Bidding on your first contract can be intimidating and losing your first contract bid can be discouraging. It’s important to develop a strategy before you even perform a search on FedBizOpps so that you’re prepared.
If you’re inexperienced or lack past performance references, it may be wiser to start with micro purchases or subcontracting jobs. These smaller contracts will help introduce you to the practices of government procurement, build your reputation and experience and help bring in revenue while you get your feet wet.
Think Like a Contracting Specialist
You should be focused on how your capabilities can solve the buyer’s problems and help them meet their agency’s goals. Remember that price is only one factor procurement officers consider and it’s often their lowest priority; technical capabilities and past performance are usually rated as being far more important that lowest price on a bid.
Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot
Avoid common blunders such as using complex or ambiguous language, citing incorrect units in pricing or submitting a disorganized, messy bid. Give yourself enough time to review your bid and correct any errors before you submit your bid. Also, don’t make assumptions about what the government does or doesn’t buy. If you pass over an agency because you assume they don’t need your product or service, you may miss out on a great opportunity. Finally, make sure your CCR and ORCA registration are up to date; failure to maintain these can cost you a contract.
Take full advantage of the Q&A phase, if offered. Keep in mind that all bidders may be able to view your questions, so word them in such a way that you don’t reveal sensitive or proprietary information. Beyond the Q&A phase, you should be actively building a relationship with the departments and agencies you’re trying to sell to. It takes an average of 6-18 months for firms to win their first Federal contract; many of those who succeed only do so because of their focus on relationship building.
Keep an Eye on Your Competition
You should know your competitors at least as well as you know your own business. Set yourself apart from them when you market yourself to the government and point out specific advantages if the contract is awarded to your company instead.
Follow up When You Lose
If you lose the bid, don’t assume your work on that contract is over. Follow up with the contracting officer to find out why your bid was rejected or why they chose another company instead of yours. Take notes so you can be better prepared next time. If you want to really dig in and gather some intel, you can submit a FOIA request for the winning proposal, but expect to spend quite a bit of time cutting through bureaucratic red tape to get it.