So, I am sitting in front of a new client who is telling me about his company’s marketing efforts to the federal government and as he is explaining to me how he came about getting his GSA contract and his dismay of lack of sales. All I could think about is the commercial with the lady showing her friends her “wall” and explaining how it helps her communicate quicker with her friends. In the commercial a woman (a friend) stands up, rather frustrated, and says “That’s not how it works”, “That’s not how any of this works”.
I could not help but have that same feeling listening to my new client.
There always seems to be some confusion at the beginning for most federal contractors. Whether it is they believe that a SAM registration is the key to federal contracting officers finding them or perhaps that if they are registered as a small business with the SBA the government will reach out to them because they were told the government needs to spend at least 23 percent of all federal funds with small businesses.
My thought on this is to simply do your homework, find out who your customer is, research their buying habits, develop a great capability statement and make sure you market your organization to the right agencies.
How did you get lost?
Over the years I have worked with hundreds of companies that were totally lost in their journey to the federal marketplace and quite a few of these companies held GSA schedule contracts.
The incredible number of successful companies that seem to be taken by organizations that make big promises when comes to federal contracting really blows me away. Then they try to go it alone, bidding, submitting proposals, attending trade shows only to be met with frustration.
What I just can't get my head around
For the most part these were companies that had a high level of success in the B2B/B2C marketplace. And for one reason or another they decided to pursue the federal marketplace. And for those of us who live and breathe federal contracting we just can’t blame them for wanting in, but what I cannot get my head around is how these successful organizations get taken by companies charging $600.00 for a SAM registration and/or $20,000.00 for a GSA contract.
Now I am not saying that there is no value in having someone prepare your GSA contract, so before all you GSA Schedule holders and GSA Marketers start with the negative replies let me explain. These companies that I am talking about that were successful in the B2B world did things right. They developed exceptional marketing plans and they executed on those plans. But for the most part, when it came to the pursuit of the federal marketplace they had unrealistic goals, an inexperienced staff, an insufficient budget and no real marketing strategy.
Into the Promised Land
They believed that if they had a professional organization handle their registrations and contract proposals their company would just walk into the Promised Land. These companies have told me stories of organizations promising to market their company to the “buyers of their products” which, when it came down to it, only meant that they were emailing the companies capability statement out to their data base of contracting officers.
Really, did these companies believe that the “build a relationship model” that had served them so well in the private sector was not going to be important in the public sector? Don’t get me wrong, I get it, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Are the folks at these “registration” organizations that use websites that try to look official and have words like Federal and Government in their names, just trying to convince these companies to form a belief that it is going to be that easy? Small investment upfront with unlimited upside.
This was supposed to be a simple blog post but I fear it has turned into a rant. So let me just finish by saying to my small business followers... use the diligence you used to build a successful company and remember, because you have the money to spend does not mean you should spend it before you are prepared for the journey to become a federal contractor.
So Now You're a Government Contractor
At some point in your company’s history your organization looked at the State and/or Federal Government as a potential client.
And why shouldn't you have, after all the “government” is the largest buyer of goods and services in the country.
So, someone in your organization started filling out paperwork and online registrations. You got your registration number or approval and you were off to the races.
Maybe you placed a few bids and maybe you won a few, lost a few. Maybe you found a solicitation that if won would take your company to a whole new level. You spent nights and weekends preparing your proposal then an amendment came out which meant you had to re-write most of your proposal. After countless hours and so much lost sleep you get the proposal submitted. Of course, you had to Fed-Ex it in to make the deadline. But, it was submitted. And now you patiently wait.
After All That I Now Need To Be Patient...
Finally, after waiting for weeks and hearing nothing, you see that an “Award has been made”. You quickly click on the line, only to findout you did not win. It takes you a while but, finally you look at the winning bid. Wait… there must be something wrong. The winner’s price is higher than yours. Somebody over there really messed up.
So, you look for the Contracting Officer’s name and phone number. You call and try really hard to leave a polite message then ask for a return call. After two day’s you get the call and proceed to point out the mistake and ask for your rightful award. But wait, the C.O. tells you this was not a “Lowest Bid Win’s” but a “Lowest Technically Acceptable Price” proposal. How did you miss that? Maybe between doing all the other things you were tasked with during the day you just missed it and, what did that mean anyway? Then, you realize that while you had the C.O. on the phone you forgot to ask for a debrief. Oh, this government work is just too hard!
Laugh...But Don't Give Up...
If this has ever happened to you I hope you can laugh about it now. And, I also hope you have not given up on having the government as a client.
If you are still interested and you want to find a partner who can help guide you through all the hills and valleys that make up government procurement, please give M3 Government Services a call. And let’s talk about how we can help you achieve that original goal.
M3 Government Services, Can Help...