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7 Days of #FedFrenzy

in Developing Your Federal Strategy by isiFederal Leave a comment

We’re already a week into our #FedFrenzy countdown to the end of the fiscal year 2015! This countdown is all about the actions you can take right now to help your business gain a competitive advantage during the spending frenzy that peaks in September. In case you missed any of the tweets, here’s 7 days’ worth of federal business advice. Feel free to retweet or favorite these for later reference.

1. Update your capability statement. 

2. Make sure your GSA Schedule numbers are profitable.

3. Find three people you were supposed to call last month–and call them!

4. Send an updated, dated capabilities statement even if you haven’t changed a thing.

5. Find and target the top fifty people who buy what you sell.

(And if you don’t know who they are, that would be a good point to start.)

6. Habit 7…Sharpen your saw. Take a hike!

7. Habit 7: Sharpen your saw. Think of your favorite place and go there for a while.

We’ll be sharing a new tip every day, so be sure to check #FedFrenzy for updates.

TAA Compliance and What it Means for Your Federal Business

in Bidding Basics, Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Federal FAQs, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by isiFederal Web Admin Leave a comment

What is TAA?

TAA refers to the Trade Agreements Act of 1979, which impacts how the United States government does business with other countries–in effect, it actually implements provisions previously negotiated in the Trade Act of 1974.

What is the purpose of TAA?

Besides its most obvious purpose (implementation of the Trade Act) TAA is also intended to nurture free and open international trade, maintain a healthy balance of payments, ensure a substantial amount of US tax payers’ money goes back into the US economy thus providing the maximum benefit to US business owners, and stimulate economic development in underdeveloped countries, all while enforcing the standards that make it possible to do business with the federal government.

Which countries are TAA compliant?

Broadly, there are four types of countries on the TAA compliance list:

  • Countries with a free trade agreement with the United States (this includes Canada, Mexico, and Australia)
  • World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (WTO GPA) participants, such as Japan
  • Least Developed Countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh
  • Countries in the Caribbean basin
On a map, here’s what it looks like:

TAA Global Map

TAA Global Map

As of 2014, there are 119 TAA compliant countries:

List of TAA Compliant Countries (2014)

TAA Compliance Country Chart (2014)

Why should I bother with TAA compliance?

A GSA schedule is the government’s preferred procurement vehicle, and being TAA compliant means you can focus on growing your business at home and abroad without worrying about losing that. It’s also a good way to ensure you still give back to country even as you explore new horizons!

Already TAA compliant? Get a GSA schedule!

Federal Contractor Capabilities Statements that Get Results

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Federal FAQs, Reaching Your Buyers by Aisha H. Leave a comment


Most people don’t see how a capabilities statement–especially if written effectively and precisely–can work its magic through the federal food chain.

An important part of communicating with contracting officers or any one dealing with acquisitions in the federal government is to have information relevant to them up front. Nothing does the job better than a company’s Capabilities Statement.

Now, I’ve worked for almost half a decade contacting different agencies about vendors trying to get business from them and my first question is “Do you have our capabilities statement?” In return I’ve heard a lot of folks say “We do but it goes into our pool,” meaning they have a folder that contains all the capabilities sent to them. Although that might sound like a blow-off, most people don’t see how a capabilities statement–especially if written effectively and precisely–can work its magic through the federal food chain.

A client of ours, who’s been with us for over two years, regularly receives acknowledgments from contracting agents saying that not only do they know about them but they would love to hear more about them. Why the warm response? Because we consistently use a streamlined process of sending, updating and following up with federal contacts who have the company’s capabilities statement. But again: the emphasis is on “effective”. No amount of marketing and followups is going to help you if your material just doesn’t work.
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The Importance of Doing Things Badly

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Reaching Your Buyers by isiFederal Leave a comment

Cartoonist Hugh MacLeod has a new print available on his website and it gives a powerful message, one that’s more easily echoed than accepted.

"Failure is a Prerequisite" by Hugh MacLeod

All too often in our rush for success, we forget that failure is one of the best ways to learn anything. You can’t know what can go right till you’ve experienced firsthand what can go wrong. It’s so simple, even a kid could understand it–and it seems like these days they’re the only people who do. The rest of us are so busy making sure we don’t take unnecessary risks that we end up trying to avoid making necessary mistakes.

There’s a difference between the two.

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Why 80% of GSA Schedule Holders Fail

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers by David Lowe 1 Comment

I recently sent out an update from a Driving GSA Sales webinar session and I received a response from a gentleman that makes sense to share with everyone.  Here was my update and the ensuing response…

Hey Everyone,

Normally I don’t send out recaps for our Driving GSA Sales Series but since we maxed out the webinar yesterday, I wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the presentation and link to the video (see below). With FY2013 closing out, federal spending is red hot with opportunities really breaking loose at a record pace- but not for everyone…

Did you know that 80% of GSA schedule holders are in the process of failing right now? Yesterday we took a look at how to change that by getting in front of the right people and getting your message across with procurement briefings. Again, sorry if you were not able to log on, please make sure you are registered Driving GSA Sales 2013 and get there EARLY next month as we will be in the throws of the final spending madness. Also, if you have any topics that you would like to cover in 2014, please let me know so we can keep the series fresh…

Thanks!
-Dave

Dave,

I am curious, where do you get your information from ? Your statement, “ 80% of GSA Schedule Holders are in the process of failing” ….

That seems like an extremely high amount – how are they failing? Why are they failing?

-Patrick

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Identify Your REAL Position

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting by David Lowe Leave a comment

Have you read Strategic Selling by Miller Heiman?  This book and process helps you understand complex sales and how to gauge your position in an account. By using red flags for everything that you don’t know, you can gain insight on how to move your company into a better position in a given opportunity.  Whether you use Strategic Selling or some other method, make sure you are honest with yourself about your position. Here are a few questions to answer…

1) Have you identified all of the influencers?

2) What do each of the influencers think of your solution?

3) Which influencer favors your competition?

4) Have you provided information that is appearing in the scope?

Important– As you start to analyze your position, be honest about the holes, otherwise you will probably fall into one. Don’t ignore anything that is a potential negative. If you are honest with yourself, you will be much more capable of adjusting your approach or deciding whether you should even bid at all.

3 Ways to Leverage Sequestration

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe Leave a comment

Unless you are living under a rather large rock, you have been pummeled with sequestration hype. Here is the thing… The Federal government is not closing down and even with cuts, this coming summer and especially September will likely be a record setting months for GSA sales. Why? Think about it. Say they need to cut 5% of their budget… They have been holding back spending for the past 5 months and likely to hold for a couple more. 8 months of no spending means when May and June agencies are going to start realizing they have some catching up to do.

You CAN maximize your exposure right now…

1) Find and pursue new buyers. There are 85,000 buyers within 492 federal agencies. Chances are the ones that buy what you sell are currently piling up requirements waiting for money. Why not take this opportunity to identify and introduce your company to them? Here is a video and links on how we do it.

Marketing Essentials Video

Federal Marketing Essentials – SAMPLE

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE EXCEL

2) Do a Marketing Makeover. Start with your capabilities by creating a tight, easy to read one pager. Then, update your website to include a federal landing page so you can direct people right to your federal information (including your schedule).

3) Update your GSA offerings on GSAadvantage. Most GSA schedule holders put stuff on GSA and just leave it there. Make sure you have the right new products and services listed so they can find you when they are ready to buy.

Remember, September is coming and so is a windfall of spending. People buy from people they like. They can’t like you if they don’t know you. Dedicate resources for going after some of the most important people in your federal market. Chances are your competition is not being proactive so this can be a huge competitive advantage for you

Establishing Effective KPI’s

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Reaching Your Buyers, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe Leave a comment

The federal space is a long term sales cycle and it will take time and dedicated effort to reach your sales goals. You need to know what success looks like before you start making money in your expansion efforts. Let’s say your isiFederal intelligence reveals 500 buyers for what you sell. Our goal is usually 15% dialog within 60 days and 20-25% dialog within 6 months. This means conversations with 125-150 people responsible for purchasing what you sell. These contacts will range from unsellable (in tight with your competition) to HOT. All of them can be your customers if you have the right message at the right time.

BD Key Performance Indicators

1) Introduction e-mails sent

a. Positive responses
b. Negative responses

c. Bounced

2) Follow-up

a. Calls per hour
b. Decision Makers Reached per Day

c. Follow-up Meetings Set per Day

3) Follow-up E-mails sent

a. Capabilities
b. Pricing

c. Sample SOW

4) Initial Meeting/Conference Call

a. Upcoming opportunities
b. Recent

c. Missed/Long Range Opportunities

5) Follow-up touches (every 21-30 days)

a. E-mails sent
b. Decision Makers Reached per Day

c. Meetings Set per Day

6) Opportunities

a. HOT (immediate)
b. High potential (next 180 days)
c. Mid-Range (Next 18 months)
d. Long Range (More than 18 months)
e. Outside Core
i. Partner to capture
ii. Refer to competent non-competitor

7) Influence Scope

8) Pre-Proposal

9) Proposals

10) Wins

It’s All About The Right People…

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Reaching Your Buyers by David Lowe Leave a comment

No matter what, if you want to be successful, you better be in front of the right people at the right time with the right message. Embedded in this statement are all the components of your federal strategy. Most federal contractors know a few of the right people but have no idea how to identify people outside of their current circle of influence. Your strategy needs to start with finding more of “the right people”. I cannot stress more the importance of the target rich environment and since the feds buy everything, there are hundreds, maybe even a thousand buyers with budget and needs for what you sell right now.

Sure there are initiatives and forecasts released by the agencies every single year but they are only a fraction of the total spend and have full exposure to everyone on the planet. Plus, most of the big initiatives have been influenced by the most formidable competitors with relationships and political connections that are impenetrable. Your job is to find “the right people” under the radar of the big boys.

So far I haven’t found a better way than looking at the historical data. Why? Because power in DC is based on budget and if they had budget last year they will protect it for this year. More importantly, whoever spent the money on your services last year is most likely to be spending the money this year.

Three ways to find “the right people”:

1) Look at your competition. If they are doing it, so can you. How much is GSA? How much is another vehicle? Who are their contacts? How are they procured? Not just Sole source, BPA, 8(a), SDVOSB etc, but what NAICS and PSC are they using?

2) Look at the whole market. If you look at the entire market you will probably find competitors that you never thought you had because they are in places you never knew existed and are putting millions into their bank accounts that could be in yours.

3) Look for your sweet spot. Chances are your sweet spot in expansion in a new federal market (that means anything outside your current influence) will be about half of your average sale AND under $750k. Interestingly enough, this is under the radar for most of the big boys so they don’t even care to pay attention. Get to $1.5M and you have entered the realm of serious, formidable competition.

Now, you can spend 3-4 months on GSAadvantage and a host of other government sites looking for this information but you need it NOW if you are going to be able to make a dent in this year’s sales efforts. In most instances we can provide you what you need in three weeks for three grand. Take a look at the sample Marketing Essentials Intelligence here:

Market Intelligence Overview Video- 3 Min 44 Sec

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE EXCEL.xlsx

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE.pdf

 

Sequestration

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Business News, Federal Contracting, News, Policy Impact by David Lowe Leave a comment

If I have talked about sequestration once over the past few days, it has been a hundred times. Everyone–workers, contractors, politicians–is asking what I think is going to happen. Of course, I have no idea. But since I don’t think anyone inside the beltway has the ability to think rationally or use common sense, I simply choose to look past whatever is going to happen and choose to plan for taking market share from those who panic.

I think we can be pretty certain…

  1. The federal government is not going to fold. If that happens, it won’t matter who has what contract anyway.
  2. Spending will happen again.
  3. They will buy what you sell.

So, Plan.

  • Plan to take advantage of companies that don’t plan.
  • Plan to take advantage of companies on the fringe that might not be able to weather a storm.
  • Plan to take advantage of a lull and build relationships with your competitors’ best contacts.

 

How? Find your competitors contacts and go get them. You know, this concept really shouldn’t change whether business is good or business is bad. It is just extra effective if you keep your head during troubling times when you position yourself as a qualified and ultimately pancake your panicking competitors.

Don’t know who is buying what you sell? Click here for a 4 minute sample of how you can find out.

Market Essentials Overview Video

Federal Marketing Essentials – SAMPLE

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE EXCEL

Now, this is a different approach than a bid database because it revolves around people instead of opportunities. If you know who the people are, then you proactively go after those buyers and PMs as you would any strategic account. Check out how you can find the projects in your sweet spot.

Myth: If I monitor my primary NAICS I will find winnable opportunities.

in Bidding Basics, Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Reaching Your Buyers, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe 1 Comment

We have been working through the sample intelligence, to download, click the following links:

Market Intelligence Overview Video- 3 Min 44 Sec

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE EXCEL.xlsx

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE.pdf

So, you are monitoring NAICS for your company right?  Well, it is a virtual certainty that you are missing some really lucrative opportunities.  Let’s look at the top NAICS codes for tactical gear and see where it shows up…

336992 MILITARY ARMORED VEHICLE, TANK, AND TANK COMPONENT MANUFACTURING

315999 OTHER APPAREL ACCESSORIES AND OTHER APPAREL MANUFACTURING

922120 POLICE PROTECTION

Most tactical gear folks don’t even look at 336992 because they are not thinking of where the gear is being used. Also, take a look at 315999- this is an “other” category and there are several that are important in the tactical gear space. Take a look at the Excel file and click the “NAICS” tab. You will see that all three of these NAICS account for about 51% of the total spend ($5 Billion) but only 25% of the number of contracts.

This means that the other $5 Billion is split between 453 other NAICS codes like $58 Million in 561210 FACILITIES SUPPORT SERVICES and $27 Million in 315211 MEN’S AND BOYS’ CUT AND SEW APPAREL CONTRACTORS and most of these are less than $150k per contract. Now that is a sweet spot!   How and why does this happen? It happens either because the contracting officer doesn’t know what to do with the opportunity or he/she has a preferred vendor and doesn’t want 25 responses (especially for smaller projects). Either way, it is benefitting a select few federal vendors and you are not one of them.   NAICS anomalies happen in every area of the federal government in every industry because it helps minimize the competition. Your best customer doesn’t want 25 responses any more than you want 25 competitors. Take a look at your competition (see pages 56, 60, 67 for their NAICS wins) and then you can understand how you can do it too!   NAICS Myth: BUSTED

 

Myth: There is too much competition in the federal market

in Bidding Basics, Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Reaching Your Buyers, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe Leave a comment

Well, if you are only considering the 4.5% of opportunities that hit FedBizOpps, you are correct. However, the rest of the 2.6 million contracts tell a significantly different story…

Take a moment to view the video and download these samples:

Market Intelligence Overview Video- 3 Min 44 Sec

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE EXCEL.xlsx

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE.pdf

Take a look at page 5 of the PDF file above. You will see that 78% of all of the contracts were competed between 5 companies. That means nearly $8.5 Billion of tactical sales only had 4 competitors. In fact, nearly half – 47% had no competition at all (see page 28) and $6.5 Billion went to companies who enjoyed NO competition at all.   Take a look at this intelligence sample for tactical gear. Nearly 15,000 contracts in that specific market alone. Over $10 Billion in total sales. How does this happen? Who is responsible for these 15,000 contracts? That is the real question. Take a look at the sample intelligence surrounding these contracts and the 700 contacts responsible for executing most of the $10 Billion in tactical gear sales.   This is typical throughout the federal marketplace. With the exception of certain types of construction, competition for most opportunities is less than 5 companies.

Competition Myth: BUSTED

Myth: FedBizOpps is the Best Place to Find New Opportunities

in Agency Focus, Bidding Basics, Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Reaching Your Buyers, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe 1 Comment

If you go to www.fedbizopps.gov you will find around 19,000 opportunities. Huge, right? Look closer… those 19,000 are categorized in one of the following: Presolicitation, Combines Synopsis Solicitation, Sources Sought, Modification, Sale of Surplus Property, Special Notice, Foreign Government Standard, Award Notice, Justification and Approval, Intent to Bundle Requirements.

If you search all opportunities in the past 365 days, you will see that only 196,564 actually were posted. Let’s look closer… 74,426 were not even real opportunities (Presolicitaions, Sources Sought, Canceled etc.). That isn’t all… When you consider some were not awarded at all and about 80% of RFP’s are so heavily influenced by industry (winnable only by the contractor who assisted in writing the scope), that leaves about 3,000 opportunities per month – Nationwide across all industries. That is why most companies think there is too much competition – and they are right if FBO is your source.

Last year according to isiFederal Intelligence research, 2,623,071 contracts were awarded last year with 218,589 contracts being executed every single month (now that is more like it). That means only about 4.5% of opportunities actually hit the street on FedBizOpps and most of them are already baked for the competition.

FedBizOps Myth? BUSTED

Here is a video with some more on FBO… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNapeaNsJ3A&feature=share&list=UUT7lk1QZ641AoAeFE8YUG8g

Understanding the September Buying Frenzy

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe Leave a comment

No matter what the federal budgeteers are doing, a lot of money will be spent in the next 90 days.  In fact, almost 20% of federal spendng will occur in 1 month – September.  That is nearly $100 Billion – all in a single month.

Why does this happen?

The federal budget is allocated and implemented (theoretically) each October 1st.  I say theoretically because it is often several months after October 1 when congress actually approves the budget for the current fiscal year. This causes continuing resolutions (CR) as they work through the politics of spending.  That being said, the nearly $500 Billion dollar budget eventually is approved.  All of that money must be spent within the federal fiscal year which ends on September 30th. Now, 3-4 months of the year the agencies are running on CR so they are generally spending on existing contractual obligations and even then the money slows because they are not sure when money will be allocated. Once the budget is approved, the agencies now know they can spend money again but it is often February or March before the money is allocated and new contracts are funded.

The next several months they are working at a relatively normal pace.  In June they start planning for the next fiscal year and by July, they are working through the details of what major expenditures they will have for the next year.  In August they are submitting their requests.  At the same time, the agency CFO’s are reviewing existing spending and finding areas where they have not spent the allocated money for the current fiscal year.

Memos go out to all department heads and everyone begins to scramble to find money that has not been spent.  Money may exist from a current obligation, or for a contract that was suspended, revoked or cancelled.  Maybe there was an initiative that was funded but challenged politically and the funds were held in limbo.  Whatever the case, the agency MUST find a way to spend that money this year or it will lose those funds.  Moreover, those unspent funds will also automatically reduce the budgetary allocations for that agency for the following year- before any budget cuts are imposed.

Result: The agency loses the money twice.

This is compounded because power in Washington is tied to budget. The more budget you have, the more powerful you are.

Result: Nobody wants to lose power so they spend every dime.

This is why September is a frenzy.  Everybody is trying to spend every dime. In order to get some of those dollars, you MUST be in front of decision makers before August 15th. Why? Because they start to become un-reachable as the deadline approaches.  By September 15th, they are almost completely buried by the events of the day and procurement is working 60-80 hours per week.

Your Federal Strategy

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting by isiFederal Leave a comment

Once you have an understanding of where the money is and who is spending it, you can go through the process of establishing your plan for gaining access to those opportunities. Here are the primary components of a working federal plan…

  • Dedicate the internal resources to deal exclusively with the government sector

In order for your federal strategy to work, you will need to apply resources to the effort. It usually doesn’t work to have someone on your team pulled between commercial and federal opportunities. Human nature is that people gravitate toward what they know. So, if your rep doesn’t know and appreciate government procurement, they will gravitate back to commercial work every time. Another reason why companies fail in the federal sector is they take an average (or below average) rep and apply them to their federal pursuit. This increases the likelihood of failure for obvious reasons. First, it never makes sense to take a good rep off making money for your company.

  • Create (and fund) your budget for marketing.

There are many companies, databases, marketing books and search engines that claim they drive sales through a listing – not usually. Most people prefer to buy a product or service from someone you have met and like and rarely choose a point and click source – even for commoditized products or services.

  • Create Government Centric Marketing Materials.

This is critical and important for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that procurement folks use your marketing information to determine if you know how to do business with them. If your materials are full of “business terms” like “customers”, “profit”, “savings”, “bottom line” etc., you are likely to be rejected.

  • Develop Capabilities Statement.

A big part of your marketing will be a concise capabilities statement that clearly shows your contract vehicles, core competencies, past performance and reference projects. It is always good to have a working document that can be maintained and edited based on the audience.

  • Develop a One Page Slick

From the information on your capabilities statement, it is important to have a condensed one page version that provides an overview that is easy to read and understand.

  • Get Smart About Your Target Market

The federal government is huge. Before you take a step in any direction, take a look at each agency that you are interested in working with and segment that market for “best possible customer.” This will decrease your sales cycle time and increase your likelihood of success.

  • Create, assign or hire your Federal Sales manager/VP and assign resources

Someone has to manage your federal strategy. While your VP of sales/Sales Manager should be in the loop, he or she will be just like a sales rep and gravitate towards what they know and what is easy.

Did we mention that Federal Strategy Development is included in the isiFederal Turn-Key Business Development solution?

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