5 Tips on How to Market to Government Agencies

Many businesses have lost their private sector work. Businesses with any relation to real estate were hit hard by the recession. These businesses include real estate brokers and agents, construction concerns, interior designs, architects, land surveyors, civil engineers, and building permit expeditors. I went to a doctor visit and my doctor was hit hard too. When her clients got laid off, they no longer had health insurance. A lot of my colleagues in the insurance industry were hit hard too because insurance was dropped by many as they trimmed their budgets. Therefore, going after government work may be the only viable option to survive this down economy.

My business Lemongrass Consulting helped with zoning applications, community outreach, and permitting large commercial private sector building developments. We were hit hard in 2008 and shifted gears in 2009. I turned to teaching business law and contracting. I re-engineered and turned my firm toward offering customized, affordable strategic plans to small businesses. I now teach government contracting for the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).

Here are five (5) tips for going after government sector work:

1. Develop a strategy – Based on work you enjoyed doing in the past, figure out the type of work you want to do and with what government agencies. You do not want to shot gun your approach and bid on anything that comes your way. You want to be credible. You want to do work that you will likely deliver on time and within budget because you love what you are doing. Given your past work experiences in product sales or service offerings, figure out which agencies buy what you sell. Also, make the agencies that have a nexus to your background a priority.

For example, if you served in the military, then military bases should be a priority if they buy what you sell. My background is in planning – urban, transportation, community outreach, strategic planning. So, government agencies with planning departments are ideal. With respect to transportation, more specifically, agencies in the transportation horizontal construction of road and bridge work are ideal.

Your strategic plan can be as simple as a list of government agencies to target. Start close to home and branch out – your city, county, state agencies, and federal agencies. Target about 5 agencies at first and then branch out.

2. Aggressively go after work – Armed with your strategic list of government agencies to target, look for bid opportunities and forecasts of purchases that they intend to buy. If you do not bid on work, you will never win a government contract. You must be appropriately aggressive in going after government work. You have to read bid solicitations and follow through by preparing bids for submittal. You also need not wait until a bid opportunity is advertised. Drill down through each target agency and figure out what type of work you want to help them with or which products you sell that they will likely buy. Then offer those products and services to the agencies. Send them print materials and emails and make offers.

3. Build relationships – This is the most important part of government contracting. It is all about people. Once you stop focusing on contracts and dollars coming in, and begin to see contracting officials people with real world people needs, then you can build the kind of relationships you need to have to do well in government contracting. Just like you, each contracting official has a name, maybe a family, they have a past, and they have future aspirations. Get to know them. Ask for face to face appointments or conference calls and chat. One of my mentors told me that I needed to learn how to hang out. He hangs out and network at trade functions, on the golf course, and at parties. You have to make time to build a network of people you can count on for leads and assistance.

4. Follow up – As you build relationships with government officials, follow through on any leads they give you. They may tell you to talk with a prime that already has a contract with them. Perhaps this will lead to subcontracting work for you. They may tell you which end users to meet – e.g. department heads or project managers. You need to make sure you are reaching decision makers. For services, find out how vendor selections are made and who have typically sat on selection committees. For products, you want to get to know the contracting officials, the purchase card holders, and the end users with budget. These are individuals that you need to get to know.

5. Show appreciation – Whenever someone helps you, be sure to thank them. Be careful about gift giving to make sure you do not break any rules.

Speaking of rules, you need to study the rules of the game of government contracting. You cannot play a game when you do not know the rules. So, you should be sure to take government contracting classes to learn more about vendor registrations, certifications for set aside work, and other topics.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Contact Clovia at http://tinyurl.com/32cqcj9 or follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans

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4 Responses to “5 Tips on How to Market to Government Agencies”

  1. Pam Lawhorne Says:

    Clovia –

    This is really helpful information and I will actually be sharing this with my networking page on FB: http://www.facebook.com/pamela.lawhorne.networking . One more thing you may want to add is that people seek their certifications. My firm is SBE, MWBE & even HUB certified and I constantly get bombarded with offers of work or to subcontract.

    Thanks again for the information.

    Pam

  2. Mark Daniels Says:

    That entry was extremely informative! As a plant engineer at parcel distribution center, I do need to begin thinking outside of the box and strengthen contacts in government.I feel my talents are being wasted and can do much better. Government contracting sounds very challenging. Your website and advice was just what I needed. Thanx.

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