The federal fiscal year 2016 draws to a close on Sept. 30. GPN reached out to Jennifer Schaus to get her views on how contractors can land federal sales as federal buys accelerate at this time each year. Schaus is principal of Washington, D.C.-based Jennifer Schaus & Associates. Here are Schaus’ views.

Thousands of federal government contractors are gearing up for the fourth quarter, July-September. This is the most competitive period in an already over crowded sector. It’s Uncle Sam’s “Hunger Games” as many contractors rely on these sales to stay alive.

Because federal government agencies must spend their full budget by the end of the fiscal year, or risk losing it the following year, the purchasing frenzy begins. How can companies distinguish themselves to be at the top of the list? Several factors come into play and there is no silver bullet.

The real winners in contracting have many common characteristics, most notably - grit. They have been hard at work day and night, attending Agency Industry Days and networking events, as well as staying on top of new regulations and sector nuances by attending classes at the local PTAP (Procurement Technical Assistance Program). They have entered into Mentor-Protégé contracts, teaming agreements and sub-contracts with major Primes. They have obtained small business certifications for HUBZone, SBA 8(a) and SDVO (Service Disabled Veteran Owned) to be more attractive to the government buyers. Additionally, the real winners have made it easy for the federal government to purchase from them by securing a contract vehicle such as a GSA Schedule or other agency-wide vehicle.

The winners also have a strategic business plan - specific to their offering – identifying 3 or 4 agencies where they have the greatest propensity to win, with the best margins. They have become partners to the Program Managers, built on-going relationships and gained the trust of the risk-averse government with proven past performance.  This takes time. There are still many one-hit wonders - especially in an LPTA (Lowest Price Technically Acceptable) environment that unfortunately allows novice firms to swim in the deep end. This typically ends up costing the government more with under-performing service providers or faulty products.

The critical component to government contracting success is simple.  It’s leveraging basic fundamentals. It’s hard work. And again, it’s grit.  There may be set-asides contracts, but there are no handouts because of those contracts. Federal officials often state that they have plenty of certified set-aside business, yet what is missing is the proven past performance. Once you have that credibility as a trusted partner, you will be on the top of the short list and get “the call” not only in Q4, but throughout the federal fiscal year.

Jennifer Schaus & Associates is a boutique government contracts consulting firm in Washington, DC.  The company provides support services and solutions for government contractors including training & workshops, GSA Schedules, proposal writing, federal sales and more. Global clients include Fortune 500 Firms, publically traded companies as well as small, mid-size and emerging market companies. For more information, go here.

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