Editor’s note: Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) around the U.S. can be a big help to businesses that want to start selling to government agencies and winning government contracts.

A total of 98 Procurement Technical Assistance Centers – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace.

GPN reached out to Jane Dowgwillo to find out what strategies work in winning government business as the federal fiscal year 2017 draws to a close on Sept. 30. Dowgwillo is program manager of the Florida PTAC and president of the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC). Jane Dowgwillo’s views are below.

Much is made of the government’s fourth quarter spending spree, as federal agencies rush to “use” their appropriated funds before they “lose” them at the end of the fiscal year. Contractors hoping to capture some of these dollars would be wise to focus on fundamentals and leverage all the resources available to them — resources such as those offered by Procurement Technical Assistance Centers.

If you’re not familiar with the PTAC program, you’re missing out on a tremendous source of help, much of which is free of charge. PTACs are funded through cooperative agreements between the U.S. Department of Defense and state/local governments, educational institutions, or non-profits expressly for the purpose of helping local businesses succeed in government contracting. Your PTAC can help you determine if there are end of the year contract opportunities for your business—and how to pursue them.

Which brings us back to fundamentals. There are no tricks or shortcuts in government contracting; success comes from identifying a government buyer who needs what your company sells and demonstrating that you can provide the best product and price. Key components of this process include:

--Market research: A critical first step is to identify the agency buyer(s) most likely to need what your company offers. From there, understanding the quantities they buy, their buying cycle, and past suppliers (as well as other potential competitors) will allow you to anticipate upcoming opportunities and be prepared to submit a competitive bid proposal. A number of government-sponsored and private online databases, including FBO.gov, USAspending.gov, and the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) — to name just a few — deliver a wealth of information to guide your short- and long-term strategies.

--Marketing: Do you have materials on-hand that compellingly make the case for your company, specific to the needs of your targeted buyer(s)? Do you know how to get that information in front of the agency buyers who need to see it? Each piece of your marketing program — from a written capability statement, to your company website and social media presence, to face-to-face opportunities at Industry Days and Matchmaking events —presents a powerful impression of your company and its capabilities. Having each of these pieces in place helps ensure that your bid proposals receive serious consideration.

--Proposal Preparation: Fourth quarter purchasing has a hard deadline. As a result, solicitations often have a short turn-around, and contracting officers are unlikely to waste time considering a proposal that isn’t fully responsive. You must be prepared to understand every line in the solicitation and respond specifically and substantively.

PTACs can help small contractors with each of these tasks and more. They can guide you in the advanced, fine-grained market research needed to find the opportunities – both for prime contracts and possible teaming partners – and set you up with a bid-matching service that delivers opportunities specific to your company directly to your email inbox.

They can make sure you are ready to put your best foot forward to buyers, by helping you develop an effective capability statement, advising you on your web presence, and alerting you to opportunities to get in front of buyers and network with potential teaming partners. And not only can a PTAC counselor help you understand a solicitation and review your proposal to make sure you are being responsive, when you’re awarded a contract, he or she can assist you with post-award compliance issues such as reporting and proper invoice preparation.

Whether you are experienced in the federal marketplace or just pursuing your first contract, a PTAC can help. To learn more about the PTACs and find the one nearest you, visit www.aptac-us.org, the website of our national organization, the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC).

Editor's note: GPN will be spotlighting government buying and selling opportunities as the end of the federal fiscal year approaches. The topic will be discussed in a series of four Use It or Lose It e-newsletters that will be deployed in July and August before the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept 30, 2017.

Please email michael.keating@penton.com if you'd like to submit a commentary on what federal buyers and contractors need to do before the end of the federal fiscal year, the federal marketplace or similar topic. Go here for a sample issue of the free Use It or Lose It e-newsletter.

In the video, view tips to help you register in GSA's System for Award Management (SAM) to be eligible for federal government contracts and grants. The video is brought to you by Procurement Technical Assistance Centers around the U.S.

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