Whether you’re an established or emerging member of the government contractor community (GovCon), you may have asked yourself this question from time to time. Out loud, in front of others like your growth, sales or capture team, or to yourself, wondering why no feedback is coming from your target contracting officer, the program or acquisition team. Why emails or calls go unanswered, or you’re getting no traction with free-to-government webinar, white paper, or training offerings. We heard sentiments just like this, in our recent webinar “Ask a Contracting Officer”.
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You’re not alone, of course – across the entire Federal procurement landscape, there are many hurdles and barriers to useful communication between the Feds and vendors, not the least of which is the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR for Civilian Agencies, DFARS for DoD). These regulations are necessary, of course, to establish a fair playing field for procurements and investment of taxpayer’s money – and you should be fairly well apprised of the basics (check “Acquisition.gov” for all general information). They also do leave room for necessary communication between procurement teams and the GovCon community – but it’s not always evident how to do this, find the right contacts, share or get the right information.
External factors that normally tend to challenge the B2G dialog include the size and scope of the procurement, the actual stage of the procurement, unanticipated mission change, as well as time of year and budget cycle. Your sales process and due diligence efforts will require timely intelligence about these factors – so that you’re asking questions, sharing information or requesting feedback when, where and how this outreach can be most effective. On a very large acquisition, the government will expect a lot of research and information-sharing to occur independently by experienced contractors, with some guidance at industry days (for example) regarding tactical items. If national events or news are rapidly changing mission needs (as in the COVID pandemic), previously-shared information or schedules about a procurement may simply be abandoned in favor of new requirements – you should be generally aware of changing priorities at your target agencies.
Other roadblocks to establishing conversation with the government about an opportunity can be internal to your own company, such as the way you’re collecting and using available opportunity intelligence, your contacts hygiene, and perhaps even your overall web presence. While Capture2Proposal’s opportunity-centric search, intelligence and contacts management features will help you gain, validate and maintain the attention of the government (whether your target is the acquisition team, the mission program or agency influencers and incumbents) – your internal BD, sales and capture processes must also evolve and mature.
Get the Government’s Attention and Feedback
With understanding of typical roadblocks and challenges to work through, what then are the key methods to get the right feedback from the right government contacts, and generate the kind of useful dialog that may both inform and influence your pursuit?
- Do your homework, your “due diligence” – learn, observe and actually implement known practices to understand and keep track of Agency needs and opportunities, their procurement schedules, “quiet periods” and buying patterns, matches to your “set-aside” category, upcoming recompetes, GWAC/IDIQs that really match your capabilities. Can you find answers/regulatory info online, answer the question yourself, in the public domain?
- Use Internet search engines to find, validate opportunity news, events, analysis, status, contacts, mission scope and influencers. This includes Google, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Quora, Podcasts, SAM.gov – there are many. Try not to ask what might be construed as “uninformed” or “unrelated” questions.
- Collect and assess “intelligence” – this is analysis or “insider information” sourced from data reports, interviews, industry analyst projections, industry partner, vendor or subcontractor meetings and “customer intimacy” generation
- Develop and maintain the “right” contacts, across the entire opportunity spectrum.
What does that mean, the “opportunity spectrum”? This is truly knowing whom to talk to around the procurement team or contracting office, who else can answer the questions, who else might provide unsolicited information if the right relationship or discussion was started. Contacts such as:
- Established and documented POCs or referral channels (know and test these!)
- Mission or domain owner and team, within the Agency
- Requirements or scope SMEs, technical advisors
- System or Application owner and team
- Program or Project owner
- Budgeting office or authority
- Incumbents, current suppliers
- New or existing GovCon partners in your capability or business space
- Your own employees, who may know others
- IT, product and service vendors (with whom the government separately contracts)
- Small or local business advocates – i.e. SBA PCRs/PTACs – grouped or found by location, industry, university affiliation, etc.
- Local business groups, associations (NVTC / NDIA / AFCEA / SECAF / PSC for example)
- Local economic development authorities/associations
- Politicians (local/regional/state)
Do They Hear Me?
Often it’s not clear whether your outreach has been heard, is being reviewed or ignored. Whether the silence or unresponsiveness is just to you, to everyone, or somewhere in between – such as only with trusted or known entities. Check again to be sure you’re following the rules and basic, easily available guidance – and only then exercise very professional, brief follow-up techniques to both verify the contact and confirm the status of the dialog. At the same time, exercise your listening across the opportunity spectrum and, hopefully, your rich inventory of contacts – you’ll probably quickly find out whether the government’s silence is unique with you, or simply part of the larger game or process.
If you’d like more information from our procurement SMEs on this topic, or any other related to GovCon acquisition patterns and practices – contact us today, and also find out more about the industry-leading platform we offer to help.
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