Over the years I've had lots of discussions with business leaders and industry professionals from a number of organizations on the topic of finding and winning government contracts and subcontracts. Many of these exchanges were based on the premise of my offering advice to be employed as they developed information and relationships to capture revenue-producing business.
In every case I was in "full-on sponge mode" taking in every bit of information about the situation, the conditions, the synthesized approach and, as often as possible, the outcome of the effort, whether favorable or not. Since 2004, this has shaped and sharpened my view of the landscape in such a way that much of what I learned about doing Business-to-Government from the late eighties to the mid-nineties (my B2G formative years) has changed, considerably.
Let's face it, how business is done today is very different than it was even just a few years ago. Everything from how agencies communicate with industry to how they execute buys and make the awards looks different, if you're paying attention. Here are a few examples:
- Industry Outreach - The number of organized (government-hosted) "touch" opportunities to people and organizations of substance has dwindled due to a number of factors such as the much publicized missteps by multiple agencies. Then there is the polar opposite reaction by agencies despite best efforts by OFPP and the Myth-Busting and Myth-Busting II campaigns.
- Pre-Solicitation Activities - Specifically, the use or misuse of Requests For Information (RFI) and Sources Sought Notices. Unless you pursue requirements where these are uncommon, it's likely you've experienced what I call "RFI/TMI" also referred to as "non-price RFP's" by some government contracting professionals, and trust me it's not a term of endearment. The net effect of these agency market research activities is essentially double the cost of B&P per deal for participating vendors. Since nearly every aspect of the ensuing RFP is covered in these onerous RFI's, I'm still puzzled as to how agencies justify these when their own guide book (the FAR) states "When conducting market research,
agencies should not request potential sources to submit more than the
minimum information necessary."
- Awards by Type - This is a big one because it speaks to basic understanding of what an award is, and how that type impacts if you will be eligible to submit a bid, or not. Do you really know what instrument of award is most often used by the agencies you are pursuing? This also directly ties to companies pursuing contract vehicles versus contracts. The common difference? The first entry of a "contract" normally has dollars associated with it while the first entry of a "contract vehicle" is graced by a big fat zero!
- Awards by Organization - The ultimate head-fake that seems to have increased in recent years. Yes, it is important to follow the money, but if you don't understand the need to follow the procurement based on the culture of the acquisition organization or if your customer has a tendency to send their dollars outside the walls of their own agency for buys, knowing who is spending and how much they are spending won't much matter since you will most likely be on the outside looking in, if you see the buy occur at all.
Now the answer to mitigating all of these rests with your organization's ability to collect raw data and disparate information, assess its relevance and timeliness, validate the information via trusted resources and finally, incorporate the net into organizational decision-making to increase efficiency and profitability. This is the opposite of throwing something at the wall to see what sticks and the latest fad fostered by the actions of some agencies, the infamous "protest to win."
Here's the challenge. As a community, government contractors have generally succumbed to an outbreak of apathy when it comes to information. We know it's necessary but we're completely disinterested in exerting effort to develop a plan to get the information or do anything with it once we have it. We rely on the convenience of our annual subscriptions to deliver a golden egg to our smartphones so we know what to do next. The fail experienced here is not the doing of the providers of the streamlined content access, however. It rests squarely on the backs of individuals and organizations who have not made an effort to acquire the baseline understanding of the categories and sources of information. Without it, it is very difficult to know how information can and should be used to develop the required market intelligence.
The bottom line? There is a tremendous lack of context.
Think of it as someone giving you a vial containing the cure for the common cold but forgetting to tell you which way to administer it. Taking it orally will quickly cure you, while an injection will provide no benefit. If only you understood how to use it.
These and many other reasons are why our Ethical Stalking for Government Contractors™, Guerilla Market Intelligence (for Small Federal Contractors)™ and Information To Win™ workshops continue to foster a shift in how so many look for, look at and find information to identify, qualify and win government contracts and subcontracts.
No matter the source of your information, these programs will provide the tools and understanding needed to help save your organization time and money, and achieve results.
Peace.The Chief Visionary
"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."