Government contracting is continually changing. Either you learn to adapt or the opportunities pass you by. Today, we are looking at ways successful government contractors have managed to stay on top of their market. It is suggested that you start by adapting one lesson at a time.

Political impasses, sequestration, debt ceilings, continuing resolutions, and government shutdowns are continually impacting the government marketplace. Our government politicians are always posturing and finger-pointing with the result being to avoid any long-term solutions.  So, they continue to delay any decisions until they get caught between a rock and a hard place.  How does this impact a government contractor?

With all the negatives mentioned above, how are some contractors winning new contracts and successfully growing their business? Let’s find out. Our first lesson is on managing your pipeline.

Manage Your Pipeline by eliminating targets outside your core competencies is our first lesson.

As a government contractor, you need to manage your contract opportunity tracking system.  Most contractors don’t have an issue will too little opportunities.  Instead, their problem is too many opportunities.  It is best to review your pipeline early and often and eliminate a solicitation before adding another one.

As a result, it is better to track fewer opportunities than to lose track of solicitations because you are chasing more than you can monitor.  It is essential to have a strict contract selection criterion and stick to it.  Never make any exceptions. The second lesson is on targeting your approach.

Your Approach Must Be Targeted is our second lesson.

Even if you have a manageable pipeline, you still need to have a targeted approach. One of the biggest mistakes new or less successful contractors makes to be all things to all people to hedge their bets.  This approach rarely works.

Instead, select your targets conservatively and cautiously.  It is better to have three bids in your core competencies than to have twenty proposals that are all over the place. The next lesson is on teaming partners.

Don’t Go It Alone is our third lesson.

Small and new government contractors should find teaming partners that match their business culture.  Matching business cultures allows the parties to spread the risk and extend their experience.  Thus, giving small contractors the vital experience needed to grow their company.

The Government has changed its mindset over the years and now looks favorably on teaming arrangements.  It is vital to put the best team together for the solicitation. With that said, I would like to add a word of caution.  Make sure that you test this relationship on a small contract before pursuing a larger contract.  Make sure that you have selected the best teaming partner. Our next lesson is on accountability.

Accountability Assignments.

Many contractors have business development, capture managers, proposal managers, and others that are involved in preparing the proposals.  But you need one more thing.  You need to appoint a devil’s advocate contrarians.

I am not talking about unprofessional rants, but rather the devil’s advocate personnel to challenge conventional wisdom.  They help the team avoid unsubstantiated claims.  Please don’t consider them an enemy for your proposal team.  On the contrary, they are to ensure that every request can be substantiated. The next lesson is on staying away from last-minute opportunities.

Stay Away from Pop Up Opportunities.

When contractors evaluate a proposal, they consider whether they can perform the contract.  That is the wrong question to be asking.  What you should be asking is can you Win the work? 

Chasing pop up opportunities without considering the chances of winning the contractor is a mistake that new contractors make all the time.  It is more than you can perform the work.  Have you evaluated the actual problems faced by the customer?  I am talking about the issues the customer is facing.  The RFP may not contain all the problems that your customer is experiencing. Do you know anything about the incumbent?  How has the incumbent performed on the contract?  When was the contract last awarded?  Has the incumbent teamed with someone to bid on this contract?

If you see an RFP and you have never met the customer, then you are too late.  You need to meet the customer and understand their mission, the problems that they face, and start to build a relationship. Don’t forget to have your teams do a proper handoff. That is our next lesson.

Team Handoff.

Your business development team needs to ensure that there is not a break down in communication between the person that captured the opportunity and the proposal manager.  In a perfect work, the capture manager has met with the customer and has a solid understanding of the requirement.  He or she knows the price points, the hot buttons, and the customer’s vision.

Once the RFP is out on the streets, the capture manager moves on.  Then the proposal manager decides to take a different approach and changes direction different than what was recommended by the capture manager.  NOT FOLLOWING THE GUIDANCE OF THE CAPTURE MANAGER IS A BIG MISTAKE!!! 

As an illustration, keep the capture manager involved in the proposal preparation as an opportunity advocate.  The capture manager’s primary role is to be on the review team, ensuring that the customer’s perspective is in mind throughout the proposal writing process.  You need to stay on strategy!

Have it in Writing is Our Seventh Lesson.

Sometimes you get caught up in the excitement of the potential contractor that you fail to protect yourself. Always have a written teaming agreement that spells out what each party’s responsibility.  There is a lot of assurances from each party, but as time passes, the deal falls to the wayside. 

For example, your proposal manager has moved on to other proposals, or worse, has left the company.  Now the operations personnel oversee the awarded contract and process the subcontracts.  The result, the subcontractor that was expecting to receive work on the contract, is bypassed altogether.  It is vital to protect yourself and your business from missed opportunities. As a result, ensure that you have an executed teaming agreement before submitting your proposal.

In Summary

The seven lessons mentioned above will help you improve your Government contracting business.  Two majors take away from the seven listed.  The first is to get all teaming agreements in Writing before submitting your proposal.  The second is to ensure that your business development teams handle each opportunity with care.  They need to communicate with the proposal team and ensure that they understand the requirements of the RFP, the customer’s needs and expectations and that you can not only perform the work but win the contract.

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