We have countless articles on our site that promote how to win more bids, and that breaking into government contracting is a great way to grow a small business. More and more contracts are going to small, women and disabled veteran-owned businesses. But before you submit a bid for a public sector opportunity, it’s a good idea to understand the purchasing behaviors behind that solicitation.
Government buyers are risk-averse. Most businesses are risk-averse but public sector agencies tend to be more so. If you are selling something novel, new or unproven, be prepared for a lot of work in the beginning. Set up meetings with appropriate department heads and the purchasing department. And make sure you follow up. Persistence is going to be key in obtaining your goal.
Once a solicitation is released, you have to respond to the criteria outlined. The city is looking for someone to aerate all of its lawns. You own a company selling fertilizer that works better than aeration. You can submit the bid and make them choose fertilizer over aeration, right?
Probably not. You might be able to sell aeration and propose that they extend the scope to include fertilization, but you won’t be able to sell them a completely different product than the one that was specified.
If you own a fertilizer company that has better results than aeration, the time to strike is before the solicitation goes out. Look for Requests for Information or arrange direct meetings with the facilities managers and the buyers.
Most solicitations are awarded to the bid that offers the Best Value. You cannot compete on price alone. Best Value criteria not only looks at price but also at a number of other factors, including experience and certifications.
Remembering that agencies are risk averse, look at what certifications and past successes can be used to demonstrate that your company will deliver on the contract. Having the proper certifications can be hard to get, but they can pay off when doing business with the government.
Pricing that is too low or too high is suspect. Previous bids and awards are a matter of public record. Make sure you know a pricing range before you submit your bid. Remember that a Best Value criteria will also look at other considerations, so if your pricing is in the middle of the pack but you have better certifications and experience, you stand a better chance of winning the bid.
There’s busy and then there’s Purchasing Department busy. You think your life is busy and complicated, take a look at the life of a buyer or purchasing manager. Just remember that there’s a fine line between being pleasantly persistent and being a pain-in-the-neck.
Purchasing departments live by policies and procedures. Don’t try and buck the system or tell someone that your bid was in on time when it wasn’t. Learn what the policies and procedures are and work within the system.
Professionalism counts. Buyers and purchasing managers have long memories and professionalism is the guiding rule. Make sure your bid submissions are free of errors, address the criteria outlined in the solicitation, and demonstrate that you have taken the time to understand their needs and processes.
If you understand how public sector agencies run their purchasing departments, you will stand a greater chance of winning bids. If you’re ever in doubt about something, just ask them. They’ll be glad that you were interested enough in what they need to request clarification.
It is important to get your business certified if you fall into one or more of the categories that could benefit from programs like contract set-asides. The main categories include: small business, woman-owned small business, service disabled veteran owned small business or 8(a) HUBZone business.Read More