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Blog | 05.19.20

Want to Sell to the Government but Don’t Know Where to Start?

The one surety in times of uncertainty is that the private sector will remain the public sector’s go-to source for goods and services. That is why so many companies start to look at business opportunities with government agencies when traditional consumer and/or commercial sales soften. Federal, state and local government contracts provide new revenue streams and, in many cases, operational stability.  

However, if you have never bid on a government contract before or even made contact with a government agency, it can be hard to know where to start.

Supplier-to-government (S2G) sales and marketing strategies are quite different from those you might typically employ across business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) channels. The processes by which you build relationships with buyers is also a bit different as well, as is the processes by which you actually submit proposals. Plus, government procurement is tightly regulated, and vendors must meet several requirements to even be eligible to bid on a contract.  

Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you navigate the process and set your company up for success. To get you started on the right foot, we thought we would answer some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from Periscope S2G users who are building their sales pipeline or getting ready to submit their first bid:

Q: How do I know what types of goods and services government agencies need right now?

A: The very first thing we always recommend to an individual or company that wants to do business with the government is to sign up for a daily bid notification service.

This isn’t just because we offer such a service, either. It’s because there are over 100,000 public sector entities in North America and no centralized government-run repository for the public posting of solicitations. It’s true that many federal government agencies issue notices via beta.sam.gov, but each state and local government agency typically posts bid notices to its own website. No one has time to search tens of thousands of individual websites for sales leads, including you or your team. Time is money!

A bid notification service will essentially search the 100,000+ agency sites for you and send you daily emails with new and expiring bid opportunities relevant to your business.

Q: How can I be confident that the bid notification service is finding all relevant opportunities?

A: Great question! Though each service works a bit differently, we can tell you that Periscope S2G leverages both your profile settings and machine learning technology to filter out irrelevant postings and return only the bids that you might actually be able to win.

That is why it is so critical that you take the time to set up (and occasionally) update your business’ Periscope S2G profile, including applicable NAICS and/or NIGP codes, baseline keywords and more. It is also why we updated Periscope S2G with a bid scoring tool that allows you to essentially “teach” us what bids are in fact the most relevant to you and flag those that we may have inadvertently recommended as opportunities that don’t actually align with your capabilities or interests. This is especially true if you offer goods or services in multiple categories or highly specialized goods and services. We want to ensure you can see and act on revenue-generating opportunities from the start.

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Q: As soon as I set up my Periscope S2G profile, my dashboard became populated with several bid opportunities that are perfect for my business. Now what am I supposed to do? How do I actually submit a bid?    

A: That’s great news that you are finding value in the service! Now, let’s talk about ways to really maximize your return on investment (ROI). The next best step is to review some of the general prerequisites that you may need to meet before you submit a bid to any agency:

Before Your Bid: How to Prepare Your Business for Government Contracting

Just remember, the above blog post just points out some of the common requirements. The reality is that each government agency has its own unique vendor registration requirements and each bid is going to have a unique set of eligibility criteria, certification mandates and more.  

Since each public sector agency does set its own “rules of engagement” for suppliers, and the process by which you will submit your bid will vary by agency and possibly even by bid, it is absolutely imperative that you read every word of the bid posting – including all attached documentation – before you start to prepare your bid.

This will tell you exactly what your bid documents/proposal needs to include, how to submit your bid (and when) as well as the contracting officer at the agency whom you should contact directly with further questions.

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Q: Where can I find all of the bid documentation and submission directions?

A: Many of the bids that you will see in your Periscope S2G dashboard will allow you to respond electronically through Periscope S2G. Solicitations that do allow (or possibly require) you to submit bids online via Periscope S2G usually include all of the documents, attachments, and details on the bid summary page that you will see in the Periscope S2G application/website dashboard.

On the bid page, click “Go To Bid” to access the bid information page (found on the left-hand side). Bids linking to another site are hosted elsewhere and will require you to submit your offer and supporting documentation per those specific third-party site instructions.

If you confirm that the bid can be submitted directly to the agency online via Periscope, then you should:

  • Carefully read through all of the information provided on the bid details tab. This is where you will find the basic information about each bid as well as any system requirements and preferences (such as bid bonds or digital signature requirements). It will also contain comments and a brief description of the project to provide you with an idea of what the bid is for and the requirements for participating.
  • Check below the bid details section to see if there are any announcements regarding addenda that have been released on the bid.
  • Check the Documents tab to see if the agency has uploaded any attachments/files for this particular bid. These might include detailed bid specifications, drawings and terms and conditions.
  • Review the Line Items tab for detailed information about the individual line items on the bid, including information such as the quantity and the units of measure that must be submitted in the offer.

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Q: Who do I contact if I have a question about a posted bid?

A: You can post questions on a bid for the agency to see in the Questions and Answers section of the Bid Detail Page. Please note that bid questions are intended to be anonymous and should not contain identifying information about your company. Please also note that there often is a deadline for the Questions and Answers section that is separate from the bid deadline. (This is true of bids posted on agency sites as well. There is only a short window of opportunity to get clarification on bid requirements or requested deliverables. That’s why it is so important to use a bid notification service that alerts you to solicitations the day they are posted. You will want – and need – to have as much time as possible to prepare a strong offer.)

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Q: Do you have any tips for writing strong offers? What does a winning proposal look like?

A: Though evaluation/award criteria and bid scoring systems will vary by agency and even by bid, there are some fantastic proposal writing tips and tricks in this free guide:

RFP Response Writing for Geniuses

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Q: I’m ready to submit my bid and have confirmed that the agency accepts online submissions via Periscope. What do I do now?

A: Once all of the information on each tab has been reviewed and you’ve read every word of attached documents, then follow the instructions below to place an offer on the bid:

  • Click the Place Offer button at the bottom of the page. The offer page may differ from bid to bid, but in general, you will normally find unit price and total price boxes as well as a link to upload attachments and a section for notes. If there is only one line item on the bid, the unit price and total price boxes are required, if there are multiple line items, you must fill out at least one set of unit price and total price boxes, all the other line items can be considered optional; a blank line item will be considered a no bid.
  • When all pricing, attachments, and notes have been added, click the Review Response button at the bottom of the page. This will take you to the confirmation page.
  • On the confirmation page, review the pricing, notes, and attachments that have been added to the offer.
  • At the bottom of the confirmation page, you can type in your password and click Confirm* & submit response. This will submit the offer to the agency. On most electronic response bids, the offers are sealed and cannot be viewed by anyone (including the agency) until after the bid has closed.

*Note: Agencies may require that you accept addenda or a bid allowance amount before confirming the bid, but this will vary from agency to agency. If the agency does require you to acknowledge addenda, you will do so on the review response page by checking the box for each addendum.

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Q: Is there a difference between an invitation for bids, request for quotes and request for proposals?

A: This free guide answers this commonly asked question in extensive detail:

Speak the Same Solicitation Language: The Differences Between an RFP, RFQ And A Bid

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Have other questions about the bid search or submission process?

Contact the Periscope Support team here.