We could start out by asking the question – does great vs. good matter, or do you just need passable/ compliant and best price to win? Yes, I have seen a lot of ugly, poorly organized, and poorly written proposals win federal contracts. There is no question, sometimes the government is just determined to get the contract into the hands of a specific firm, and as long as the proposal is compliant, the scoring can be anything they want it to be. BUT, if you are depending on being in this enviable situation often enough to grow your business – you are going to have a lot of sleepless nights!
We are often asked a simple question – What does it take to do business with the Federal Government?
There is a lot of information floating around on this topic. And, most of it contains some kernel of truth, but a lot of it is very misleading, and too often there is some promise of an Easy Button. Let’s start by dispelling some of the myths. First, there is no Easy Button.
For most organizations, a sales pipeline is a list of opportunities that you want to pursue – and the longer the list, the better. The opportunities in the list might have an assigned priority, so they are not all equal, which is a good thing – but not enough. Maintaining a list of prioritized opportunities does not constitute a Smart Pipeline. And keeping a list, whether it is in Excel or a CRM, does not automatically add value to the information. So, what does?
As we come to the end of FY 2017, the government is rushing to allocate their unspent contract obligations within the next four and a half weeks. In FY 2016 roughly $38 billion was spent in the last week of September alone, and historically about 1/3 of obligations awarded are in the 4th quarter of the year. When looking to take advantage of this end-of-year spending surge, there are some things you want to keep in mind.
When you use the term business sales pipeline, or some derivation of it, many people think you are simply talking about a list of potential sales opportunities that are tracked through a series of development stages. We think this is too limiting a view. It leads us to forget, or neglect, other critical elements necessary for sales success.
We have all heard the phrase, first impressions are hard to overcome. Have you ever really thought about how that influences your decisions every day? When you meet another person for the first time, do you really see the complex organism functioning before you? Do you appreciate the spectacular feat of nature that is represented by all those internal organs? Or, is your first thought – he/she is beautiful, or ugly, or different, or so bland you really do not react at all. Now, suppose it is a group of people. Which one draws your attention first? Be honest, it is the one who is really different looking – not different inside (that will come later) but different outside. Same is true in almost every interaction we have, even with objects. We like the car we think is the most beautiful looking, we like a piece of clothing because it is our ‘style’ (in-other-words it has our ‘look’), and everyone knows we buy new wines based on how cool the label is – taste comes later.
Last time we talked about watching for increases and decreases in government agency budgets, and we had some charts on 2017 agency IT budgets. What was more significant was the discussion on how these changes impact the competitive landscape and what that means to you when deciding where to spend your business development dollars.
Understanding the budget is a starting point, but for a Small Business there is more you can learn from studying agency buying patterns. Don't just trust someone who tells you some agency is small business friendly - that is not enough information to bet your future on. Let's look at some additional information that can help you choose which agencies to pursue.
For those of you not in IT, this PIPES still has a lesson worth paying attention to. While you are worrying about decisions on bids you made this year, and preparing to capture some end-of-year funds, do not forget to start your planning for the Governments 2017 programs. For those of you who are looking to get into the Government market, or you are still formulating your growth plans, the FY2016 year is over, start looking at FY2017.
When you use the term business sales pipeline, or some derivation of it, are you thinking simply about a list of potential sales opportunities that are tracked through a series of development stages? This kind of thinking may reflect too limiting a view, leading us to forget, or neglect, other critical elements necessary for sales success.
When you use the term business sales pipeline, or some derivation of it, many people think you are simply talking about a list of potential sales opportunities that are tracked through a series of stages of development. I think this is too limiting a view, and that is the problem with most words we try to use to refer to some part of the business development life-cycle. They lead us to forget, or often neglect, other critical elements that are necessary for success in making sales.
You can never tell what might drive a specific action taken by a contracting officer or specialist. Most of the time they are trying to get a job done the best way possible. But certain actions, that repeat themselves, do have a pattern - and sometimes it is a pattern of abuse that corrupts the system. One of those patterns is the issuance of a Sources Sought or Request for Information that has a response time of just a few days, often including weekend time when the announcement is more likely to be missed, which appears to be just what they want.
I recently heard someone say that government proposals are scored not read. Once upon a time (really not that long ago – say 20 years) this was true. The government used ‘scoring’ templates to assign points to various components, elements, and details in a proposal. This practice, however, led to many a nasty discussion between the government and the bidders who lost (maybe by just a point or two) regarding how the score was actually derived. And, those discussions often became protests.