One of the best in-roads for small business vendors is networking. Making connections and building relationships with contracting officers and other vendors allows small businesses to access micro purchases, subcontracting and teaming opportunities and get the scoop on upcoming projects. An easy way to make your initial introductions is by attending vendor outreach sessions and events. Similar to job fairs for government contractors, vendors are able to meet face to face with contracting officers, build relationships and ask questions about government contracts.
While there are many places to find advertisements for these events, one of the quickest ways to check is through the “Small Business Events” section on FedBizOpps. On the FBO.gov homepage, prior to logging in, you will find a section titled Small Business Events with a green button labeled “Search Small Business Events”. Clicking this button will return all the small business events currently listed on the website. Clicking the link in each listing will allow you to view detailed information such as when and where the event will be held, how to register for the event and what to expect when you attend.
For most training and networking events, vendors should arrive prepared by:
- Thoroughly researching the agency organizing the event or the agencies that will be attending. This should include looking up what they do, what contracts they’ve awarded in the past, what they have out for bid currently and what their current mission and projects are.
- Preparing questions to ask each agency they plan to speak with.
- Bringing a capabilities statement, which will allow contracting officers to review and discuss possible contracting opportunities.
When you attend the event, make sure you dress and behave professionally; any of the people you meet at the event may be a decision maker on a contract you want to bid on. Contracting officers may schedule a follow up meeting with vendors after the event, but even if they don’t vendors should still follow up with the buyers they met with to thank them for their time.