Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FARS Part 7: Insider Stuff -- Authorized!

More reasons the Contracting Officer is one of the Five People You Need To Meet... (if you know enough what to ask for!)

The best part of FARS Part 7 is arguably FARS 7.105: buyers need an acquisition plan. That means, before any buying begins, the contracting officers can already tell you some VERY useful things...if you know enough to ask.  
Wouldn't you want to know your buyer's plans for:
  • invitation and selection of vendors
  • contract type
  • funding
  • environmental/energy requirements
  • logistics
  • providing you with property or data
  • security
  • timing and nature of acquisition milestones

FARS Part 7.103 lays out the things that are supposed to happen when government buys. If these things don't happen, you can certainly politely ask why not. FARS Part 103 requires the program manager to:
  • Maximize Competition, particularly opportunities for small business, buy commercial items, buy Green/biobased products, minimize (or at least justify) bundling and urgent purchases that can restrict competition, and not discriminate against vendors who propose to use a telecommuting workforce to serve the government.
  • Coordinate with the small business specialist on all contracts worth more than:
    • $7.5 million or more for the Department of Defense; 
    • $5.5 million or more for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the General Services Administration, and the Department of Energy; and
    • $2 million or more for all other agencies.
Ask and ye may receive!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Never Cry "Wired!" Again

Get Competitive, With FAR Part 6 

When I teach an intro procurement class, someone complains that government business always seems wired for somebody else.

"Wanna know how to get sole-sourced?" I ask them. Everyone's ears perk up. "It's in the FARS."

FAR Part 6 gives you these secrets that help experienced contractors win:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

FAR Part 5: It's *Not* All On FedBizOpps

Clues To Opportunities You May Be Missing

The FARS say all opportunities worth more than $25,000 have to be published in FedBizOpps, right?

  • Nope!  Clue words include "urgent", 8(a), "perishable", "national security",  "commercial items" and "under Simplified Acquisition Threshold"... but don't guess! Learn about them all in FAR 5.202

  • Looking for a small job to launch your track record? Here's how buyers publicize opportunities worth more than $10,000 but less than $25,000 (FAR Part 5.101)

  • FAR 5.4 says government can also use other methods do publicize opportunities, including traditional advertising. That could be an opportunity for marketing communication firms to offer services to procurement shops, if there is an extraordinary requirement that the buyers expect will be hard to meet.

  • FAR 5.404 encourages Federal agencies to publish procurement forecast information. Find those forecasts online 24/7 at Acquisition Central.

  • Looking for Stimulus-funded work? FAR Part 5.7 says how those have to be publicized -- both pre- and post-award.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

FAR Part 4: Alchemy -- How To Turn Paper Into Gold

Didn't File Your Paperwork? You Lose.

As I write this, Hallowee'n is upon us...and who among government contractors dares to say that magic is dead? Anyone who wins has mastered the fine art of turning paperwork into gold.

Not sure how that happens? Learn FAR Part 4, Administrative Matters, and you don't need a magic wand. Seriously, you've got to complete certain applications and registrations in order be eligible for a government contract. These don't guarantee you'll win anything...but you can't win without them. Roz, here (or YOUR friendly neighborhood contracting officer) wants your paperwork -- like:

Roz has to do HER share, too. This part of the FARS includes government's obligations to:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FAR Part 3: Ethics & The No Free Lunch Rule

Avoid Toxic Coffee Syndrome

Part 3  of the FARS is about procurement integrity. Its full name is Improper Business Practices And Personal Conflicts Of Interest.

Here are three reasons why you care, and where it says so:

1.   How not to lose your contract
In general, government officials can't seek or receive coffee, lunch, gifts or entertainment from a contractor. (FAR Part 3.101-2) So don't offer. Individual agencies are allowed to have their own rules about this, so if you're uncertain, look up their rules online and/or ask the contracting officer to confirm your understanding.

Pay Attention: if you do so with intent to get favorable treatment on a contract worth more than $100,000, your contract can be cancelled (FAR Part 52.203-3).

2.  How to protect your business secrets
Find out how to mark your documents to prevent the government giving competitors sensitive business information from your proposal (FAR 3.104.4). This really can happen if you don't watch out.

3. How to avoid shady practices
Whether you're a prime or a subcontractor, ethics rules apply to you. Those rules prohibit things like kickbacks, contingent fees, and under-bidding today in order to raise prices after award. If you're even remotely concerned about whether a business practice is legitimate and permitted, run, do not walk, to FAR Part 3. It's not long, but it's very clear.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Balancing Women's Natural Advantages

Creativity, But Not At The Expense of The Rules

Barbara Annis of Barbara Annis & Associates is dedicated to bringing the latest research and thinking on Gender Diversity and Inclusiveness into the workplace. As a recognized leader in Inclusive Leadership, her firm helps organizations achieve a true competitive advantage with their most valuable asset, their people.

She and I recently got to talking about gender differences in how men and women do business, and she told this story:

“Two or three years ago, I competed recently for a $50 million government project for 'inclusive leadership'. My competitors answered every question, and no more. I went more in the relationship way. I thought, 'They’re defining their requirement wrong, because I’ve been delivering inclusive leadership for years! You need diversity but you also need culture intelligence and gender intelligence.' So I added to it, with the best of intentions.

“We lost. In the debriefing, the contracting officers went through our offer line by line and said, ‘That didn’t fit the RFP, this didn’t fit the RFP. We got as far as page 12 of your 200-page proposal, and abandoned it.’ We didn’t answer the specific questions or use their words.”

“The ones who won the contract and went off on a big party trip to celebrate their win lost it three months later because they couldn’t deliver. The government agency is now asking us how they could get the service they need. 2 to 3 years later, we have even better tools and are very much involved in shaping a statement of work that we think is realistic and will achieve their goals.”

Is strong focus on creativity in pursuit of business an inherent female trait? That trait can be a strength for women as well as men in government contracting, but not at the expense of playing the game by the rules.

What would be the warning signs that you need a better balance between creativity and other elements of marketing effort?

I'll be talking about these and tactics to make the most of other gender differences to women Presidents, Owners and Chief Executives of the American Small Business Coalition on Thursday October 8th.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Joy Of Lex: FARS Part 2

When Lexicon Means Profit

Why would FARS Part 2 be interesting? It's about the language, or lexicon, of contracting and its definitions. 
Because the Joy of "Lex" can be tangible. "Oh, Yawn," you say.  Not so fast. What if tiny little FARS Part 2 were a key to profit and competitive advantage? Read on.

In government contracting, everyday words and phrases have very specific meanings. How is a "commercial item" different from a "commercially available off-the-shelf item"? What does "cost or pricing data" include? Is your product or service "environmentally preferable"?

You want to know the answers for two reasons.

First: Competitive Advantage. Understand and comply with the terms and ensure your proposal qualifies for every advantages.

Three examples:

  • if the solicitation says that environmentally preferable products shall receive preference in evaluation, you want to be sure your products qualify, find out how that sets you apart from your competition, and, if so, be sure your proposal shows how you qualify. 
  • If the solicitation says that only environmentally preferable products shall be purchased, you want to be sure to include information about how your products meet that definition, so you don't get disqualified on a technicality. 
  • Armed with Good Lex, you can also point out competitors who aren't compliant -- and disqualify them from a competition. 
Second: Compliance with Incorporated Terms
The standard contract includes definitions simply by referring to FAR Part 2. That's called "incorporation by reference." Government contracts incorporate hundreds of provisions by reference. In other words, the government buyer expects you to know what all these terms mean when you sign that contract, even though the contract doesn't spell them all out. And if you don't know what they mean, the FAR reference points you to where you can look it up.

Neeld Wilson, President of GEAR Engineering, found himself scrambling on his first federal contract proposal to remove an underground storage tank. He was looking for the statement of work in order to cost the job, because that information seemed to be missing from the Request for Proposal. 

His proposal consultant showed him the small clause that referred to published project standards that his proposal needed to meet. 

If his proposal hadn't complied with those standards, his offer would have been rejected. Instead, he went on to win a project worth several hundred thousand dollars.

The Joy Of Good Lex: Helps You Win.

Got a story about a definition that made a difference for you? Email me, or leave a comment!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FARS Part 1...Just What You Need To Know!

Rules of the Road

In writing my book, "Seven Steps to Success in Government Contracting," I knew I had to cover acquisition regulations. How could I make it something you'd want to read?

Today I planned to launch my "FAR - a - Week" blog series -- working through the Federal Acquisition Regulations.  Life got in the way...but brought the perfect lesson to start me off!

I was delayed by what I thought would be a routine annual vehicle inspection. An hour later, I found out that it's gonna cost me $2600 in mandatory repairs -- including replacing the pump that feeds the power steering -- just to keep my beloved six-year-old Mini Cooper on the road.

What's this got to to with the FARS? 

Easy: If I want to drive, my vehicle's gotta meet the rules of the road. When you get on the acquisition superhighway of selling to the federal government, you agree to comply with those rules.

Even if it costs us. So, let's know before we go.

Federal Acquisition Regulations Part 1: The  Opening Act
Explains the purpose of the federal procurement rules, how they are managed and by whom, and who has authority to bind the government to a contract. (You really care about that last part, because you need to know whether or not the person you're talking to has the authority to buy from you.)


  • 1.102: The acquisition regulations are intended to achieve: 
    • on-time delivery 
    • of products or services that give best value to the government customer 
    • while maintaining the public’s trust 
    • and fulfilling public policy objectives
  • 1.601 Agency heads delegate contracting authority to Contracting Officers.
  • 1.602-1: Contracting officers have authority to enter into, administer, or terminate contracts and make related determinations and findings, including ensuring that all 2requirements of law, executive orders, regulations, procedures, clearances and approvals have been met.

Monday, September 21, 2009

GSA's Inside Scoop on New Mentor-Protege Program!

Did you know? In GSA's Mentor-Protege Program:

  • Companies of any size, small or large may be mentors
  • Mentors may hold ANY GSA contract -- not just a GSA Schedule Contract
  • Mentors may hold SINGLE award contracts, not just multiple award contracts.
  • GSA's Small Business Utilization Office is glad to meet with you
  • For more, Web: and follow

Thanks to A/Associate Administrator Mary Parks, Director of the Small Business Utilization Office for her interview on this with me, recorded September 18th with me for YOU to hear, at

With pressure from the Obama Administration to improve federal awards to small business, and recession putting the pressure on small companies, this program comes at a very good time.

Now, let's see SBA and Commerce promote it during their outreach, too!

Will YOU pursue a mentor on this program? Become a Protege? Why or why not?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Attracting Your GSA Mentor

What's In It For Them? And You? 

1.  Learn about the program.
If GSA offers a briefing on its Mentor-Protege program, attend. Otherwise, read all you can. If your prospective mentor is new to Mentor-Protege (because this is new for GSA), you may need to be able to explain how it works, and provide links.
2.   Think about what you can offer your mentor.
These programs take time -- theirs and yours -- for application as well as participation. What's in it for them?
- More margin on sales subcontract to you?
- Access to a new client base?
- Opportunity for an equity position in your company?
- Something else?
3.   Decide what you want from your mentor. Need ideas? The 2007 GAO report said:
  • 87 percent of responding protégés said their mentors helped their business development and corporate infrastructure. 
  • 84 percent credited mentors with "enhanced their engineering or technical expertise"; a
  • 25% said their participation helped them meet ISO quality Standardization, CMMI, or other certifications. 
4.   Prepare To Meet
Update your Capability Statement and list your objectives before you approach your prospective mentors! Remember, a good initial point of contact is the person listed on their GSA Schedule online. Pay attention to your gut. Are you comfortable with what you're hearing and who you're meeting?

Got your mentors narrowed down? Link to the application here and find out more.

Top Vehicles for YOUR GSA Mentor-Protege

GSA Runs 6 of Buyers' Top 10 Contract Faves
If technology is your business, and you're thinking of GSA's Mentor-Protege program, prime contractors of any size participating in any of GSA's programs could be a mentor. 
Look beyond the schedules program! There are more choices than you might have thought. Nick Wakeman of Federal Computer Week told us the results of a 100,000 readers surveyed about the federal IT contracts they planned to use:

1. GSA SmartBuy, with 34 percent saying they plan to use it.
2. GSA Schedule 70 – 31 percent
3. GSA 8(a) STARS – 16 percent
4. Army ITES-2S — 15 percent
5. GSA Networx – 13 percent
6. DISA I-Assure – 13 percent
7. DOD Enterprise Software Initiatives – 13 percent
8. GSA Alliant Small Business – 12 percent
9. GSA Millenia/Millenia Lite/Alliant – 12 percent
10. Army ADMC-2 – 12 percent

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So You Want A GSA Schedule Mentor?

Tips For Prospective Proteges On The Hunt
  1. Get the latest update from GSA's Office of Small Business Utilization about the program.

  2. Learn more about GSA's programs, including the Schedule Contract, that best fits the kind of business you want to win more of.

  3. Then check out GSAAdvantage to see who is offering goods or services that complement yours. Make a list of those companies. The point of contact listed is a good starting point if you want to get in touch.

  4. Next, see how much business they've won recently,
    through Schedule Sales Query, and on other contracts, via Federal Procurement Data System.
  5. Narrow the list by geography if you want to work with someone located near you.
Now, what would YOU do next?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why Mentor-Protege, GSA?

Simply: A Good Idea That Delivers.

The Department of Defense pioneered Mentor-Protege in 1991. In the report commissioned by Congress in 2007, the Government Accountability Office found that participant benefits among those they surveyed included:
  • 48 protégés collectively attributed 95 new contracts and about $131 million in increased revenue to their participation in the program. 
  • 63 % percent reported an increase in employees. 
But there's no magic -- you get out of it what you put into it. 
GAO also reported that "Despite the overall value protégés attributed to the program, about one-quarter reported that the program had no impact on gaining new contracts or increasing revenue."

What could GSA's program achieve for you? Well, what do you want to get out of it

Julie, and Julia...and Judy: The FAR-A-Week Blog Series

52 Parts. 52 Weeks. Starts Monday September 21st!
Remember I said I found the movie "Julie and Julia" inspiring? I was wondering what I could do that my community would find appealing and would really cook...
And I was kinda mired in writing Part Three of my book, Seven Steps to Success in Government Contracts, always wondering, "What does someone REALLY need to know about procurement rules?"
Sure, the perfect answer is "everything," but what would a real-world approach be? I decide to find out, and share that with you one week at a time.
SIGN UP NOW for RSS feed, and get the whole series, starting next week!

Monday, September 14, 2009

GSA Launches Mentor-Protege Program

September 14th, 2009 Is Opening Day

All part of the White House push for more contract awards to small there's another way for big companies to help the smaller ones.

Mentor-Protege programs that began with DoD and have spread to other agencies have driven growth for many small firms through the technical assistance, subcontracting, and even equity positions extended by Mentors to Proteges.

How will GSA's program work? See Federal Register notice, Aug 14th, 2009.

How about in plain language? GSA said to check this link.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Lesson From Julia

Blogging Like Nobody's Watching

Procurement this, procurement that... I went out to see the movie Julie and Julia tonight, and I was inspired on a couple of levels.

First, that Julie started out doing a project just because...and people started to care about it along the way, whether she knew that or not. For her, it was about the journey, and putting it out there.

And for Julia, bringing "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" was such a very long journey, fired by the passion of knowing that what she had to share with the world was worth it, that someone would care.

I really do write this blog for two reasons:
  • so that if you really CAN win a government contracts, you get things that help you succeed...
  • and if it's really not a great idea, you can figure that out before somebody skims thousands of dollars off you for courses and services and proposals that burn your cash and line their pockets.
And I have a book coming -- Seven Steps To Success In Government Contracts. Maybe, like Julia's book, the title will change. And, like Julia's, it's not gonna be the only contracting cookbook out there. But if you ARE hungry for government contracts, it's going to take you through the recipe, one step at a time.

Stick with me, folks. And sign up for the RSS feed if you want the updates as the writing comes along.

(Okay, and Stanley Tucci is SOOO cute as Paul Child.)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Trap 3: The Shotgun Tactics

The Danger: Wasted Scarce Resources.
See the classic shotgun pattern? Lots of effort, not much reaching your target. Sure, FedBizOpps ( is the place where the federal government must publish opportunities and includes links to stimulus opportunities. But if you pump out proposals to every Request for Proposal you find, most of your effort is off target.
Improve Your Win Rate.
FACT: The win begins long before RFP's are published. When you want to win government contracts, research and focus tightly to win. Otherwise, I guarantee you'll go broke trying.
The Fix: Focus.
Did you know? Public money drives much more public information -- on federal departments' budgets, contract spending forecasts and contract awards. Savvy companies pinpoint well-funded buyers, scope out competition and partners, refine their focus, and pick out and position themselves to win opportunities a long time before formal competition begins.
Where to start:
Free web sites offer extraordinary amounts of federal contract market intelligence -- but can take time to hit the bull's eye. Look into,,,, and Good if you're testing the waters and not ready for a big investment yet, or prefer to spend time rather than money.
Jump Start: Get a free instant webinar in how to use all these -- at
Now tell your friends.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Trap 2: The Shoestring Budget

Danger: No Traction.

If your business is struggling, pursuit of government contracts can hurt more than it helps. You can expect to spend serious money -- and easily a couple of years of effort -- to find a return on what you'll invest to develop opportunities and prepare proposals. And when you DO win, guess when you get paid? After you do the work. Winners budget to stay in business long enough not only to win, but also to perform.

Your current line of credit is
often not enough to finance pursuit of several major opportunities, and win a couple, AND stay alive until after you get your first payment. Even healthy companies that are blessed with a line of credit today are shocked to find that their bankers do not simply extend that line and its terms, even to finance a signed government contract. Margins are usually not huge in government contracting. Asset-based financing is your cheapest money. While I see offerings every week for alternative financing (aka "last-minute money"), it's always more expensive, and will evaporate your profits in a hurry.

The Fix? Get Some Financing.
Have you hugged your banker lately? I'm really not joking. If you've decided to pursue government contracts, and revised your marketing budgets to support that pursuit, review your access to working capital and financing. Then visit your banker to let her know your plans -- not least because you want to check your assumptions about financing options and how your bank can support you.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Trap 1: The Saggy Pants Strategy

The Danger: One Size Fits None.

Government buyers need to be right for you, and you need to be right for them.
First, what size opportunity do you perform or deliver best now? Just because government's needs come in all sizes doesn't mean you've got something for everyone.

Second, each government office's needs and problems are unique. And the sales effort has to persuade a complex group of people -- individual buyers, contracting officers, program managers, and end users -- who each have different needs, even if you think you're just selling one thing to them all!

That suggests a very relationship-intensive (and expensive) effort. One size doesn't fit all.

The Fix: Tailor-- Two Ways.
Your government prospects have to fit your company, and your offering has to suit the client.
First, set your sights on the right size and number of opportunities. Don't chase the biggest thing you can find. For every successful opportunity, you have to invest to develop the business, build trusted relationships, and if the odds look decent, prepare the proposal, and if you win, to have enough money to perform until at least after you get your first payment!

Second, pick the style or niche that suits you and your prospects best. Focus on your core competency -- the problem you solve better than anyone. The high-potential prospect wants to meet you because she sees herself reflected in your track record of solving that problem for clients who look a lot like her. In other words, you're the specialty store that carries just her style.

What Can You Do Today?

Ask and receive a free Seven Steps to Success installment series on Strategy, excerpted from my upcoming  book. You'll get:
  • a special email every week with tips and a new exercise you can do to make your government contracts strategy the perfect fit!

  • And notification when the podcast  series comes out, too!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Three Top Traps -- Watch Out!

3 Common Mistakes In Government Contracting...
2009 has witnessed two giant forces that have combined to create a rogue wave of interest in government contracting -- among companies of all sizes! This time last year, the recession began to dry up many companies' traditional sources of business. Then, when February's federal stimulus package passed, thousands of company owners thought, "Hey, with all that spending, there's got to be something I can win."
Maybe. But every year, otherwise successful managers spend millions in scarce resources trying to win government contracts without results. And now the stakes are even higher: stimulus notwithstanding, President Obama has just asked government buyers to trim a total of 7 percent from their budgets by the end of 2011.

Conclusion: Don't get lured, get smart. In government contracting, success favors the savvy.
It's easy to avoid the most common traps:
  1. The Saggy Pants Strategy
  2. The Shoestring Budget
  3. The Shotgun Tactics
Next week's three tips tell you the danger signs, and how to avoid those problems!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unsolicited Proposal Tips!

Responses from this week's Summit Insight Mailbag Q's

"How can I prepare an unsolicited proposal?"

The Federal Acquisition Regulations tell you what you can and can’t do here:

Here’s an article from ONVIA that summarizes the process and includes other useful regulatory links:

But if you’re going to send an unsolicited proposal, wouldn’t you want to know how someone is going to evaluate it? In the order retrieved by Google,

And the hits just keep on coming. SO...if you’re thinking of sending an unsolicited proposal to a federal agency, remember :
  • “unsolicited” doesn’t mean “free form”
  • Read the FARS on unsolicited proposals!
  • Then look up any rules your target agency may have published about unsolicited proposals. Compliance with those give you keys to successful consideration
  • Remember to protect your proprietary or sensitive information, as suggested by the FARS.
  • Is there anything you want to be sure DOESN’T happen to your proposal? Find out if you’re allowed to place limitations on what the recipient may do with the content of your proposal.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Keys To Government Contract Staffing Success

Women Who Rock Contracting: Patty De Dominic

Patty De Dominic founded PDQ 1979 as a staffing business. In the ten years before PDQ was sold to Select Staffing in 2006, she won quality service, entrepreneurial excellence and customer service awards from local and national media, universities and the US Dept of Labor. She shares her success secrets here!
  • Getting Started - survey the market. “We didn't have a sense of how big that market was.” They picked what worked instead of trying to tackle everything in government.

  • Stick to it based on your intuition – don’t follow the opinion of one government officer. It’s easy to get distracted by a silo’ed opinion and think your business can’t make it.

  • Be in the right place at right time – make your luck. Patty recalls, “We were asked to bid on providing staffing services, as one of 5-10 pre-qualified vendors to provide temp help. We went through the procurement process, and…that gave buyers a chance to evaluate us…to make sure we could add value to the client and guarantee our work.”

  • Complete the offer – Patty’s package included: Pricing, basic company information, including business licenses and proof of insurance, description of the services provided; and documentation of quality assurance processes – “…the methods for ensuring the skills of the employees we assigned to client locations and the quality of their work.”

  • Clinch It With Top Performance -- the best way to ensure your firm stands out. Patty’s company made sure they were very careful about how they staffed the project. “We overstaffed just a bit to be sure to provide top performance. We performed on our first order, and made sure the people we sent had all the skills needed. (and more frankly.....just to make sure it all worked well on those first few assignments).”
Making a name for yourself in performance and quality offers will practically guarantee return government business as it did for Patty.

What are YOUR success tips? Share 'em here!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Guys Who Rattle My Cage

GSA...NOT the Universal Panacea

I was just reading Washington Business Journal's regular columnist on government contracts -- often has good tips I like to pass along. I met Bill Gormley years ago when he was chief of GSA (and I have compliments for him in tomorrow's blog!). But his recent column made me growly.

I disagree with those who say "If you want to do business with the government, the best way to start is to get a GSA Schedule contract..."

(Here's why...)
  • Think twice if you're getting that advice from someone who conveniently happens to offer services to help you GET a GSA Schedule contract.

  • The BEST way to start is to figure out whether or not selling to the government makes sense for your company in the first place, and then how the government buys what you offer.

  • GSA Consultants with integrity are genuinely cautious about promoting Schedule Contracts as the keys to the treasure chest

    What do YOU think?

    Did YOU shell out big bucks for a GSA Schedule and then win nothing? What's YOUR Story?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

GEAR Engineering: Half-Million Dollar Smile

Neeld Wilson, Orlando Aquifer Engineer: First Federal Wins!

Meet my client, Neeld Wilson, President of GEAR Engineering. He's a service-disabled veteran who struggled through 2008 (and spent a LOT of money) with no success in winning any government contracts.

This has got to stop," he had said to himself. He hired me to help him. We worked hard together with monthly sessions, targeting, focus, new relationships (like with two local chapters of the Society of American Military Engineers) and follow up on key issues (Find out more about that...).

Just after I finished speaking at the NAWBO conference in Chicago, I got the following happy email from Neeld:

"Homerun! Two (2), that’s right two (2) Federal contracts in one day. One as a subcontractor for geotechnical services ($37K) and one for tank removal/replacement ($445K). Thank you, thank you and thank you. Still, the journey is just beginning and there are many pieces of silver to find."

How could that happen for YOU? Here's how I do it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

GSA Contract: Hire Guns, or Be Your Own Lookout?

Do I Need A Consultant To Get A GSA Schedule?

In a word, no. GSA’s contracting officers will tell you that, too: there is no legal requirement to hire someone to prepare and negotiate your offer to GSA. But wait, do you do your own taxes? Why else would you pay perfectly good money to have someone do something that you could do yourself? Typically because:
  • You want it done right, as the finished work has long term consequences;

  • You want it done promptly, a challenge if this isn’t your speciality; and

  • You want the inside advantages that a seasoned expert brings to the finished document.
Those are the same reasons why it’s worth considering some kind of help when you’re preparing your proposal for your GSA Schedule Contract.

However, a consultant is not right for everyone. There is no guarantee that the more you spend, the better your proposal will be, and no correlation at all between what you spend on your proposal and how much you sell once you have a Schedule Contract. Only you can provide the critical corporate data that the consultant is going to require. So plan on spending time, regardless of which option you pick. Check the references of anyone whose services you’re thinking of engaging!

Read more here: GSA Schedules -- Seven Things You MUST Know

Monday, May 04, 2009

GSA Schedules and Your Business

Honey, Was It Good For You?

A GSA Schedule contract may or may not be the right approach for your business in winning government work. The right answer can unlock millions of dollars of long-term business with US government, both federal and state…but sometimes, it's not the smart way to go.

The US General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules Program is the lingo of federal contract availability. "Are you on GSA?" or "Do you have a GSA number?" or "Are you on Schedule?" are common ways to ask: "Have you negotiated a contract, with the US General Services Administration, to sell your products and/or services, under specified terms and conditions, for a defined period of time plus options, to whomever is authorized to use that contract, in no quantities whatsoever?"

A GSA Schedule is:
  • A negotiated contract, not a registration or serial number. Some people prepare the long, detailed proposals themselves (and GSA will tell you it's simple)...but many people rely on consultants to save them time and prevent costly errors.

  • A hunting license, not a guarantee of business. After months of contracting, and even more effort of marketing, there is no promise that anyone will buy from you. Thousands of companies who get GSA Schedules win NOTHING AT ALL.

  • Only one of many ways to sell. (When a buyer says, "I can only buy off GSA Schedule", it might mean that you’ve arrived after the buyer has already chosen the Acquisition Strategy…this time.)
So why would anyone want a GSA schedule at all? Some good reasons:
  • It’s a popular way for government to buy on short notice. Federal buying surges as US fiscal year-end (30 September) approaches, and money must be spent or it disappears. It provides a year-round opportunity for teaming.

  • Some large technology contracts require prime contractors to select only team members that are already on GSA schedule.

  • Some state and local governments use the GSA Schedules for information technology, disaster response requirements, and security and law enforcement items.

  • It’s a sign that you’re serious. GSA warns that schedule contracts are not endorsements, but GSA schedule contracts do add credibility by showing buyers and partners your commitment to the government market.
So when does a GSA schedule not make good business sense? Two ways to find out:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gear Up For Government Spending Season

New Strategy Workout Gets You On Road To Profit

Calling Frustrated Small Business Owners & Federal Marketers!
Wondering how to reach more real opportunities today?
(Still muttering "OMG!"after the OSDBU conference?)

The Pain Stops Here.

Take steps to winnable business in an exclusive small-group session at my Executive Strategy Workout!
You get:

Critical Next Steps To Winnable Opportunities
Your Top Questions Answered
Exclusive 4-Workbook Set ($1,200 Value!):
  1. Seven Steps To Success
  2. Capability Statements Made Easy
  3. GSA Schedules -- Seven Things You Must Know
  4. Making The Most Of Your OSDBU Visit
Wed 20 May, 1-4 pm, 1616 Anderson Road, McLean VA
Full price: $497. Bring a friend, both get 20% discount.

Register and Pay NOW

Thank you to Myra Fitzwater and Teqcorner, our series sponsor!

Preparing To Make A Prime Pitch

Ready, Aim, Team!

Now that you're back from the OSDBU conference and are sorting through those cards and are your follow-up plans going?

Do you remember in school how your parents always harped on you to do your homework so you would get A's on your exams? That was practice for real life as a vendor.

It's time to get ready for those teaming meetings -- so start by:
  • targeting best-fit projects for you in the government agency
  • narrowing your focus to the most likely primes/partners
  • tailoring your pitch -- that is, your capability statement -- around that.
That's where those Five People You Need To Meet come in.
Expect that it's going to take time -- so get started. Get to know the program managers and end users of your product or service. Research their missions, challenges, incumbent vendors, and what buyers do – or don’t – like about the products and services they’re using now. Once they trust you, you learn who the decision-makers are, who influences them (Think tanks? Consultants? Trade press?), what their budgets might be, and what the spending plans are – how much money will be spent, and when.

Your status as a woman-owned, 8(a) or other small business is a minor advantage to a Prime contractor, so you might get their attention when you make that initial appointment. Once the meeting starts, how can you make it count? Here's what the primes say:
  • Focus on Reality - What do you expect from a prime contractor, and what are you bringing to the table?

  • Research Your Prospective Partner - Bring in the potential business — what new leads and client relationships can you bring to the Prime? Why should you be given attention?

  • Register and Followup - Online registration is necessary but not sufficient on its own to gain a partnership with a large Prime. Did you call back and continue the connection until you actually found a project you both agreed you wanted to work on?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Easy Tips For Pre-RFP Marketing

Where Key Relationships Begin

Marketing Calls

A vendor who targets her most promising buyers and build relationships with them over time has a distinct advantage. She gets to know the program managers and end users of her product or service. By keeping your target customers informed about the leading edge developments of your products and services through personal contact, you can build their interest in working with you. That can influence the specifications for the solicitation that ends up in FedBizOpps.

Who are The Five People You Need To Meet?
(Find that out HERE.)

When calling on government officials, identify yourself and your company, and the procurement or requirement that you’d like to talk about. Ask whether the person you’re speaking with can discuss the requirement, and whether there are limitations on what you can discuss. If you or your contact is uncertain about that, get answers before going further. Making those connections opens the door for your selection. People first turn to people they know when they're developing requirements -- even if the rules say they have to consider every offer. And you want to meet those people before you start responding to RFP's.

What About Requests for Information (RFI), Sources Sought, Draft RFP's?

Aha! While these are procurement activities, they don't promise any purchase or intent to purchase. They ARE some of the ways government buyers find out things like:
  • Whether enough small businesses can meet the requirement to merit a set-aside!
  • Where is the leading edge of available technology; and
  • Whether industry can meet a complex requirement at all.
Rules for participation are fairly simple (check the Federal Acquisition Regulations).

You can't complain there's no set aside for you if you didn't speak up to say you can do the work!

Monday, April 20, 2009

When Does The Win Really Start? (Hint)

Long Before The RFP in FedBizOpps!

The US government issues 95,000 solicitations every day. However, people tell you, "If the first time you read about it is in FedBizOpps, it’s already too late." So how does a business get the inside track?

FedBizOpps is the official source for US federal contract solicitations. But if you register there and request to receive even *selected* RFP's, three things will happen:

1. Your inbox will bust.
2. You feel like a total loser because you don't have time to pick which ones you could win.
3. You give up, deciding "There’s got to be a better way."

Cheer up: so far, you've learned a lot, but in reality had slim hopes at best.

Congratulations -- you're no longer a loser.
You're actually now on the path to WINNING.
And that involves marketing. See tomorrow's post for ideas!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where Small Is Always Big -- OSDBU Tips (1)

19th Annual OSDBU Conference -- April 22nd

Meet small business specialists from nearly every federal agency and lots of state and local ones
all under one roof. REGISTER HERE.

This week's tips can ensure the best use of your time. Today's tip:

* Sign up for matchmaking appointments -- free with online registration -- to meet partners.
* Get small business specialists' attention by doing pre-conference research
* Ask Small Business Specialists about specific contracts you've found in the forecasts.
* Plan your day! Call first on agencies that represent your highest potential.
* Follow up! You worked hard to get that contact, call them back afterwards!

Find out how to get the most of your visits to small business specialists -- at this conference and all year long -- at this link, including what to do and how to maximize your day’s productivity at conference time.

In short, the OSDBU Conference and related tabletop in-agency events presented by Federal Business Council Inc are great ways to drum up new government business if you make the most of the opportunity. Want to know more? Download "Making the most of your OSDBU visit" from my website.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Winning Tip: Focus on Prime Priorities

How To Become The Must-Have Partner.

Why should you consider working and teaming up with Prime contractors when seeking federal clients? Companies with strong niche solutions for U.S. military and government clients often need to reach end users through teaming.

Those large Prime contractors need nimble, high-value, innovative partners who bring them opportunities to win.

That matters more than any of the small business preferences -- no matter whether you're woman-owned, 8(a), SDVOB or anything else. Those preferences are secondary.

Partnerships develop when you focus on their priorities:

  • Core capabilities – what do you do well that your Prime needs?

  • Differentiation – what sets you apart from others in your industry that your prime would want?

  • Past performance and reputation as team player – are you reliable and proven commodity? Make it count!

  • Price – can your prime afford you? Is your margin the right one?

  • Personnel experience and low turnover – do you have the skill-set and knowledge to benefit your Prime?

  • Financial strength – are you solvent or are you going to be a liability to your Prime?

  • Location – will your distance and location be an obstacle or benefit to your Prime?
Daunting? Maybe, but don’t go it alone. Federal government resources like OSDBU's and PTAC's can help you sort it out and get ready to meet the primes...and other subcontractors serving primes.

Remember, focus first on meeting the Prime's needs. Then show -- with your Unique Value Proposition, past performance and capability statement -- how you do that better than anyone else.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Your Prime Soul Exposed

How To Be Clean and Lean

One of the things that surprises first-time subcontractors is the detailed information the government, and in turn, Prime contractors, want to know about your past projects. This is not the time to be coy: expect to bare your soul. The Primes want the same detail from you, as a subcontractor, that the government demands of them. Here's a checklist to see if you're ready:
  • Do have all the information from your past client's identity (including both end customer and, if you were a subcontractor, your prime)?

  • Do you have a quick summary of the name and duration of past projects?

  • Do you have a short project overview (what was the project objective? What problems did it solve for the client?) and

  • Can you provide the value of past projects - both top line and your share of it?
If you answer "no" to the above, you're not ready to meet a Prime. So how to get ready? The most successful companies -- large and small -- prepare Project Summaries and Capability Statements. It's not a matter of money, but a product of thoughtful preparation. In other words, you can use the heavy hitters' tools!

Get examples for how to do it yourself. Check out the Tools on my website, download the templates, and be ready to shine!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What The GSA Doesn't Want You To Know

2008's Frightening Facts About GSA Schedule 70*

Here we go: Write these down. You'll want to tell your friends.

First, the hot numbers:

5614: Number of companies who won GSA Schedule 70 contracts in 2008.
15.76: Billions of dollars of purchased through Schedule 70 in FY08.

5.6: Percent of those dollars won by top vendor, Dell Computers.
50: Number of vendors that together brought home just about 50% of that $15.76 billion.

Now, the chilling numbers:
2576: Number of vendors who won less than $25,000 through their GSA Schedule 70 contract.
39: Percentage of GSA Schedule 70 holders who won NOTHING AT ALL.

and finally:
800: Number of vendors a GSA employee said will not be invited to renew their contracts, due to under-performance...INCLUDING those who just got a federal schedule to access state and local buyers but aren't making the effort to sell to the feds.

Friends don't let this happen to friends. So tell yours.

Want to keep out of that bottom 39%?
Get my paper -- NOW FREE -- "GSA Schedules: Seven Things You Must Know" today.

(*U.S. General Services Administration does want you to think twice before you go to the time and trouble of pursuing these contracts...but they don't talk about these numbers much. Aftter all, more contractors look like more open competition, more sources for buyers, right?)

This week's posts are inspired by David Meerman Scott's latest book, How To Create A World Wide Rave, which I just read free on my Kindle....