Contracting advice: How to take advantage of the government’s year-end buying spree


GSA Schedules can give small firms a considerable advantage in the procurement arena as the year winds down. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
July 19, 2012

As government agencies approach the end of their fiscal year, which concludes on September 30, they begin to wrap up their acquisition for the year, assess their remaining dollars, and potentially check off a few items not purchased on the year’s wish list.

Consequently, many contractors find that they can pick up a few hundred thousand dollars or even a few million dollars from various customers during this “sweep up” period. This is especially true for small businesses with special certifications.

So how can your small business capture more dollars in this fourth quarter?

Most people know that it’s more expensive to try to develop a new customer than it is to grow your business with an existing customer – and that principle holds true in the federal sector. If you have a contract that has been going well and you know the customer is satisfied with your performance, then that presents a real opportunity to see if there are other requirements in the fourth quarter that you may be able to provide that customer.

But while you are tapping existing government customers, you should also be leveraging your relationships with the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) staff at various agencies. Remind them that you have a strong interest as well as the performance capacity to be able to quickly respond to any of their customers during the fourth quarter.

“Sources sought” notices – synopses posted by agencies that state they are seeking possible sources for a project – have always been an area of opportunity, especially for small businesses, to call attention to their capabilities. But their value is enhanced during the fourth quarter.

For example, an agency that has not met its small business goals in the area of woman-owned or HUBZone companies may use “sources sought” to conduct market research to find just such a company to fill a year-end requirement.

Teaming with other businesses to jointly bid on contracts can also boost your chances to land government work, and in the fourth quarter, you need to be ready to respond quickly. Make sure your strategy is prepared and established members of your team are on board, even cooperatively co-marketing with you in order to go after work that can be shared among your team. According to American Express OPEN’s government contracting survey, teams that are involved in teaming have won 54 percent more prime contracts than the national average.

Having a GSA Schedule offers an advantage during this aggressive marketing season. The GSA Schedule enables your clients to buy easily and quickly because your performance has been evaluated and your pricing has been found to be fair and reasonable.

However, understand that during this time, there may be an expectation to discount your rates. If you already have a GSA schedule, those e-Buy announcements that automatically come your way are often an opportunity for quick captures – especially with new customers where you don’t have an established relationship.

The key to success in the fourth quarter is creating your own luck and being prepared to respond quickly. But even though time is scarce, do your homework before sending out any communications or solicitations. There is no excuse for not knowing your customer’s mission and objectives. An educated contractor is indeed a successful contractor.

Dõna Storey is the American Express OPEN Advisor on Procurement and owns a government services small business. She helps other small firms navigate the procurement process. For more information, please visit Open Forum.

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