Whether or not contractors realize it, we’re already into the third
quarter of the federal fiscal year. Here
are three things your company should be working on now as we build toward the
all-important Q4. 1. Fill That Pipeline: Your tracking radar should be full of hits
by now, whether they’re potential projects, industry days, RFI’s, or even real
solicitations. This is the time
of year to cast your development net wide and begin vetting the projects you
have the best chance at winning.
Winnowing down the list can come later, but for now, you want a full
pipeline of potential work. 2. Meetings With Purpose: Introductory “meet and greets” should
primarily be behind you now. While some feds may still be able to sit down
and hear about your firm for the first time, it won’t be very long before they have to spend all of their time on
actual business. Your meetings with prospective
customers should be about specific solutions to specific problems. Ideally, they should be tied to opportunities
you’re tracking as well (see above).
Always know what you want out of any meeting before you go, but also
make sure you’re prepared to listen.
3. Ramp Up Your Marketing:Many companies wait until the end of the
year to market. That’s a tough time to
get your message heard – and will only likely have a tactical impact. The best marketing campaigns are strategic. They tell your message, but also establish
thought leadership, market presence and trust. These are key factors that can
help you get that critical meeting or improve a vital relationship. Get your campaign ready now so you can
launch it May or June. Essentially, your company should be building
a solid foundation now so that you’re ready to roll when business really heats
up. Take these steps and you’ll
definitely be prepared.
We’ve said it before, but it’s still true. Whether doing business with federal agencies
or anyone else, you’ve got to know the territory. A recent article in the current
“Washingtonian” magazine proves this point. Titled “I Fully Intend to Outlast These People”: 18
Federal Workers on What It’s Really Like to Work for the Trump Administration”,
the article paints a picture of the attitudes of many rank and file workers
with regard to their political bosses.
Despite the title, some of the interviewed career feds actually have
nice, or at least neutral, things to say.
It depends on the agency and, likely, the role each worker plays in
it. Information like this is vital to
developing a business approach to a federal agency. What’s
on the mind of the person you’re talking to?
What’s his/her concern?
Importantly, do they have one foot out the door, making your contact
with them of potentially diminished use? Knowing where your customer is coming from is
part of being able to develop a relationship with that person and, at a
minimum, helping you avoid land mines that could seriously impede your business
development efforts in an agency.
Conversely, if you can be a
pain-easer or problem solver, you’ve just increased your business chances, even
if the problem you helped solve is only tangentially related to the business
you came to discuss. If you
don’t know where your customer is on environmental issues like these, ask. Remember
that most people really like talking about themselves. What they have to say may help you close
Schedules consolidation, revamping OASIS and
Alliant II RFP’s, electronic commerce, and continued work on Category
Management are just some of the major, heavy lifts facing the General Services
Administration right now. Although the changes
are generally well-intended, the sheer number of actions required are likely to
place a significant burden on agency officials, potentially creating delays on
various projects. One area that could feel the
impact is the Schedules consolidation project. A delay here would not be inherently a bad
thing, however. Many contractors with
which we have spoken are hopeful that GSA does take its time on Schedules
consolidation to ensure that its own workforce is on-board with the
project. Contractors still have fresh
memories about the TDR project and how many GSA people knew less about it than
industry. The changes from Special Item
Number classifications to NAIC’s codes are just one area where contracting
officers may need additional training.
Uniform contract clauses also need to be well-understood and,
importantly, GSA leaders need to ensure that they have CO buy-in to ensure that
uniform clauses stay that way without devolving into the localized changes that
have resulted in the need for standardization in the first place. It’s a lot for GSA leadership. The bottom line for contractors is to expect
delays ahead on major initiatives even as most day-to-day work proceeds. Plan accordingly.
“People will pay more to have autonomy” was the
key quote of one government speaker at an industry event just last week
discussing the limits of shared services and the Office of Management and
Budget’s continuing push toward Category Management. While everyone likes to think that workers in
various agencies will “do the right thing” and adopt shared services and acquisition
methods, the reality is that these efforts are limited by agency culture and
people. This is potentially significant
information for government contractors.
While acquisition policy people promote one way of doing business,
officials closer to the front line know that the reality is different. Contractors, therefore, should continue to
promote the acquisition approaches they see as the best fit for a specific
situation. Similarly, customers
will likely also want to customize solutions, even if they’re buying “standard”
configurations. Two officials on the
event panel openly agreed that specific offices like to tweak solutions to meet
their own missions. Meeting the mission, whatever it
is, is seen the highest priority. As such, directives on standard solutions
and acquisition processes will only go so far. One
take-away that does support Category Management, however, is the ability for
agencies to conduct spend analysis. Contract programs that offer this feature may
continue to have an edge from that perspective, regardless of whether they’re
labeled “Best in Class” or whether individual offices configure solutions to
meet their specific needs.
Normally we’d write about the absence of
hundreds of political appointees in “permanent” roles at the end of an
administration. These, however, are not
normal times. Not only does the
high-profile churn of senior officials at the Pentagon and DHS cause a
distraction, the fact that many positions weren’t filled in these or other
agencies in the first place has left sizeable holes in the fabrics of multiple
It’s an established fact that
large numbers of feds in “acting” positions slow the pace of business. Right now there are enough “actors” in place to
film a David O. Selznick production. While senior career officials know their
agencies well and are generally quite competent, there is a limit to how much a
person in a temporary position will commit their agency to. This makes business more difficult to
conduct, no matter how good your relationships are. Unfortunately, though, there is no end in
sight. We’re in the third year of a four
year presidential term and it is unlikely that a slew of new appointees
are on the horizon. More likely
is that more and more appointees will begin to depart the closer we get to
2020. Not only does this impact
business, but positive change on policy and management issues that contribute
to the conduct of that business. Experienced contractors may be able to find ways
around, over, or under barriers to new business. Make sure your GPS is tuned up.