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Can’t seem to gain traction marketing to the federal government?
Wondering why your federal proposals aren’t winning?
See other contractors that seem to have the inside track on upcoming procurements?
As objective as the federal procurement process is, it is still run by people and relationships still play a large role in how those people view your business. Taking the time to build relationships with a solid foundation can help your business gain traction in the federal government, earn credibility in proposal evaluations, and gain an inside track on upcoming procurements.
The start to building these solid foundations is becoming known, liked, and trusted. Consider this - as a buyer for your home, how often do you purchase products or services from a company that you’ve never heard of before? Probably infrequently if at all. How much credibility do you give to the random solicitor that comes to your door with information about their company if you’ve never heard of them before? Most likely very little.
The first step then, is to become known.
To become known in the federal government is to attempt to stand out among a sea of competitors. The U.S. Federal Government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, spending over $500 billion per year. The largest budget in the world attracts a large number of contractors seeking to earn it as their customer. This means you have to go beyond the basics and make contact beyond just submitting bids and proposals. It means knowing who’s who so that when you submit your proposal they already know who you are. How do you do that? You start emailing and calling before there’s even an RFQ on the street. You want to reach out to contracting officers, small business specialists, and program offices. Make sure they know who you are, the value you provide, and the specific difference it can make for them. Here’s the difference-maker though - you have to follow-up! A single email or call won’t make you memorable. It’s the continual follow-up and follow-through that will establish your reputation. Even if your initial emails are not responded to, send a follow-up. Contracting professionals receive a great deal of unsolicited email, it may take a few times to be recognized or responded to. Through this commitment to consistent outreach you help ensure that your business will be known within the saturated federal market.
Now that you’re reaching out to your contacts more frequently to become better known, the next step is to become liked.
Take a deep breath. This isn’t the anxiety producing middle school popularity contest that “becoming liked” may bring to mind. This is more about creating a positive impression and is rooted in the basic manners, courtesy, and preparation skills you learned in elementary school. In your new, more frequent communication, remember to be courteous. A friendly tone in an email or voicemail can change the way your message is received. Simply smiling while you are on the phone will change the way your voice sounds in a positive way. Another way to create that positive impression is to be prepared when you are able to land that meeting with the government officer. Know ahead of time the specifics of what they are buying, how you integrate with their office, and what value you provide. This makes the government’s job easier and leaves them with a positive impression after their meeting with you. The more prepared and knowledgeable you can be during your interactions with the government, the more of a positive impression you will leave with the government. This also includes responding to communications in a timely and complete manner. In each interaction, you want to show the government that it is easy to work with you. Through this commitment to intentional communication you help ensure that your reputation will be positive and your business will not only be known, but will also be liked in the federal market.
Being known and being liked is great for your relationships, but to get contracts, you also need to be trusted to get the job done.
How do you establish trust before getting the job? There are a few ways. The first is to demonstrate trust through past performance - show the government that you’ve completed projects of similar size, scope, and complexity in the past and they will be more likely to trust you to complete similar projects for them. Beyond past performance, you can earn trust by little things - responding in a timely manner to inquiries and other communications; making sure you deliver what you say you will on time, even if it is a simple email response deadline; demonstrating that you are on top of the latest developments in the industry or the latest needs of your customer. This last example is where the cycle of being known, liked, and trusted works together. As you make your periodic outreach follow-ups to your contacts, sharing relevant industry knowledge can help build trust and credibility. What industry developments can make your customer’s life easier? What technology changes will have an impact on the way your customer does business? What new products can be implemented to save your customer money? This type of information sharing and technical expertise demonstrates trust and credibility. This commitment to building credibility and trust will help your business gain that “inside track” in the federal market.
The end result of becoming known, liked, and earning trust and credibility in the federal market is that you can make yourself more competitive.
As you maintain following-up with your contacts, you increase your chances that your email will be timed when there is a new opportunity. As you establish your likability and trust, you increase your chances that contracting and program personnel will think of you as the go-to contractor when new projects are forecasted, getting that inside track into upcoming procurements. As projects move into solicitation and evaluation phases there is always an objective review of proposals, however a proposal from known and trusted entity has the potential to have more credibility than that from an unknown one. Again, think back to the example of you as a buyer for your home. The first companies we reach out to first, the first contractors we call when we have a new project at our house, the ones we give the benefit of the doubt when we are pricing against unknown companies, are the ones that we know, like, and trust.
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