HOW TO WIN A FEDERAL CONTRACT | NAWBO

HOW TO WIN A FEDERAL CONTRACT

By J. Lenora Bresler, J.D., SPHR, ASC

A report from Go for the Greens Conference September 19-20, 2013

Barbara English, a former federal procurement center representative for many years and now the owner of Barbara English Solutions, gave attendees at the recent NAWBO-sponsored Go for the Greens conference the “real deal” advice when it comes to winning federal contracts.  She said the following 7 strategies MUST be done (all of them) but if all are done, success is virtually guaranteed.  Once you get one federal contract, you are pretty much set forever.  Federal agencies do business with the same vendors for years.

  1. Befriend the Procurement Center Representative(s) for the geographical areas in which you wish to win contracts. 

PCRs are the people who can really help you (NOT the SBA).  SBA members’ job is to point you in the right direction.  PCRs’ job is to reside at the buying agencies and look at all contracts $150,000 and more and try to make those into small business contracts. You do not necessarily want to befriend the PCR who is closest geographically to you.  You want to befriend the PCR who has authority over the location that has the most and best possible buyers for your good or service.

The way to find out which PCR you should approach is to go to fpds.gov or fpdsng.com.  Put in your NAICS code in the EZ search box and then click on the left bottom side under top contracting agencies.  This will tell you what federal agencies are buying the most of your kind of good or service.  Then you can see where those agencies are housed.  Then you know which geographical region’s PCR you need to approach.

  1. Get a large company who is winning these contracts to mentor you.

On the fpds website, on the bottom left hand side, click on top 10 vendors.  This will tell you what companies (and they will all be large) that are currently getting most of the government contracts in that area.  Call the president of that company and ask them to mentor you through the process of obtaining government contracts.  The reason they will want to mentor you is that they themselves often have contracts which require that they subcontract with or in some way help small and minority businesses, so your call may actually be a god-send to them in order to comply with requirements they have to keep their own federal contracts!

  1. Get certified in order to narrow the field.

There is a definite competitive advantage for vendors to have a certification.  The best currently is 8(a) Small disadvantaged business.  This is a certification that allows you to become the SOLE provider.  It is designed for socially disadvantaged businesses.  White women can rarely obtain this, although minority women have a much better shot at it because they are automatically considered socially disadvantaged.  They will have to show certain requirements including income (AGI of $200,000 and assets without house and pension of no more than $250,000) and that they have been discriminated against in the past in some way.  Other good certifications to have include women-owned small business, economically disadvantaged women-owned small business, service disabled vet-owned mall business, and Hub zone. For more details, go to sba.gov.

  1. Do extensive market research so you can go after the five most likely agencies for you. 

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; diversify your efforts.  The more you know about what a federal agency wants and needs, the better a proposal you can write.  FPDS website provides all kinds of research and has a phenomenal Help Desk with people who actually answer the phones.  They can help.  Be sure you ask for an adhoc report showing the geographical regions of agencies so you can fine-tune your proposals. 

  1. Go to conferences where you can meet the actual buyers.

Federal contracting officers go to conferences every year in order to obtain needed continuing education credits.  Attend these conferences yourself and be aggressive and polished in your networking.  The best is NCMA World Congress, meeting next July 27-30, 2014 at the Gaylord National Harbor I Washington D.C.  This conference brings together contracting officers of government AND industry.  There are also NCMA organizations on state and local levels.  Ncmahq.org

  1. Price your proposal to cover all costs.

Many vendors leave money on the table because they do not include all allowable costs.  FAR Part 31 has a list of allowable costs for federal contracts.  You need to have calculated your overhead costs because you may be asked this in a conversation and will definitely want to include it in your proposal. 

  1. Understand the Final Award Decision-Making procedure and be patient.

You may not receive word on your federal government proposal for months and even up to a year.  The reason is because your proposal is going to be sent to many different people who look at it from many different perspectives.  Therefore, the more information you can obtain about who is going to be looking at your proposal, the better you will understand the timeframe involved and also what best practices you need to include. 

 

For more information, you may contact Barbara English at benglishsolutions.com, Barbara@benglishsolutions.com, 904-891-9626

 

 

 

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