Federal procurement process, is “it depends.” That is because every question you ask will require an explanation of the facts and circumstances that are feeding that question.
So when you ask how you get the government to buy from you, some pertinent facts that are important are:
1. Are you selling a product, or are you selling a service? Or both?
2. Is your offering considered commercial?
3. Do you have an established price for your offering (i.e., catalog or posted pricing on the website)? Or is it custom based on the requirement?
4. What is the value and complexity of the requirements you are pursuing?
5. Are you a small business? If so, do you have any other socio-economic status classifications?
6. DO YOU HAVE ANY PAST PERFORMANCE?
This shortlist is provided merely as an example of things to consider. If it were possible to develop an exhaustive list, the considerations would go on for pages. But take heart in knowing that you are not alone in trying to figure all this out. Also, know that even though the Federal procurement process is not intuitive (to say the least!), the government does need what you are selling.
When you feel you are ready to enter the government marketplace, you shouldn’t go it alone. If you are a company that can absorb a contracts person in your overhead, you should consider hiring someone who knows the Federal procurement process well. This skillset can be very
expensive but can pay off tremendously when you start developing your customer targeting strategy, developing proposal responses, and executing contract obligations when you win work. A good contracts person can prepare you for the “hidden” requirements found in government contracts, such as reporting requirements or ancillary effort that is not directly aligned with the statement of work. Whether you’re aware of them or not when you price your proposal to the government, you will be expected to perform.
If you are not in a position to hire a full-time contracts person, or if you are interested in being conscientious with your scarce resources, you can consider finding a consulting firm that employs consultants with this expertise. Although the per-hour cost of these individuals will be much higher than that of a full-time employee, the overall cost will be considerably lower. This is because consultants will do the work on a program or project basis, bill only for hours spent and then await the next project. A consultant can spend anywhere from 10-40 hours per month on a project, whereas a full-time employee is being paid 160+ hours per month, plus the cost of benefits. At the end of it all, the outcome is generally the same, but you’ve spent a whole lot less on the consultant (with less obligation to the individual) than you spend on your full-time employed contracts person.
So, if you think you’re ready to venture into the Federal government marketplace, consider giving us a call. FP&C Consulting is happy to hear about where you are and where you want to go. We will offer you a path to get there, and we will be proud to be a part of your team!