Reaching Your Buyers

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How to Get Just About ANYONE to Refer You

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

Depending on the culture of an organization, some people will never give out any names. You probably already know this and you probably already know how difficult it can make things, especially when you’re just starting out.

Manufacturing referrals is a process you can use, no matter what your business is, to get to who you really need to reach. Now, this is not universal but I would like to suggest that you can get a referral from just about everyone if you keep a couple of things in mind:

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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 Key to Effective Communication? Know Thyself–and Others

in Business, Federal Contracting, Heard It Through the Fedvine: Guest Posts, Reaching Your Buyers by isiFederal Guest 1 Comment
Two weeks ago, Inc. Magazine published an article by Dr.Geil Browning on how to boost productivity by understanding the way your mind works. We thought it was pretty interesting stuff, so we asked the folks at Emergenetics what they could tell us about communication: the art and science of sending the right message.

Mark Miller had this to say.

George Bernard Shaw, famous playwright and Nobel Prize for Literature winner, once said, “The greatest problem with communication is the assumption that it has taken place.”

How true. Communication is challenging because different people hear different things. You may think you are making yourself clear, but you run the risk of being misunderstood unless you make a conscious effort to speak in a way that appeals to the way the other person thinks.
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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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Getting Ahead of the RFP

in Bidding Basics, Federal Contracting, Managing Your Proposal, Reaching Your Buyers by David Lowe Leave a comment

Positioning for an opportunity starts months, sometimes years before an opportunity reaches the RFP stage.  By the time something hits Fed Biz Ops, it is too late.  You need to be in front of the right people with the right message early so they know you are serious about competing for the business.  There are a few rules to follow when deciding to chase an opportunity:

Rule#1- If you didn’t influence the RFP, someone else did.

Rule#2- The larger the opportunity, the more influence you need.  Be realistic about what you can win right now.  Plan for competing for the larger contracts as you gain traction in an agency and have the connetivilty to affect the scope, requirements and certifications.

Rule#3- Cover as many of the decision makers as you can.  Unlike commercial procurement, in most instances there are 3 key decision makers in each opportunity.

Contracting Officer– Job is to procure

Project Manager– Responsible for assembling requirements

Technical Representative– Responsible for bridging the gap with requirements and contracting.   Every one of these people have different roles and different buying motives .  Make sure your message is tailored appropriately.

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

The Right Message

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

The message that sells, specifically – your message that sells – needs to be formulated around your customer. This is critical because a lot of buyers, especially contracting officers really don’t care how good you are at what you do. A key way to get your message across is in your capabilities statements.

I recommend two, customizable capabilities:

1) 1 page with bullet points. This doesn’t have to be sexy, it needs to be functional. Make sure all off your contact AND contract information is on there. 3 bullet points that will resonate with that agency (look at their initiatives and your competitor’s info).

Sample Federal Capabilities

2) A multiple pager with past performance and sample SOW’s. Do this right and your communication may turn into a completely baked (that means your words copied and pasted into an RFP) opportunity.

Do this right and you will win. Do it wrong and you will waste a ton of money and time plus your competition will be banking your tax money. Now, if that doesn’t motivate 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

 

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

The Psychology of the Federal Sale

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

The Psychology of the Federal Sale

Every single thing you do is advancing (or not advancing) a sale. Maybe it is selling the meeting, a follow-up or your actual product or service. The important thing to know is where you are relative to your buyer’s buying motives.

Think about the federal buyer for a moment… What are some of the stereotypes that come to mind? Write them down and you have a great foundation of the make-up of a federal buyer and what they need from you…

If you are a typical business person frustrated with government bureaucracy and inefficiency, did you know that you probably are projecting those negative thoughts in your phone conversations and maybe even in person?

How? We as humans “can’t not” project these things subconsciously because we believe them. That is why we need to be careful about our belief structures and what we are projecting. In fact, if we understand what makes the federal buyers buy, then we can project the solutions to that and they will receive these positive reinforcements to their buying motives- and it all happens subconsciously.

Hard to believe right? Well think about this for a moment… How is it that you and your best friend can finish each other’s sentences, move the same way, act the same way without any scripting? It all revolves around rapport and rapport starts, or doesn’t start within milliseconds of meeting or talking with someone. You know it happens because sometimes you just “click” and other times you can’t seem to generate a connection.

Now, when it comes to federal buyers, there are two important components to understand. First, where are you right now, and second where are they and what are their buying motives.  Federal buyers are not complicated, they are just like you – they want things to be easy.  That doesn’t mean they don’t work, they just don’t want to have to do extra work to buy from you.  So, if you can help them trim the work load, you are golden!

3 Golden Nuggets

Provide them with sample scopes of work that they can use in their next procurement.   Provide them with Sample Standard form 1445 filled out with the appropriate boxes filled, ready to go with item descriptions and all.

Provide them with your certifications- especially the ones that help them like small business, 8(a) and SDVOSB.

If you get into their world and understand what they do, you can positively change your belief structure and become more aligned with them – generating real rapport.

Key Contacts

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

Every day I am asked about key contacts in specific industries.  Why? Because there are over 80,000 federal buyers with authority to purchase and there are probably a few hundred that purchase what you sell on a regular basis.  Your proactive efforts should be focused on key contacts that are in line with your capabilities and past performance.

When we started isiFederal, it was critical to me that we be able to identify high probability targets.  Sure, you can track an opportunity but that can take up to 5 years before that comes around again with that buyer.  What about the other 25,000 or contracts that will be executed in that time period?  Who handles those? How can you find them?

Great questions.  The answer revolves around power.  Power is money and budget is king.  Nobody in DC or anywhere in the federal government wants to lose a dime of budget.  It is clear in year end use it or lose it spending and it is evident in the contracts that you want to compete for.  If the agency spent $100 Million last year, they will do it again this year and who do you think will be spending that money?  That’s right, the same people as last year.

We have developed an advanced intelligence that sifts through the contract information and compiles a complete report of information that is pertinent for your company. Most importantly we cross reference the contracts with the contacts responsible.  This gives us the contacts in context with your company’s strengths and capabilities. Here is a sample of what we have done, see what you think…

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