FY2018 Lessons Learned

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Every year people call me in August with the request “Get me some of the September Money!” I say sure! For September 2019… You see, we learned a long time ago that the incumbent and proactive competitors have a HUGE advantage in September because they have been working the relationships for months and sometime years.

Now is the time to reflect on your federal efforts of 2018.

Question 1: I would have won more if…

I had bid more
I knew who was buying what I sell
I knew before the RFP came out
I had influence on the RFP scope

Most companies look to the number of bids. I say don’t bid if you don’t have a winning angle. Think about this… The incumbent has been working that client for a year, maybe 5 or more years. They know the systems, they know the key players and chances are their finger prints are all over the RFP – They have a winning angle.

Does that mean you should just let them have it? Absolutely not. But you better get your own winning angle.  Make no mistake, you winning means displacing the incumbent or a qualified competitor.

Every successful strategy starts with identifying your market. I say, let your competitors define your marketplace. Federal competitors don’t exist without a contract, contracts have dollars associated, and dollars have contracting officers associated and contracting officers are the purchasing arm of the program managers who both work for an Agency.

Question 2: Who wrote the most contracts with my competitors?

For the past 12 years I have been analyzing data, parsing obfuscated information and compiling market segments. The government doesn’t make it easy either – if they did, I would be out of a job.

There are a myriad of data points in the government FPDS, SSQ, SBA, USAspending, GSA, Agency forecasts, P-cards etc. After all, the US federal government is the largest organization on earth. Maybe they intentionally obfuscate data, maybe they just can’t seem to get their hands around it all, either way – the information is not usable in its provided state.

Sometimes you can see what company won and how much. But who was behind that purchase? That is what I want and what competitors need. Is there a list of buyers? Nope. Is there a list of Program Managers? Nope. Even if there were a list, it would be irrelevant because there are over 80,000 contracting officers, 180,000 P-card (credit card) holders and 2.7 Million federal employees.

You need to know who is in your space, specifically, who is buying from your competition. This will help you answer questions 3 and 4. Before we get to those questions, I want to lay out a little insider information that helps me know who matters most. The federal forecasts and budgets are all based on dollars – important, but not the driver. The driver is activity, dollars and average contract size. I take activity over dollars because that shows me that they will buy again, and again. I look for dollars associated with specific competitors because I know that I can compete against that competitor, or maybe I can’t compete against that competitor and I don’t want to waste my time. Finally, I look for contract size so I know it if that buyer is buying my sweet spot. This effectively eliminates 99% of the 80,000+ buyers – 750 top buyers in my space.

Question 3: If I know who the buyers are, how do I get to them?

This is where the small business liaison is supposed to help. The concept is the OSBU or OSDBU is supposed to connect you to these people – most of them, won’t, don’t or can’t for a variety of reasons that I prefer to leave for another day since it raises my blood pressure watching quality companies jump on this useless hamster wheel. Suffice it to say we need a better way to get noticed.

Three successful strategies in getting in front of are:

  • Personal introductions
  • Establishing yourself as a Subject Matter Expert (SME)
  • Pure unadulterated tenacious grunt work

The most successful strategies incorporate all three of these elements consistently and so should your 2019 strategy. This is where isiFederal lives. We introduce, make you look good and stay after these people to get you remembered in September. Which September? All of them. The cycle never stops because the competitive landscape, internal buyers, external budgets and market conditions are constantly changing.

We will be discussing all of these concepts and tactics during our “Getting Ahead of RFPs 2019”. We would love to have you participate. Bring questions, issues and requests as it is an open forum for discussion. Looking forward to seeing you there!

in Federal Contracting by Aisha H. Leave a comment
About the author: Aisha H.

Aisha has been working exclusively in the federal market space with isiFederal, providing research and finance expertise in addition to being the Business Process Manager and assistant to CEO. She's no stranger to unpredictable, demanding environments--her past work experience includes auditing, teaching English at the Berlitz School of Language, and working for the Grand Hyatt in Dubai.

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