The first thing to know to prevent your procurement strategy from turning into a money pit is to make following the money a consistent part of your process. We won’t be getting into those tools today but feel free to check out our recent blog post for ideas on what tools to use.
Mistake #1: Incomplete Profiles
Why is this so important?
Your System for Award Management (SAM) and Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) profiles are two of the most important examples that come to mind. These systems serve as a tool that allows businesses to be visible to the government and primes during the market research phase of the procurement cycle.
Omitting pertinent information like Product Service Codes (PSC) or, more importantly, keywords, references, and a capability narrative could cost you an opportunity without you even being aware.
Make sure your registration and profiles are robust. If you need assistance, your local PTAC (APEX Accelerators) can provide no-cost support in these areas – among many others.
Mistake #2: Waiting for Solicitations
While solicitations play a significant role in the government contracting acquisition process, there is much to be said about relationships in this game. How will you gain the intel you need to win if you’re not building them?
Sitting around on SAM or Unison waiting for that perfect solicitation is a long shot for getting your first contract. Your more well-established competitors have had time to build and refine their processes and teams and likely have more resources.
Instead, follow the money. Reach out to those who have recently purchased your products/services and introduce yourself with your capability statement. Before the meeting, be sure you’ve reviewed the procurement forecast and can speak intelligently to any upcoming requirements. Have your questions ready. There is a way to pose questions that demonstrate you’re well-prepared.
Mistake #3 – Having a Poor (or No) Online Presence
This mistake is common and is similarly related to #1 when it comes to being found during the market research phase of the procurement cycle. Many do not realize, but when the pandemic forced many businesses to close their doors, the government found itself short on sources to engage in procurements. It forced them to go outside SAM to find commercial contractors to meet their needs. They became more active on social media, especially LinkedIn.
Even if you do not have a fancy website with expensive SEO, there are simple (and free) ways to attract your targeted audience. Take your LinkedIn profile, for example. If you have done your due diligence, your tagline will be a compilation of your core competencies to ensure that you are found on or off LinkedIn. Replicate the same on your business page. Check out our blog post for more on this subject.
Mistake #4 – Time Mismanagement
I have heard it time and time again. Most of your time is spent performing Go/ No Go analysis on the hundreds of duplicate solicitations you receive from multiple sources. Time to sift through each system. Time to rule out those which do not apply. Time to evaluate for viability. Time to prepare your response. To MAYBE win?
How many agency events like Industry Days have you attended this year? Any networking events? How many introductory emails have you sent with your capability statement to build relationships? How many capability briefings were you able to execute? Excluding these activities can become costly.
Every moment spent IS money. Spend it wisely and balance your calendar between solicitations and relationships. If you need help finding them, you can always join our GovCon Events calendar at no cost.
Mistake #5 – “Blind” Bidding
Well, sure. You have read the solicitation. Maybe even read it three times. You are positive you can meet the requirements of the scope. You start preparing your response. The reading alone was quite a time investment; now, you must figure out how to formulate your response and do better than the competitors.
Is it a recompete or a new requirement? Have you met with the customer and had an understanding of what the pain points are? Have you performed a competitive analysis? Do you know how to differentiate yourself from the “likely suspects” you will be bidding against? What do they charge for these products/services?
Onto pricing, you go. The matrices look familiar; you know where to put your pricing. Is the solicitation calling for a Firm Fixed Price (FFP) or Time and Materials (T&M)? What is your calculated overhead, fringe, and G&A?
You do not have time before the deadline, so you wing it, submitting anyway. You lose to the incumbent. You need to take advantage of the debriefing, but you have concerns about the feedback because you know you rushed through it.
In a proper Go/ No Go analysis, some of these questions post exist and likely are accompanied by at least a dozen others. If this is skipped or you have yet to develop one, you may as well tally up the hours you spent from start to finish, calculate that by your hourly rate, and chalk it up as a loss.
If you are a service provider and have yet to calculate your costs, how can you come in competitively in your pricing? To answer all of these questions is an investment of time in itself. The reality is that your competitors spotted this a while ago on the procurement forecast and have been working diligently to investigate and collect as much intel as possible while formulating their requirements from the last solicitation.
You may have heard before, “If you see the solicitation on SAM, you are too late.” While that is only sometimes true, the above scenario is a prevalent example in the services space. Waiting for solicitations is taking the reactive approach, while newer companies penetrate the market even sooner than the “18-24 months” historical industry standard. Those companies know the importance of the investigation.
Avoiding these common pitfalls is impossible if you are still a small team, or so it may feel. You likely have recently started hiring or are still a solopreneur. Either way, you are far from having a “color team.”
Suppose you have more money than you do time to figure it all out yourself. In that case, you might consider hiring a specially trained virtual assistant. Delegate a role for data entry in SAM for entity registration and compliance. Maybe assist you in market research and investigative tasks. Build your projection model, schedule meetings for opportunities spotted on the procurement forecast, sift through solicitations, perform preliminary Go/ No Go analysis, etc. All while you are learning yourself through 1:1 training. It can be much less expensive than hiring a six-figure salaried employee.