Understanding Your Market

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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

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…

Federal Opportunity Databases & Feeders

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

We are all looking for ways to get ahead of the RFP and not be reactive to bids and opportunity databases can help us know what contracts are expiring and give us enough time to get in front of the key decision makers often a year or two in advance of the recompete. Recently I have been having a lot of discussions with folks who are looking into the opportunity databases like Deltek (now GovWin), Centurion and Bloomberg.

This is important because without some pre-proposal insight, it is often too late to have any influence or really understand the requirement fully once the opportunity hits the street. We have a rule around here, if we didn’t influence the scope, somebody else did. Sometimes that is the incumbent, sometimes it is a new player and if you have some connectivity beforehand, you can be that new player. The key is to focus on the people with decision making authority and influence.

Several of our clients have databases and monitor for opportunities. Here is the main issue they find… all of the databases concentrate on opportunities that are $500k and above AND once it hits the database radar, they let everyone know and because of the threshold. Now the big boys are paying attention and those big boys are well entrenched and have a lot more resources than most of my clients. This does not excite me.

Whenever I use any kind of analysis tool I like to look at what I call “feeders”. Using construction as an example, look at the food chain of a construction project. It starts with planning, surveying and permitting – then architects and environmental engineers – then GC’s and specialty trades – then maintenance and grounds keeping. The person responsible for the build is often the same person who starts the planning and permitting. Get to them and you not only know of an opportunity way before everyone else, you can often influence the next phase of the process.

This works in almost all industries. A few years ago we began doing market research for clients to find the “under the radar” contracts and contacts associated with those contracts. It was a pretty cool expedition and we learned a whole lot in the process. We did research for industrial battery company and used pallets as a feeder because if a customer has pallets, they need a fork lift and half of the forklifts use batteries. This gave us hundreds of buyers that would never show up on FBO or even the individual agency monitoring sites.

If you want to see how it works, you can find samples here:

Market Essentials Overview Video

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE EXCEL.xlsx

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE.pdf

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. A byproduct of this approach is identifying the firms/primes that are winning. Who could possibly be a better referral source than the federal buyer or PM who refers you to the company PM? It is a beautiful thing when you bypass all the vendor databases and get to the PM of the prime for the project. At least you have the chance to be on the short list…

What I like most is identifying the key contacts of the competitors so I can target them directly. Since most of the accounts are at risk at some point, being in front of the right people makes all the difference.

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.

Contracting Officers – Know Your Customer

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

Make it easy

Contracting officers are busy people. One thing all procurement people look for is an easy way to fulfill the obligations of the contract. If you don’t have a contract vehicle, that means a ton of work for the contracting officer. There are exceptions to this rule like an emergency contract or sole source for a unique offering but most of the time contracting officers will make it difficult to move through procurement, even if you have a strong relationship with an advocate. Read more

How Smart Are You?

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

howsmartareyouWhat do a Blood Pressure Kiosk, a Lobster Tank and Coca-Cola have in common? They, along with thousands of other purchases, were all executed by the same federal contracting officer.

How do we know this?

Great question.

It also happens that this same contractor bought Public Relations Services four times in the past year. This is especially important to ConnectUs.net.

Over the past 10 years there were 6,678 contracts for PR services totaling over $1B, is there a market there?

You better believe it.

One contracting officer bought PR services 32 times for over $9.7M and, guess what, 15 went to the same contractor with Time and Materials pricing. The other contracts were split between FOUR other contractors. Only 3 of these contracts were fixed price and all were executed on a task order which means NONE were publicly bid after the initial competition. The largest contract was $2.12M and did not require Small Business, or any other set aside participation.

Does ConnectUs.net want a piece of that work? You better believe they do.

Can you make money in the federal government? You better believe you can. It is incredible what can happen when you have a strategy that works. The beginning of the strategy is by far the most important component and can make or break your efforts.

In the private sector, we call it marketing segmentation: knowing who your best customer is. In the government, you can do the same thing – the magic is in the targeting. There are 80,000 plus contracting officers with purchasing authority to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the case above 1369 bought PR services of some kind or another, 299 bought them more than once in the last year,74 more than four times. Those are the ones you want. They are the gold nuggets. 74 is a quantifiable, manageable number that represent the top 10%. Because they have multiple applications for this service, the likelihood is much greater with these 74 that they will remember who ConnectUs.net is when they make the next purchase of PR services. That, my friend, is the name of the game.

Do you ignore the other 1200 plus contracting officers that, on any given day, may buy what you sell?

No way. But you place them in a different category otherwise you might as Stephen Covey would say “mistake activity for productivity”. We manage many different companies’ federal strategies and we can only do it by properly prioritizing our targets. First we find out know who they are and how they buy.

Imagine isiFederal doing this for you… in two weeks, you will know exactly what your priorities should be.

We would love to have you as a customer. Click here to purchase your very own intelligence package.

June 1st at 11 AM we will be conducting a SmartCEO webinar on marketing to federal decision makers. Click here to register.

MythBusters- FedBizOps

in Agency Focus, Federal Contracting, Understanding Your Market by isiFederal Leave a comment

Mythbuster: FedBizOps

Myth: Is the best place to find new opportunities really FedBizOps? If you go there right now you will find around 38,400 opportunities. Huge, right? Look closer… those 38,400 are categorized in one of the following: Presolicitation, Combines Synopsis Solicitation, Sources Sought, Modification, Sale of Surplus Property, 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 60,699 actually were posted. If 60,699 is the annual total it must mean that a huge portion of the 38,400 are not even real opportunities. That isn’t all… When you consider some were not awarded at all and about 50% of RFP’s are so heavily influenced by industry (winnable only by the contractor who assisted in writing the scope), that leaves about 2,000 – 2,500 opportunities per month – Nationwide. That is why FedBizOps is a competitive nightmare and why most companies think there is too much competition.

Last year according to isiFederal Intelligence research, 2,718,964 contracts were awarded last year with 226,000 contracts being executed every single month (now that is more like it). That means only about 1% of real opportunities actually hit the street on FedBizOps.

FedBizOps Myth… BUSTED.

Chinks in the Armor: Hitting Your Competition Where It Hurts

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

Arm Yourself

Have you done a competitive analysis to see how your competition is adapting to current market conditions? Probably not. Only about 4% of companies actually break down their competition on a regular basis to identify weaknesses and vulnerable accounts.

Only 4% of companies regularly analyze their competition for weaknesses.

Interestingly enough, the 80/20 rule applies here as well- 20% of your competitor’s accounts are solid. They trust each other, they are loyal, and contracting officers help them navigate the system – they are not going anywhere. But what about the other 80%? At any given time, 80% of their clients are at risk for some reason or another- and you can identify them.

Finding Your Rivals’ Achilles Heel

"The Chink in the Armor" | 2 | Half-mast & PS Magazine

One more vulnerability you find in your competitors’ armor is one less advantage they have over you.

Using isiFederal’s Contact and Competition Intelligence, you can know who is buying from your competition, how much they win, and how they win. For instance, if you are in the Armored Car business, and want some business with IRS, you will be up against nationwide Loomis who won ALL of the IRS contracts since January 2009. But Triple Canopy, a company not known for Armored Car services swooped in and took a $5.6M contract with the Army- an agency where Loomis had won 62 contracts over the past 9 years.

While we don’t think Fed Biz Ops is the place for finding winnable opportunities, we like the information that is available if you are tracking the bids through reward. The information is there four competition, you just need some help finding it and interpreting what the data means. Accounts that are consistently being won by a competitor are solid top 20% accounts and will require a lot of time and effort to become first choice for second place. The other 80% however, are much easier targets and will – at some point – be willing to at least entertain another option. The approach is critical to your success. Look to isiFederal to help with your introductions into accounts where you don’t have any traction.

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