The content on this page was updated on 6/6/2019.
Are you looking to get into federal contracting?
Perhaps you’ve already gotten your feet wet and you’re looking to reach the next level.
Either way, it’s good to get a proper introduction (or just a bit of brushing up) on bidding strategies.
So in this blog post, we’re going to run you through the essential bidding strategies that you need in order to turn your small business into a flourishing empire. Plus we’ve updated the content for fiscal year 2019 to keep you in the loop with today’s federal market.
Also, at the end of this blog, there’s a FREE GIFT to help give you a boost in federal contracting.
Now back to bidding strategies. Here, we’re going to go over:
- Starting Out Small
- Thinking Like a Contracting Officer
- Avoid Amateur Mistakes
- Asking the Right Questions
- Keeping an Eye on Your Competition
- The MOST IMPORTANT Thing You Must Do After Bidding
This blog post is only for those who are serious about:
- Thriving in the federal marketplace.
- Growing their business.
- Securing a recession-proof source of revenue.
- Taking your business from a headache to an empire.
With that in mind, let’s get right to it.
1. Starting Out Small
Alright, so you’ve done your homework. You’ve browsed around and realized that there’s tons of money to be made through federal contracting. In fact, every year Uncle Sam spends over $500 billion on contracts with around $155 billion of it being set-aside for small businesses.
Naturally, you’ve got dollar signs in your eyes.
And we get it.
Starting out small is one of the key bidding strategies in federal contracting. Get registered in the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS). Reach out to contracting officers trying to reach their small business goals. Network with prime contractors to pick up subcontracts. Try to snag in some micropurchases.
Yes, you’re probably excited about the idea of going after those big, million dollar contracts.
Nonetheless, federal contracting is a long term investment. Your first few opportunities aren’t just about making money. They’re about solidifying a working relationship between your businesses and the government.
Every contract you complete contributes to your past performance rating (aka your government contracting report card). The better the grades you get, the more opportunities that will open up in the future.
In this phase of contracting, it’s better to go after a quiz and get an A than taking on a test and getting a D.
The last thing you want to do is to take on a contract larger than you can handle.
Take a look back at those stories from Hurricane Maria from a few years ago. You’ve probably heard about the one-person business that failed to deliver 30 million meals or the newly formed company that won $30 million but couldn’t deliver their tarps.
Do you think any contracting officer who values their job would ever write out another contract for either of these people?
Don’t. Be. That. Contractor.
In this sector, it’s a lot easier to slowly work your way up than fall from the top and then try to get back on top again. Some companies have had to go through the process of changing their name and re-registering in SAM because their reputation is tarnished.
Long story short: Start small and you will work your way up to the big leagues. Try to go all in, and you might not even win your first contract.
2. Think Like a Contracting Officer
In marketing, there’s a thing called, the “buyer persona.” Basically, it’s a characterization of your target customer. Some of the characteristics of buyers personas include:
- Geographic location
- Needs wants, and desires
You get it.
The purpose of the buyer’s persona is to get inside your customer’s head. You need to understand your customer to better leverage your products and services toward them.
The same applies to contracting officers. You need to think as they do. After all, at the end of the day, they’re people just like you and me. So right now, take out a pen and a piece of paper and jot down these questions:
- What are the needs and goals of this contracting officer’s agency?
- What kind of technical capabilities would a contracting officer want to see for this particular contract?
- What would stand out to a contracting officer about my business?
- How many years of experience would I look for in a candidate for this contract?
Take the time to really get in their shoes. If there’s one, great BIG lie about federal contracting it’s that it’s always the lowest bidder = winner. Factors such as your past performance, capabilities, and set-asides play a major role in who wins or who doesn’t win a contract.
3. Avoid Amateur Mistakes
Out of all the bidding strategies, this one is going to save you from a lot of grief. You could have an amazing product or service. You could have an amazing past performance record. Perhaps, out of all of the bidders, your company is the one that is most qualified to fulfill the contract.
All of that wouldn’t matter and all of that could go down the drain from several amateur mistakes. You don’t want to be the fastest runner in the race only to trip over your shoelaces at the starting line.
Here are the most common amateur bidding mistakes that will cost you a contract:
- Being overly complex with your language.
- Being too vague with your language.
- Citing incorrect units in pricing.
- Making assumptions on what the government DOES and DOES NOT buy.
- Missing a required item for a bid.
- Not submitted a PPQ when needed.
- Submitting your bid late (even just by one minute).
- Failure to maintain your SAM registration.
These mistakes are pretty self-explanatory and they seem simple enough to avoid. Just remember to always review your bid before you send it in. Just trying to land a major contract can be quite costly for a business. You may have to do site visits and you might need weeks or even months of your team’s time to develop a plan for handling the contract.
If there’s ever a customer who always goes by the book, it’s Uncle Sam. People have wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars and missed out on billions in opportunities just because of rookie mistakes.
How do you keep yourself in the clear?
One of the best ways that avoid these mistakes, as well as greatly boost your chances of winning, is to hire a bid trainer.
Yes. There are experts out there whose sole profession is to help people like you win contracts. They’ve been through the process dozens of times, know government regulations like the back of their hand, and they will get you to the next level.
You can find out more about bid training right here.
Let’s continue onto more bidding strategies.
4. Asking the Right Questions
Take a look at the quote below.
Always, always, and always, take advantage of the Q&A phase when its offered. If there’s something you need to be clarified, speak up. Leave nothing to ambiguity.
Just remember two things:
- Everyone bidding on the contract gets to see the contracting officer’s answer.
- Contracting officers are hardly experts in what they’re procuring.
For the first point, you want to make sure that when asking a question, you don’t reveal sensitive or proprietary information. This is especially true when you’re dealing with this information potentially getting in the hands of your competitors.
As for the second point, you read that correctly. Most contracting officers aren’t experts in what they are trying to buy. In some, very specialized cases, this is true. However, keep in mind that the solicitation itself might have flaws or gaps in information. That’s why they get modified.
We’re all human after all.
Just be vigilant when taking the time to browse through a government solicitation. Also, asking questions is a great way to get noticed and start building a working relationship between your business and Uncle Sam.
There’s no such thing as a dumb question (unless it reveals your secrets).
5. Keep an Eye on Your Competition
Out of all of the bidding strategies discussed in this blog post, this one is probably the most time consuming and research intensive. You need to know your competition as well as yourself. You’ll find some iteration of this quoted from dozens of sources. This also applies to the bidding process. If you’re able to do some research on your competitor, you will be able to find ways to differentiate yourself from that business.
Also, if you can get an idea of how much your competitor will bid, this will provide you with a major advantage.
I know. As mentioned before, price isn’t everything. Still, when you’re neck and neck, it could be what pulls you ahead in the last leg of the race.
So how can you get a good idea on how much they will bid?
There’s a way and it’s 100% legal.
Just browse through their past contracts on the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). Basically, FPDS is where every contract action above $3,000 from the fiscal year 2004 to the present has been recorded.
Remember, we’re dealing with the U.S. federal government here. Everything needs to be written down and open to the public. Having a resource like this is part of what makes this an interesting sector to work in.
Now, FPDS is a very old and clunky website. Explaining FPDS would take an entire blog post. It’s that complex, but the information is worth it.
Luckily for you, such a blog post exists and you can find your easy-to-read guide to FPDS right here.
Also, if you’re looking for just a flat out easier alternative to FPDS then you should check out the Advanced Procurement Portal. Not only can you research past contracts won by your competitors, but it also makes finding opportunities, government CRM, and searching industry-relevant contracting officers a lot easier.
6 . The MOST IMPORTANT Thing You Must Do After Bidding
What you’re about to learn is probably one of the most important tips in federal contracting. Seriously, if there’s anything you’re going to take from reading this blog, it will be this strategy.
There are dozens of businesses that have given up in federal contracting because they didn’t follow this crucial approach. There are even more who can’t get to the next level in federal marketing because they don’t follow this one simple strategy.
Write this down and put it up somewhere:
“No matter the outcome, I will always request a debriefing.”
Unfamiliar with the term “debrief”?
Basically, by law, if you request a debrief after an award is given, the contracting officer tells you why you did or didn’t win the contract. If you’re skipping out on the debriefing process, you’re skipping out on tons of opportunities up the road.
Most people only think you should get one if you lose.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you don’t win a bid, the debriefing gives you valuable information on where you fell short. You need to take your shortcomings, work on them, and then come back stronger than ever on your next bid.
If you won the bid, you learn what works and if something works, you keep doing it. It’s that simple. Debriefings should be at the center of your bidding strategy because let’s face it. In all likelihood, you’re not going to win your first bid on a government contract. What is likely, if you do request a debriefing, is that you will get better at bidding.
Your FREE Gift
That about wraps it for bidding strategies. Now, here’s a free offer that’s going to really give you a boost in the federal marketplace.
Federal contracting is a big sector with plenty of opportunities. Sometimes having an extra pair of eyes to give you a few pointers can make you see opportunities that you’ve overlooked or might not even have thought of.
US Federal Contractor Registration is the world’s largest third-party government registration firm. Since 2010 we’ve been helping businesses of all sizes take on the federal marketplace. From one-person operations to giants like Amazon, Goodwill, Exxon, and beyond, we’ve worked with thousands of companies.
That’s why we want to offer you a FREE marketplace evaluation.
For no cost, we’ll get you in touch with one of our best Acquisition Specialists (aka federal contracting gurus) and the will:
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Visit this page to get expert insight in this $500 billion per year sector.