Determine Agency Future Procurement Plans
Forecasts help vendors identify procurements that offer opportunities for their participation early in the acquisition process. They also help to enhance vendors’ knowledge of requirements and increase competition for government contracts. The forecasts are for planning purposes only. They provide information such as description code, estimated dollar value, fiscal year, contracting officer, phone number, target award date and method of procurement.
Midwife The Procurement Process
Once youve aced the demo, your product still has to go through procurement before the deal is actually closed. Theres a gap between the stage of getting people excited about your product and the point when its actually purchased. To bridge this gap, you need to stay on top of the procurement process.One of the most powerful lessons SeamlessDocs learned in B2G sales was to never make assumptions, particularly when it comes to procurement. Just because Princeton is next to Jersey City, for example, doesnt mean their procurement processes look anything alikeand if you make that assumption, you flush time and money down the drain.
Why Sell To The Government
To most small business owners and startup founders, the idea of selling to governments is baffling. They dont even know where to begin. If you work in a startup, the things you care about are probably the opposite of a life in public service: potential for growth vs. job security freedom and autonomy vs. procedural process. The government seems impenetrable, with bureaucratic nightmares, tight budgets, and crazy contracts.
Endless questions pop up that steer most people well clear of pursuing the government. In many ways, selling to the government is uncharted territory for startups. Its the road not taken.
But because no one really understands how to sell to the government, its a massive opportunity to blaze a trail, to go out there and actually do it.
The government is a huge space, ready to be disrupted. Roughly, 33% of government transactions are processed digitally and continue to raise year over year. Once you get your foot in the door, its a market thats waiting and ready to be cornered.Lets take a look at how SeamlessDocs transformed the trajectory of its business by focusing sales outreach on the government, and how you can do the same.
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Anyone Can Sell To The Federal Government
Small businesses looking to increase their revenues might want to consider taking on a new type of customer, the federal government.
The federal government is the worlds largest purchaser of goods and services. However, in working with small-business owners, I find many who think government contracts are mostly about military and construction related products and services.
But the federal government purchases pretty much any product or service you could imagine and spends more than $425 billion a year, so dont count yourself out until you have done some research. And small businesses are particularly encouraged to bid on contracts, with federal agencies having contracting goals concerning selling to smaller companies.
One step you will need to take as you seek to sell to the government is to register your business in the governments System for Award Management at www.sam.gov. But you cant just list your business there and sit back and watch the money roll in.
Just as you should be working hard to develop profitable relationships with your other customers, you will have to actively pursue a profitable relationship with your new customer, the federal government.
Before you start bidding on contracts, you need to be sure that your business has the ability to fulfill the governments needs and can financially support the performance of the contract.
The Small Business Administration lists the following tips on their Web site concerning selling to the federal government:
Strategy : Take Advantage Of Available State Funding Incentives And Assistance To Support Product Marketing
- CalRecycle Recycling Market Development Zone Program. Recycled-content manufacturers located or planning to locate in a Recycling Market Development Zone are eligible for a variety of special assistance. The RMDZ program can assist with:
- Locating manufacturing materials
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Program Terms And Conditions Gsa Contractors Need To Follow
There are certain terms and conditions that are associated with the 1122 Program that GSA Schedule contractors are required to follow. When a state or local government entity places an order, all terms and conditions remain the same under the GSA Schedule except for the following clauses:
Through the program, government buyers are able to add additional terms and conditions to GSA Schedule terms, as long as they do no not conflict with base-level Schedule terms and conditions.
GSA Schedule contractors participate voluntarily in the 1122 Program. Contractors have the option of accepting orders placed by state and local government buyers, and are able to decline an order for any reason within a five-day period after receipt of the order. However, orders made with credit cards must be declined within 24 hours.
How Local Governments Buy Software From Startups
In total, I gathered proposals or action items from the board meeting notes of eight transit agencies in the US. One thing is clear: selling to local government is filled with nuances. Below are some observations from the different Remix contract proposals and board notes:
Is the length of sales cycle really shortening? To purchase software, transit agencies use either informal , formal or sole-source procurements. Formal procurements are dependent on the maximum small purchase thresholds set by state or local law.
In Remixs case, transit agencies are awarding sole source or non-competitive procurements. Typically, the public sector awards sole source procurements when only one known supplier can fulfill agency requirements or business needs and these deals are typically rationalized by a sense of urgency to get the software up and running. Such procurements are allowed only in certain circumstances: at one agency, sole source procurement expenditures totaled just 8.6% of all procurements.While sole source contracts are said to be faster in nature, the proposals offer some hints as to what the sales cycle really looks like for startups. A look at the Rochester Public Transit action item breaks the process down something like this:
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Veterans Innovation And Entrepreneurship Program
Have you ever had a great business idea but didnt know where to start? Do you need help launching, growing, or protecting your business? Would you like to learn more about raising capital, funding opportunities for research and development, buying inventory, obtaining lines of credit, or building a working prototype? Are you interested in learning how to sell your product or service to federal, state, or local government agencies?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, register early for our online 2022 Veterans Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program. This event is open to all, and we encourage everyone who is affiliated with the military to attend.
Dont miss this opportunity to hear from innovative veterans about their journeys towards successful entrepreneurship. Youll also learn about critical resources available to entrepreneurs and inventors, including training, counseling, and access to capital from representatives of entrepreneurial organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, Bunker Labs, and the DAniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families at the University of Syracuse.
Identify What Contract Vehicle Is Right For Your Company
Understanding the products and services you are selling to the government is extremely important when deciding what contract vehicle is right for your company and it is the first thing you should do. Keep in mind, the contract vehicle your company chooses to utilize ultimately depends on the marketplace you will be selling to. If you are looking to sell to the federal government, you will more than likely utilize a General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule. With a GSA Schedule, you can also sell to select state and local agencies that participate in cooperative purchasing. If your company would like to sell to a state or local agency that does not participate in cooperative purchasing with the GSA, you may need to register for their individual procurement portal.
Under the GSA MAS Consolidation, established contractors now have the ability to sell supplies and services through their GSA Multiple Award Schedule Contract that were previously out of scope of their Schedule. Contractors also now have access to ALL industry Large Categories under GSA MAS. This is important to note as your company could now potentially sell goods and services that previously were out of scope of your contract. This is a very significant feature of the new GSA MAS consolidated solicitation, and one that offers a huge opportunity for contractors to expand their offerings.
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The Fallacy Of Certainty
One customer once commented that if we cant estimate correctly, we are apparently not good enough at our job. He said this in a room with four highly skilled developers, two senior analysts, and one business developer that all tried to make the case from their experience that accurate estimates are impossible for complex work. This customer had zero experience with software development.
This is a prime example of optimism bias, or more precisely the Dunnig-Kruger effect, that I wrote about recently. This effect has been frequently replicated in research and states that the less experienced people are at something, the more likely they are to overestimate their ability to have an informed opinion about it. Or more succinctly the less you know, the more certain you are.
Most people and this includes developers believe on some level that software development is fundamentally predictable. If you would spend enough time nailing down the details upfront, no changes will occur during the process as all scope and their technical implementations are known. Think about it. Only if software development is predictable, can you actually accurately predict the budget, schedule, and scope of what will be delivered.
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Ptacs Across The Country Were Surveyed As To Their Top Tips For Selling To State And Local Governments Here Is What Their Procurement Experts Recommend:
Do your research. Determine to which agency or agencies you want to sell, visit their website and find out how they do their purchasing. Do they have a purchasing department, or can each department do its own purchasing? Are there certifications or preference designations you should pursue ? Do they use DUNS numbers, NAICS or NIGP codes? There is a huge variance in purchasing practices among states, and even among counties or cities within the same state. Learn how your target market operates.
Create a one page Capability Statement which lists your capabilities, tailored to match the mission of the agency you are targeting. It should also include information such as your DUNS number, CAGE code, NAICS codes and any certifications your business holds if your target agency uses such data, as well as the size of your business and a few pictures of what you do. Keep the language simple and straightforward and be specific about what you do. NEVER show too many capabilities. Make a separate capability statement for each of your specialties. If you provide both plumbing and carpentry services, then have one capability statement for each of those. Keep it simple and to the point.
More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers
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Influencing The Buyer And Building Relationships Before A Bid Or Rfp Is Issued Can Dramatically Improve Win Rates But You Also Need To Be Well
Its important to consider the entire buying team, not simply the designated staff person. Individuals who can be involved on the purchasing end might include:
- Executive sponsor
- Internal champion
During outreach, best practices can include verifying the typical purchase cycle or trigger events, inquiring about their current satisfaction with their vendors, and learning about the key factors that will help influence the buyers decision.
2. Better Understand the Government Agency
Buyers are typically too busy to do extensive research and look for input from vendors who are sincerely interested in that agencys needs and offer useful information. Procurement teams can often be too crunched for time to become knowledgeable about the entire range of products and services they may have to purchase. So when the time comes to tackle a new solicitation, they end up scrambling to catch up, reviewing older contracts, checking with their peers and being open to advice from vendors.
This makes it all the more important for a vendor to take the time to access all of the relevant government contracting resources that are available when preparing for a procurement. Here are a few of the things they should consider:
Timing of purchase: Study budget and CIP documents. Your team may need 6-18 months to market a deal.
3. Consider Teaming Opportunities
Next Steps to Improve on Selling to Government Agencies
Make A Lot Of Cold Calls
SeamlessDocs found cold calls to be the most reliable method of drumming up new business. Emails simply werent as effective90% of the demos that SeamlessDoc sets up are via phone.
Think about your average government employee, with an inbox stuffed with emails from concerned citizens. Theyre not going to give your cold email the time of day. Government employees live on the phonelive there with them. Getting someone on the phone is one of the most powerful ways to close deals, and its especially true when it comes to B2G sales.
Weâve built our sales platform with integrated calling to help reach more prospects in less time, taking out all the manual busywork.
- So youre using a filing cabinet to manage thousands of submissions?
- Can I e-sign them?
- Can I submit them online?
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Work With The Local Ecosystem
All around the country, cities are embracing programs and platforms that enable them to source the energy, ideas and enthusiasm of small and mid-sized companies. There are many more ways into the city than just knocking on the door of the procurement officer.
Startup In Residence is an organization that “connects government agencies with startups to develop technology products that address civic challenges.” Thanks to a grant from the Department of Commerce, STIR launched in the City of San Francisco and has since expanded to regional allies, Oakland and San Leandro. The program is 16 weeks and provides a framework for startups and government to co-develop civic solutions. San Antonio is considering this approach to enhance their ability to source innovation.
Austin CityUp and member SmartAustin are both communities that bridge the public and private sectors, enabling people on both sides to experiment and discuss ideas. This informal and personal approach rapidly expedites the process and increases interaction.
In Los Angeles, Eric Espinoza and Lauren Rinkey run the Mayor’s Cup Challenge which provides a forum to build solutions to encourage civic engagement and better connections with the small businesses and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. What began as a single competition is quickly morphing into the Mayor’s Innovation Lab, a model which can then be exported to other cities.
Identify The Current Green Purchasing Goals For Each Federal Agency Or Department
President Biden set a goal of net-zero emissions for federal procurement by 2050 as part of Executive Order 14057 on Catalyzing American Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability and accompanying Federal Sustainability Plan. The plan directs the federal government to maximize procurement of sustainable products and services, including ENERGY STAR-rated equipment products that are bio-based, made from recycled content, water-efficient, fuel-efficient, made with safer chemical ingredients, and non-ozone-depleting and products that have earned third-party ecolabels reviewed and recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Demo The Problem Not The Product
You have to do your homework in B2G sales. But no matter how much research you do, nothing beats the power of the product demo, in terms of actually getting inside the heads of your prospects and figuring out their actual needs and concerns. In your product demo, youre trying to get all the different buyersuser, economic, and executiveon board to help you push through the procurement process later.
Keep in mind that 70% of local government employees are over the age of 50. You cant just dive into the technical aspect of your product, because a lot of your audience wont know what youre talking about. Dont expect a City Clerk or City Manager to automatically understand what a cloud-based form isor a cloud-based anything is. In your demos, dont start with your product. Start with the bigger picture. Figure out what the current process for managing things is. Marc Ende would kick off the demo by asking:
- How are you currently managing the form process?
- What are some of the inefficiencies that you see?
- Do you have any existing initiatives to redress this issue?
Efficiency is the buzzword that lights up faces during staff meetings. When you sell to governments, sell efficiency. Figure out how you can make things run more smoothly while saving time and money, and youll be on the path to success.