Finding Federal Business Opportunities or Creating FedBizOpps: Which works Best?
The vast majority of articles in magazines and on the web provide tips on how to set up your business to receive federal contracts and how to search for opportunities. Most provide advice about where to search agency web sites for procurement plans and forecasts, how to use FedBizOpps to locate current opportunities, or, if you are a GSA Contractor, using eBuy to find still more opportunities not available on FedBizOpps (see the eGuide link below for a guide containing this information). But in searching all of these databases, are you missing out on the greatest opportunity of all; the opportunity to create your own opportunities with Federal agencies?
Be Proactive - Don't Wait for RFPs
Yes, you can build or expand your business based on RFP’s posted on FedBizOpps; many firms have. But there is an old adage:
If the first time you ever see an opportunity is when it is posted on FBO, then it’s too late.
Maxims like this exist because there is a degree of truth to them. Many of your competitors likely have been in that agency already, learning about their needs and demonstrating their capabilities. Once the RFP is posted, it is usually too late to learn more from the agency and difficult to communicate your capabilities effectively by comparison. And simply being awarded a GSA schedule contract is not necessarily the solution either, especially if no marketing effort is put forth.
Many GSA Contractors receive their contract and wait to be contacted through GSA Advantage or receive an RFQ via eBuy. I have had clients that have used this approach and have succeeded, but such success tends to be for firms in hot markets or selling commodity products that agencies buy on a daily basis. Many firms, especially those who provide professional services or unique solutions, would be better served employing proactive opportunity building.
The Greatest Federal Opportunity is the one you Create!
GSA contracts are a license to hunt.
They are not a license to sit back and wait for prey to come walking into camp.
If you sell a unique product, solution or professional service, you need to:
- meet with agencies,
- listen, and
- learn what problems exist.
In many cases, you will find that the agency understands that problems exist but clearly need assistance in:
- finding root causes,
- hearing about options to overcome their problems, and are
- open to novel solutions.
In other cases, they may not know they have a problem or even that there is an opportunity to perform their particular mission better. And some agency personnel strive for continuous improvement and are quite anxious to hear about new solutions to old problems.
Whatever the case, agencies rarely post RFP’s in eBuy or anywhere else for solutions that they don’t know exist. This presents a great opportunity for you to provide answers, and in doing so, set yourself up for resulting projects.
How to Create Government Opportunities
If being proactive makes sense to you, then the next question is how you go about creating opportunities.
Clearly you have succeeded in business thus far because you have a valid solution. You have also gained an understanding of the problems your clients have and how you can uniquely solve those problems. So start with refining your solutions and ideas based on what you know thus far about agency problems.
Many program managers and technical people welcome the opportunity to discuss creative solutions and concepts. Contact agency personnel and let them know that you have researched their agency’s mission needs and present an idea that you think may help them [many methods are available to identify possible targets and your marketing program should be designed to pull in leads from agencies; learn more about Federal Inbound Marketing techniques].
Once you have identified a potential agency prospect:
- Request a meeting to learn more and to receive their feedback on how your solution might be of use to them.
- Just don’t waste the opportunity presenting org charts and company histories (your one page capabilities statement can do that).
- Use the time to listen and learn and make a few points as to how your approach or solution can help.
- And build trust by being honest about the limitations of yours solution.
- Don’t overstate what your solution can do for them– under promising and over delivering is always a good idea.
Regardless of the outcome, always refine your solution and value proposition based on what you learn each meeting. Not every meeting will result in a project, but every meeting will make you a better solution provider.