No one is a mind reader. Nor can any company firmly guarantee a government contract win before all proposals are reviewed. (Remember, public sector procurement is conducted via fair and open competitive processes, with safeguards in place to prevent bias, fraud and abuse). However, business-to-government (B2G) sales planning is no different than business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) sales planning.
Just like retailers conduct market research to understand their target demographics – who’s buying what, when, and why – companies that want to aggressively, or just more strategically, pursue government sales opportunities can forecast when certain contracts may be re-competed, or when certain categorical solicitations are likely to increase. All based on past agency procurement trends and government sector buying patterns.
For example: Government agencies typically have a lot of money to spend at the end of every fiscal year, and they want – really need – to spend it fast. Especially in the last 30-60 days. That means that nearly* every state and local government-funded agency is going to increase their competitive bid solicitations in May and June each year, and federal agencies are likely to initiate their annual spending sprees between August and September. But, not every type of procurement can happen fast, so government agencies aim to make “easy buys” such as technology hardware and software, furniture, and other commodities. The rate of construction contracts awards also increases in the last 4 months of the federal fiscal year (i.e. starting in June) as agencies prepare for infrastructure projects scheduled to start in the next fiscal year.
Whether you want to compete for multiple contracts or just find that one “perfect” contract to boost your business with the government this year, the key is to be more proactive, not reactive.
You have to pay really close attention to government solicitation posting boards – or, ideally, have your automatic notifications started with BidSync Links or BidSync LinksPlus – by May 1 if you want to uncover every RFP/IFB opportunity that’s relevant for your business; have time to confirm your resource availability; and have the maximum amount of time available to prepare (hopefully several) winning proposals. Remember: The average RFP is only “on the street” 21 days. That’s not a lot of time to get your affairs in order (i.e. sureties, sub-contractors, inventory, etc.); conduct your market research; and prepare a quality proposal if you’re manually searching 90k+ government agency websites for the solicitation postings AND trying to run the rest of your business day-to-day. Make it easy on yourself by using an automatic, targeted notification system that does the research about new RFPs/bid opportunities for you and delivers them to your inbox daily.
Speaking of research: You need to know which agencies are buying goods and services you sell, how much they have spent in the past on contracts similar to the one you’re pursuing, and what your competitors are charging the government for their goods and services – especially in competitive bid situations where price is the only contract award determinant. Leverage post-award debriefings (for other proposals you’ve submitted) and talk to the customer you are going after to obtain this information.
Speak to the customer – before, during, and after a solicitation is posted. We’ve said it before, but relationships matter. The best way to “predict” potential opportunities is by speaking directly with the source of the solicitations, government procurement officials, as frequently as possible. Attend procurement fairs hosted by federal, state, and local agencies to introduce/promote yourself and get the scoop on what’s in the pipeline. Attend industry events where government contracting officials will be speaking or networking. Or simply pick up the phone and inquire about what their agency needs, and when they expect to make their next buy in the categories that your business falls into. They may even start proactively calling you to give you a “heads up” about a solicitation that may be posting soon within your area of expertise. If you establish relationships with the right people. Tip: Don’t forget to ask about vendor gaps. If there’s a contract that’s been sole source for many years (i.e. only one company has been willing to shovel snow atop a local mountain to provide seasonal access to a military communications tower for the last 10+ years), then there’s an opportunity you for to come in at a lower price and win the contract, assuming you can provide the same level of quality service as the incumbent.
For more tips on “predicting” your next government business opportunity, check out this quick read: What Insiders Know About Winning Government Contracts (and You Should Too)