SBA Small Business Goals

SBA Small Business Goals

SBA Small Business Goals

Which agencies focus on hitting Small Business Goals?

SBA Small Business Goals
Most companies look at the current year or previous year and ask themselves, “Which agencies use my socio-economic status?” RSM Federal recommends that you look at this from a multi-year perspective; to see trends in the market for the respective agencies. These tables contain the major agencies as tracked by SBA.

But important point – just because an agency didn’t meet their percentage, doesn’t mean they have failed to support small business. For example, in 2017, DoD hit 22.5% of it’s overall small business goal. It’s red because the goal is 23%. Yes, they missed their target by .5% but that’s still more than $50 Billion that went to small businesses!

Clearly DoD works with small business. So don’t simply take the results from the SBA Small Business Goals and make a decision. Use this information in combination with the agency’s propensity (for what you sell – who buys, how much to do they buy, and how often do they buy it) before identifying which agencies should be on your annual target list.

To pull and consolidate this data into a usable format takes a true masochist (or someone with passion and patience 🙂



Small Business Goals

sba small business goals 2007 to current

 

Woman Owned Small Business Goals

sba wosb goals 2007 to current

 

8(a) Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Goals

sba 8a minority goals 2007 to current

 

The Government Sales Manual

Book on Government Sales - How To Sell To The Government

 

Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Goals

sba sdvosb goals 2007 to current

 

Veteran Owned Small Business Goals

sba vosb goals 2007 to current

 

HUBZone Small Business Goals

sba hubzone goals 2007 to current

 


We can help you win more business

If you’re not sure what direction to go
– or –
you know exactly what you need, let’s talk.

Questions?

Win Government Contracts – A Case Study

A Case Study On How To Win Government Contracts

How To Win Government ContractsIf you’re like most business owners that want to learn how to win government contracts or win small business contracts, you have probably already spoken to several non-profits in your local region who are funded to help small businesses win small business contracts.

You’ve also probably already attended a handful of conferences and expos, paid for a couple of webinars, or purchased a dozen government books on how to win government contracts.

Yet, a very large number of companies have yet to crack the code on how to win government contracts and increase their sales.

Last year, RSM Federal started working with a company that wanted to learn how to win government contracts. If you’ve visited www.rsmfederal.com, you’ve seen hundreds of testimonials and this is from one of them. However, we don’t want to impact their competitive position in the market. So for the purpose of this article, we’ll simply call this company Axim Technologies. Axim is small business and SBA 8a Certified with eight employees.

Preparing to win small business contracts

When we first started working with Axim Technologies, they were focused on commercial sales. They had a basic understanding of how to sell to the government but with little success. They spent a year working with various counselors but did not win any contracts.

One of our clients told them to call us. We started working together and during the first three months, we helped Axim Technologies with the following:

  1. Two-day onsite Master Series Government Workshop tailored specifically to their company and the services they provide. Many coaching and consulting firms provide workshops on how to win government contracts.
  2. Researched and identified which government agencies buy what they sell, how much they buy, and how often they buy it. An overview of these tools is outlined in the article Government contract data – where to search.
  3. Designed and built a government marketing, prospecting, and sales strategy
  4. Developed a relationship and communication strategy
  5. Facilitated website updates with a detailed government landing page
  6. Recommended a CRM review for pipeline management
  7. Provided all templates, tools, and step-by-step strategies via the Federal Access platform.

The Capability Statement

Anyone that has targeted the government for three months has been told, “You need a capability statement.” It’s simply a one page marketing slick. What’s unfortunate is that most counselors and consultants treat the capability statement as a critical sales tool. It’s not. It’s important but your focus is not the products or services you sell. It’s communicating the value your solutions provide to your clients.

You’ll notice that a capability statement is not specifically listed in the bullets above. Yes, we helped them with their capability statement but the capability statement is a byproduct of the other activities. RSM Federal runs a platform called Federal Access. It has more than half a dozen templates for your capability statement. Don’t pay a consultant hundreds of dollars to do it for you.

All of the above activities included dozens of sub-activities but that’s not the focus of today’s article. What’s important are the results and how the integration of the above activities were designed to achieve success.

First we’ll outline the results and then we’ll discuss how the integration of these activities opened new doors and provided competitive advantage.

The results

  • Built a government sales strategy based on who buys their solutions, how often they buy, and how much they spend.
  • A government sales strategy that included a list of companies with prior government contracts for teaming.
  • The sales strategy included:
    • Target list for government agencies and government teaming partners;
    • How to communicate value, differentiation, and commercial and / or government past performance;
    • How to price and differentiate their proposals.
  • Developed a prospecting plan that focused on pre-acquisition (before RFPs or RFQs are released).
  • Developed new messaging to communicate expertise in the federal market and their industry that provided a solid perception of maturity, expertise, and trust.
  • In the first eight months they exceeded their annual quota by 43%.
    • Awarded two contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs, their largest federal contracts to date.
    • Awarded a contract with the Department of Defense.
    • Joined a team that was awarded a $5 Billion government wide acquisition contract (GWAC).

In little more than six months after initiating their sales strategies, how did Axim Technologies win these these large and small business contracts?

How to win government contracts

Axim Technologies did not simply go to their local small business counselor to learn “how to sell” to the government to win small business contracts. They stopped responding to every RFP or RFQ they saw on FedBizOpps and did not overly rely on the emails they received every morning from their bid-matching system.

These are the reasons why so many companies fail to successfully win small business contracts. Yet, this is exactly what most companies are told to do.

Most companies have great solutions. The problem is  that they don’t understand the market, don’t have the necessary strategies, and are unable to “apply what they’ve learned.”

Unlike most companies, Axim Technologies focused on the strategies, not bid-matching systems or capability statements, to win government contracts.

If it were as simple as meeting with a small business counselor or searching Google, everyone would successfully win government contracts.

Successful companies immerse themselves in understanding the market and picking the right strategies to differentiate and communicate competitive advantage.

What Axim Technologies learned in the workshop was streamlined and built into their business development activities. Axim Technologies’ value and the strategies they utilized were integrated across their public-facing tools and platforms. This only took two months to implement.

Before Axim Technologies took these steps, the president of the company set a sales quota of $300,000 for government sales. It was RSM Federal’s responsibility to help them get there. Government sales was still a new concept.

In the first eight months, they won $430,000 in government contracts.

While other companies sell what they sell, the approach to how they differentiated and communicated their value was more important.

It’s more than simply creating a government capability statement, updating your website, having a government landing page, or writing proposals. Success is based on how you communicate the value that your products or services provide.

Contacted by Department of Veterans Affairs

Three months ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs reached out to Axim about two small business contracts. We strategized on how to position and win these opportunities.

Although the incumbent had performed outstanding work, the acquisition strategy did not allow the incumbent to compete for the follow-on contracts.

We called the incumbent (who was less than thrilled to hear from us). However, we developed a strategy that proved to be successful and mutually beneficial. When Axim Technologies negotiated with the incumbent, they provided a win-win solution.

Axim Technologies was willing to give-up revenue that most companies would never consider. However, it guaranteed an exclusive teaming agreement. The competition lost access to the incumbent.  Axim won both small business contracts.

In this case, it’s less about what you sell and more about how you position with the government and with your teaming partners.

How did the government contracting officer know to call Axim Technologies? Axim had been talking to the government for the past three months as part of their sales strategy.

Contacted by a NASA SEWP Prime Contractor

Then something happened that became the genesis for today’s article. An incumbent NASA SEWP contractor, one of only 45 primes on the contract, reached out to Axim. SEWP was being recompeted. There was a requirement in the RFP that was new and the prime needed to add a new subcontractor to the team.

Why did they contact Axim Technologies? Because Axim’s website communicated a mature understanding of the federal market. That was the start. That same day, a conference call was scheduled and the very first question Axim asked was “Are you formally asking us to be a sub-contractor on SEWP?” They said yes.

Within 24 hours, the two companies signed a teaming agreement for one of the largest GWACs in the government market. Their website and how it differentiated Axim’s value was critical.

The ability to communicate in government terms was critical. When they asked Axim if they had the capability to do the work, the answer was more than yes. . . it was “of course. It’s very similar to work we did for a commercial client last month.

It’s more than simply what you sell. It’s how you position. You need to communicate actual and perceived maturity as an organization. The team that Axim joined won the contract and is now competing on task orders.

Why did the prime contractor look at Axim’s website? They were doing due diligence on potential teaming partners because Axim had already reached out to them. It was part of their teaming strategy. That’s how you win government contracts.

Educate Yourself Beyond The ‘Basics’

There are many companies that understand the basics of winning small business contracts, attend a few government events and webinars, and still “don’t know what they don’t know. . .

It’s less about what you sell and more about how you position with the government and your teaming partners.

The most important thing you can do to learn how to win government contracts is to educate yourself. You need to go beyond the basic “how to do business with the government.”

The basics of selling to the government are provided by several dozen organizations, many of which are free services. They all provide solid value. Selling to the government and giving yourself a higher than average chance for success requires more than a basic understanding.

Education is a common business paradigm regardless of market or industry. It requires immersion and utilization of proven techniques and strategies. These include prospecting and sales, marketing, teaming, proposal development, and back-office operations.

If you want to see all the templates and sales strategies that Axim tailored for their business, you’ll want to check out Federal Access.

It starts with the owner. It comes down to business acumen. If you become a student of government sales, you’re likelihood of learning how to win government contracts will be much higher. When you wonder how a specific company became successful. . . now you know. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to talk to us.

 


We can help you win more business

If you’re not sure what direction to go
– or –
you know exactly what you need, let’s talk.

 

Talk To Us


###

Joshua Frank is the Founder and Managing Partner of RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that represents small and large businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to win government contracts. For more information and videos about RSM Federal, please visit www.rsmfederal.com

Market Your Government Small Business Certifications

You Don’t Win Government Contracts With Your Certification. . .

How To Market Your 8a Certification - RSM FederalSmall business certifications, including 8a certification (for socially and economically disadvantaged), woman owned small business (WOSB), veteran owned small business (VOSB), service disabled veteran owned small business (SDVOSB) and Hubzone – are all powerful differentiators. But that’s it. They are only differentiators.

My team has worked with thousands of companies and this is a common challenge and misconception.

Tell me if this sounds familiar?

  • Business cards where the logos for your woman-owned, veteran-owned, HUBZone, or 8a certification is just as large as your corporate logo?
  • When you look at the homepage of your website, your small business certifications, your socio-economic statuses, have logos that are built into the top graphic of your homepage or they are elsewhere on the page… and they are at least an inch in diameter?
  • Your capability statement (line card, project list, marketing slick, etc.) shows logos for your WOSB or 8a certification at the top of the page where it’s the first thing you see when you look at it.
  • Your website and marketing materials start with, “We’re a small woman-owned business that provides…” or “We’re an 8a, veteran-owned small business that provides…”
  • When you walk into a meeting with a prospect or potential teaming partner, you start your 45 second introduction with “We’re an 8a or woman owned or service disabled veteran owned… etc.”

In general, this is the norm for many small businesses. I’m going to explain why it’s wrong, from a business perspective, why it minimizes the value of what you sell, and how you should communicate your small business certification. Don’t take my word for it. Our Federal Access members have won more than $2 Billion in small business government contracts the last five years using these strategies.

Yes, I know. . . this is what you’ve been told to do. Small business offices, your mentors, your colleagues, consultants, and various non-profits all tell you to, “Put it front and center! There are federally mandated set-aside percentages for your company! Larger companies and potential partners have sub-contracting plans that require that they team with companies just like yours! Use your status!”

This does NOT make sense and I’ll explain why.

Softly Communicate Your 8a Certification or Other Status

For the last five years, I’ve supported the SBA’s Emerging Leader’s Program. As part of that support, I work alongside various state and federal contracting officers and organizations that focus on supporting the small business community and small business certification.

During one class, I made the point that regardless of market (commercial or government), you need to “softly” position your small business certifications. The Director of one of our local non-profits, that focuses on helping small businesses get into government, very forcefully told the class that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I sat there and waited for someone to ask why? Eventually someone asked me to explain and when I did, every business owner in the class had their expectations realigned. For the Director of our local non-profit – it’s not her fault. It’s how she was trained, how she trains her counselors, and it’s why most small businesses start most introductions with something similar to, “Hi, I’m Josh and we are an 8a, woman owned small business that provides these services.”

Think about this:

A prospect (government or commercial) buys from you because of the value you provide. It’s not because of your products or services. There are hundreds of companies that sell what you sell. It’s not because of your status or that you have an 8a certification. In fact, you could have two or three small business certifications but if you don’t convince your prospect that you’re competent, your woman-owned, veteran owned, or 8a certification just doesn’t matter.

Your small business certification is not as strong a differentiator as you’ve been led to believe. Sure, it’s a differentiator but you don’t win contracts because of it.

It’s not what you sell. It’s the value of the products or services you provide. It’s not the statuses or small business certifications that your company holds. Those are just regulatory buckets. Yes, the government can sole source if you have 8a certification. Yes, the government can sole source 8m (woman-owned small business) contracts – but you can read an earlier post about how unlikely and difficult it is to actually win an 8m sole source contract.

Your company will NOT win a set-aside contract if you don’t convince the prospect that the value of what you provide is outstanding.

A prospect buys from you because of the value you provide. It’s not what you sell. It’s not the product or services you sell. It’s not your small business certification.

Now some of you are thinking, “Oh come on Josh! This is just semantics.” To some extent, you’re correct. But from a business perspective, this is more than semantics. It’s about how you approach the market, position your company with prospects and partners, and how you differentiate and facilitate a level of maturity that is not commonly found in small business.

What Happens When You Focus On Value?

One of our Members asked for help preparing for a meeting with a senior contracting officer at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. We discussed how to approach the meeting and how to follow-up. Most important, we told them not to mention their status or small business certifications during their 45 second introduction. (They have 8a certification and their woman-owned.) Jump forward a couple days. The meeting was going well, the business owner gave a short overview of the company, immediately took control of the discussion, and about 30 minutes into the meeting, it came out that she had multiple small business certifications.

The contracting officer leaned forward and said, “We have contracting goals that require that we work with companies like yours. Why didn’t you tell me you had woman-owned and 8a certification?

She said, “Because that’s now who we are. That’s not the value we provide.” The contracting officer leaned back and said, “That’s the best answer I’ve ever heard.”

Until that point in the meeting, the business owner focused on collecting intelligence and communicating the value of her products and services. There are several other techniques and strategies that had a role during this meeting but that’s for another time.

It’s not what you sell. It’s not your small business certification. It’s the qualifiable and quantifiable value that you communicate to your prospects and partners.

Don’t worry, you’re small business certifications will eventually come out in every discussion. But you should never lead with it! Do business developers for Northrup Grumman or Lockheed Martin introduce themselves as, “Hi, I’m John with Lockheed and we’re a large business that provides…”? Of course not. They rely on their past performance and the perceived value of their company and its capabilities and past performance. Yes, we all know they’re a large company but why do only small businesses introduce themselves with their size?

Yes – this is commonly accepted and taught to most small companies. But from a business perspective, it makes little sense.

This is why you don’t put your status on the front of your business card; why you don’t put it front and center on your homepage, and why you should stop introducing your company as a status. Don’t worry, I’m not saying to not communicate your status. It will always come out. That’s how the market operates. But you don’t lead with it! If you follow these recommendations, you’ll win more contracts because you’re focused on communicating your value.

You’re not a status. You’re a company that provides value.


Are You Ready To Get Certified?

If you’re not sure if you qualify
– or –
you’re ready to start your certification, let’s talk.

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Joshua Frank is the Founder and Managing Partner at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business strategy firm that provides companies with the templates, processes, and strategies for winning government contracts. For more information about RSM Federal, please visit www.rsmfederal.com

Communicating Value Through Call To Action

Double Your Sales – The Power of Communicating Value Through a Call To Action

Article Published in Franchising USA, August 2016

RSM Federal - Communicating Value Through Call To ActionWhether your franchise is commodity or service-based, sell sandwiches, cut hair, or perform disaster restoration, you want to think in terms of how you qualify and quantify your value. We’re going to discuss how to communicate value and integrate with what marketers call a Call to Action (CTA). We’re going to discuss this, step by step.

There are two parts to this strategy. The first is understanding how to communicate the value of what you provide. The second is providing part of this value, for free, as your primary call to action. This is then followed with what we call a “trip-wire” for a second call to action.

You never provide more than one call to action at a time. It’s not overly complicated. We’ll use an example so you can tailor it to your franchise. Like anything else in business, it will take some of your time but it’s well worth it.

Let’s consider a Home Inspection franchise. Remember that these techniques and strategies are industry agnostic. No matter what you sell, product or service, you can tailor these strategies to your business.

One target market for home inspection companies is real estate. Home buyers (if they’re smart), will hire someone to inspect their future home. What do most inspection companies do for marketing? They have a simple website that outlines their services, perhaps how many years they’ve been doing this, and their contact information.

Maybe their website is the first you find in a Google search. They may have a dollar or percentage discount for their services. They might say that the discount is only good through the end of the month to create a sense of urgency. How likely are they to accelerate their sales? Not likely. Their competitors have the same or similar offerings.

Instead, think about the value provided. I want you to think about your industry and the value you provide every day that you may take for granted. There are probably a dozen issues that you’ll consistently find during a home inspection. Three of these are so common, that 90% of the  houses have these problems. Now imagine that a prospect visits your website and finds the following:

Free Download 
“12 Most Common Inspection Issues That New Home Buyers Fail to Identify and 4 Inspection Checks Every Home Inspector Should Do For You.”
Click here

The first paragraph of the document is a part of your sales pitch:

“ABC Home Inspection has been helping new home buyers avoid costly repairs for more than 20 years. Buying a new home is an exciting experience and your focus will be on signing the contract and planning your move. But an inspection that fails to find all the issues can cost you thousands after you’ve moved in. 84% of home buyers are surprised with an average of $3,100 in repairs within 30 days of move-in.

So before you hire a home inspector, quickly look at these 12 most common issues and the 4 checks you can do yourself before you even hire an inspector. We don’t just inspect your home, we protect against future costs. Since 1996, we’ve saved new home buyers more than $1 Million in avoidable repair costs that should have been identified during the initial inspection and paid for by the seller.

(Author’s note: the numbers and percentages in this paragraph are not real. Just an example of the type of metrics you want to use.)

The title of the free download and the opening paragraph of the article are packed full of numbers, percentages, and ROI. When you list the inspection issues and the 4 checks, continue to describe via value and metrics. It’s not what you sell. It’s not the cost. It’s not the features. It’s the value you provide.

Now, the second part of the strategy is to provide the document as a call to action. What good is providing something of value if you have no mechanism to identify which prospects are interested? Before they download, they should be required to enter their first name and email address. That’s it. If your call to action is strong enough, you’ll get people to download. And now you have prospects you can immediately engage.

When the prospect clicks the button for ‘Free Download’ they are taken to a second page where they can download the document. But in addition to the download is a second CTA! It’s proven
that if someone is willing to enter their information, they are more likely to do it again. For the home inspection company, perhaps CTA2 is a 20% coupon for services.

Rethink your value. Design a strategy that collects your prospects information. It’s industry agnostic. How can you differentiate from your competition and accelerate your sales?

Download this issue of Franchising USA
Visit Franchising USA

###

Joshua Frank is an author, trainer, and consultant with 25 years in corporate, government, and military organizations. He is a leading authority on marketing and sales and speaks nationally on
business acceleration. He specializes in the development and implementation of techniques and strategies required to position, differentiate, build, and accelerate competitive advantage to
wining new business. Josh’s clients have won more than $1.6 Billion in new business since 2011. He is currently Managing Partner for RSM Federal, a business coaching and advisory firm that helps companies accelerate their revenue in the federal and commercial markets. Josh also serves on the board of directors for the St. Louis Veterans Business Resource Center. Featured in hundreds of online and print publications, he holds a Masters in Management of Information Systems and an MBA from the Walker School of Business.

www.rsmfederal.com

Government Contract Data – Where To Search

Where to Conduct Market Research for Government Contract Data

Government Contract Data - Bid Matching SystemsHave you ever had a meeting with a prospect that didn’t go the way you had hoped? Or worse, you think the meeting went great, but then you never hear from the prospect again or they won’t take your calls? This is a very familiar scenario for government contractors and there are several reasons why this happens. One reason is not having  government contract data and market intelligence to properly communicate and position the value you provide. Most government contractors use a bid matching system.

Government contract data increases the chances of winning a contract. I’m amazed at how many companies “wing it” when it comes to prospect meetings. Many government contractors walk into meetings with a plan to deliver their capability statement; talk about their company, products, services; and ask “do you have any contracts we can have?”  This is a recipe for disappointment that makes you look and sound like every other contractor.

Winning government contracts requires more than FedBizOpps or even the most advanced bid-matching tools.

You want to differentiate yourself, your company, and the products or services you provide. It requires that you educate yourself, research the prospect and obtain the right government contract data in order to differentiate. Unlike the commercial market, there are a multitude of online government resources you can use to educate yourself on your prospect before you meet with them. How long will it take? It depends on the volume of information available for your North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes and the type of products / services that you sell.

Websites to Research Government Contract Data – FPDS and USASpending.gov

The first tool I suggest you check out is FPDS. The Federal Procurement Data System is the most comprehensive free tool available to government contractors for determining who buys what you sell, how much they buy, and how often they buy it. You can break down buying history by NAICS, product service codes (PSC), place of performance, government agency, department, and hundreds of other data points. Government contract data helps you confirm who you should be targeting. You can also read an article for What is FPDS and 5 Ways it Can Help You Win Government Contracts.

However, FPDS is not a user-friendly tool. As a result, the government has another database for government contract data called USASpending.gov. This website is very user-friendly and easier to use than FPDS. In fact, USASpending.gov just underwent a massive upgrade that increased the number of data fields from 180 to 250. The government contract data in USASpending.gov is pulled from FPDS. FPDS is the master system for contract data. Because some contract data is not pulled into USASpending.gov, we show our clients how to use both.

FedBizOpps

FedBizOpps, also known as FBO, is typically the next website I recommend. It’s very easy to search FBO to see if there are open solicitations for your products and services. Most companies think of FBO as solely a tool to find opportunities to bid on. However, FBO is also an excellent tool for market intelligence.  For example, instead of focusing on bidding all the opportunities you can find, start documenting the agencies and contracting officers that buy what you well. You may find the same contracting officer and phone number on several of them. That is someone you should target and identify the departments or organizations they serve.

While FBO is the largest bid-matching and contract management system, there are several others. If you have a GSA Schedule, you’ll have access to GSA eBuy. But specific agencies may also have their own contract management systems. It’s worth a quick search online to see if the prospect you are targeting has its own acquisition portal. This can be a like searching for state and local contracts. The city or state you live in has its own website for procurements.  For example, the intelligence community (CIA, NSA, NRO, NGA, DIA) utilize the Intelligence Community ARC; the US Navy may use NECO; and if you sell products, you definitely want to check if the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) buys what you sell. DLA procures billions of dollars in products through a system called the Defense Information Bid Board System or DIBBS. Each of these systems can provide extensive government contract data to help you position in the market.

Don’t simply look at these “bidding” or “bid matching” systems to find opportunities. You should also use them to research government contract data to help develop your sales strategy.

Government Small Business Offices

Every prospect you will EVER come into contact with is represented by a Small Business Office. Small business offices for each federal agency are called OSDBUs or Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization. For the Department of Defense, small business offices are called OSBPs or Office of Small Business Programs. It is very easy to find names and phone numbers for these offices. Search online by agency name and “small business office” or visit this website for a list of major agencies and small business liaisons.

Small business counselors should be able to tell you who buys what you sell. However, remember that small business offices are a microcosm of society. Some are really good and others provide little to no value. The fastest way to determine if they can help you is to ask them if they work closely with the contracting officers and program managers on solicitations before solicitations are released to the public.

By researching government contract data, you can ask small business offices questions on whether or not they know the decision makers. You want to verify if they have any influence over the acquisition process. Small business counselors who work closely with the prospect in pre-acquisition are the ones that are going to know about opportunities before they are released to the public. They will go to bat for you if the prospect tries to make a solicitation full and open as opposed to a small business status you may hold. These include small business, minority or socially disadvantaged (8a), woman owned (WOSB), veteran owned (VOSB), service disabled veteran owned (SDVOSB), HUBZone, and several others.

Bid Matching, Contract Management, and Data Analytic Tools

When it comes to government contract data and data analytics, bid-matching systems, also known as contract management systems, are sold to government contractors more than any other sales support system.

Bid matching systems, also called contract management systems or federal contract analytics systems, show you all the contracts awarded in the past decade that you may want to compete on in addition to new opportunities you can bid on. These are the systems you use when you ask, “Where do I find government opportunities I can bid on?”

We have other articles on bid-matching systems but several key points. First, you can get bid-matching systems from your local PTAC. However, you don’t have access to the back-end. You only get emails with potential opportunities and you can’t update your search criteria on your own. To update, you have to coordinate with your PTAC counselor.

Most other bid matching systems you are able to login and modify your search criteria. There are more than 500 bid matching systems that you can pay for on a monthly or annual basis. They range from $25 a month to more than $12,000 a year. Like anything else, you get what you pay for and a solid solution is somewhere in the middle.

I’m often asked, “Why pay for a bid-matching system if they get their data from free government systems like FedBizOpps and DIBBS?” The answer is ease of use. Many of the intermediate to high-end bid matching systems are pulling data, two or three times a day, from between 20 and 100+ different government systems. Can you imagine going to all those sites, every day, trying to find what you need? Ease of use is a very good reason to use a bid matching tool.

Repperio

The second reason is based on how bid matching companies make their money: The user interface and the algorithms they use to crunch the data. I gave a webinar last week on “Who buys what you sell? How much and how often?” I downloaded three years of data from FPDS for marketing and advertising procurements (marketing companies). There were 12,800 contract actions but more than 2.8 million fields of data. Remember, FPDS is only one of the 100+ systems that bid matching systems pull their data from. Can you imagine sifting through 20 million fields of data?

With the right algorithms and a system that is highly intuitive and user friendly, you’ll save countless hours every week. Each of those saved hours is money. That’s why companies serious about government sales have a bid matching system. A powerful contract analytics system that provides pin-point intelligence, where and when you need it, will accelerate the front-end of your business development process.

Yes. I have a recommendation. The most comprehensive, cost effective, and user-friendly bid matching system on the market that is really good at providing value is Repperio. We’ve already sent an alert to all of our clients and members recommending they take a look at Repperio.

Summary

Use all of this research to map out a strategy for meeting with government buyers. Map out the questions you want to ask, what questions you should be prepared to answer, your goals and objectives for the meeting, what materials to bring to the meeting, and strategize the possible scenarios.

Follow these simple tips and you will not only get better at conducting research prior to a meeting, you will get better at determining what is actionable intelligence and what is just “good to know.”

If you’re serious about winning government contracts, we also suggest you take a look at RSM Federal’s Federal Access program. Federal Access is a multi-award winning platform used by more than 1,000 government contractors. With hundreds of resources, it is the most comprehensive platform on the market with every template and step-by-step strategy a company needs to position for and win government contracts. With billions in contract awards, learn more about Federal Access.

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Joshua Frank is the Founder and Managing Partner at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that provides companies with the templates, processes, and strategies for winning government contracts. For more information about RSM Federal, please visit www.rsmfederal.com

Small Business Certification Programs

Where to get certified 8a, woman owned, veteran, service disabled, or Hubzone for Small Business Certification Programs

Government Small Business CertificationsThe goal behind small business certification programs is to help level the playing field for small businesses.  The 8a, woman owned (WOSB), veteran owned (VOSB), service disabled veteran owned (SDVOSB), and Hubzone certifications allow small businesses to compete fairly against larger businesses with more resources. The key part of that statement is “compete fairly”. Many companies believe that a socio-economic status entitles them to automatically win contracts. That is just not true.

However, you don’t win contracts because you’re certified

Yes there are set asides and simplified acquisitions that improve opportunities for smaller businesses. With the exception of 8(a), most statuses still require the ‘rule of two,’ requiring that contracting officers have a reasonable expectation that at least two or more companies (even disadvantaged companies) will submit an offer. There are situations where a sole source contract can and will be awarded when there is only one possible source or only one possible offer. But this is increasingly rare. When the government releases an opportunity only for small business, 8a, wosb, or veteran, it’s called a set-aside.

The challenge for small business is that not every agency or organization uses set-asides to their fullest potential AND you still have to communicate value. The value that your products and services provide is much more important than being certified, regardless of sole-source opportunities.

A socio-economic status without communicating value is worthless.

The hard truth about small business certification programs is that they don’t, on their own, win government contracts. You still have to provide a great product or service and you still need to understand how to differentiate your company from the competition. Small business specialists and consultants that tell you otherwise don’t understand the basics of federal acquisitions.

This article provides a short summary of the facts and eligibility requirements for the primary government small business certification programs. If you are interested in learning more about how to successfully use your certification, follow Joshua Frank on LinkedIn and review the dozens of documents, videos, and other resources in Federal Access.

Quick side note – whether or not you complete and submit certification packets on your own or you pay someone to do it for you… our recommendations are the same as for submitting a GSA Schedule application. Whenever possible, you should try to do it yourself first. You may also want to read Government Contractor Scams which discusses what you should and should not pay for.


Government Small Business Certification Programs

Here is a breakdown of the top 4 government small business certification programs and what you should know about them.

Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) or EDWOSB (Economically Disadvantaged)

Website:

Key Facts:

  • You can no longer self certify. The 2015 NDAA revised a small portion of the Small Business Act. The language on self-certification has been deleted. As of the date of this article, the four third-party certifiers approved by the SBA are the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Congress, the National Women Business Owner’s Corporation, the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the WBENC
  • See FAR 19.15 for more information on WOSB Program
  • NAICS codes are assigned to industries that are substantially underrepresented by WOSBs

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Must meet small business size standard for primary NAICS Code and contract
  • At least 51% of the business must be owned by women who are U.S. citizens
  • The woman must manage the day-to-day operations of the business as well as make long-term decisions for the business
  • The woman owner must hold the highest officer position in the company and work full-time in the business

Additional Requirements for EDWOSBs Only:

  • Personal net worth is less than $750K
  • Excludes: ownership in business and primary personal residence, income invested or use to pay taxes of the business, funds reinvested in IRA or other retirement accounts, transferred assets within two years if to or on behalf of a family member for select purposes
  • Adjusted gross income average over three years is $350K or less
  • Excluding income reinvested or used to pay taxes of the business
  • Fair market value of assets is $6 million or less
  • Excluding funds reinvested in IRA or other official retirement accounts

8a Small Business Development Program

Website:

Key Facts:

  • See FAR 19.8 for more information on the 8a program

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Social Disadvantage – Must be Hispanic American, Asian American, Black American, Native American, or a person who has experienced chronic discrimination against you on the basis of disability, gender, veteran status, race, culture or some other factor
  • Personal net worth must be under 250K
  • The 8a applicant must be the highest paid person in the company and your salary must be reasonable for your industry and a reasonable proportion of your company’s annual gross revenues.
  • The 8a applicant’s current market value of all of their assets must be under $4 million
  • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) must be under 200K
  • Must be able to prove American citizenship with a birth certificate, passport, or other documentation
  • Must meet SBA small business size standards. This is based on your primary NAICS code
  • The applicant must have full control of the company, own 51% or more of the company, and be engaged full-time in the business
  • The applicant’s company must contract history with at least one contract completed in the past 12 months
  • Must have two or more completed tax returns that display the economic viability of your company
  • Applicants with felony convictions or on parole are not allowed to receive this certification
  • The applicant and all owners, directors, officers, etc., must be current on all federal financial obligations such as taxes, student loans, etc
  • Company financials must show a minimum of 3 months of working capital via cash in business accounts or a combination of cash, credit, and loan resources

Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone)

Website:

Key Facts:

  • See FAR 19.13 for more information on HUBZone

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Small business size standards apply for your primary NAICS Code
  • Primary difference between this certification and other small business certifications is that 35% or more of all of the company’s employees must reside in the HUBZone and the primary office for the business must be in the HUBZone
  • Certify that when performing HUBZone contracts, at least 35% of employees engaged in the contract live in the HUBZone
  • Must meet at least one of the following:
    • 51% or more owned by a U.S. citizen
    • Wholly owned, owned in part, owned by a joint venture or partnership by one or more Indian Tribal Governments
    • Owned by a small agricultural cooperative

Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB)

Websites:

Key Facts:

  • Certification is through the CVE at Veterans Affairs
  • See FAR 19.14 for more information on SDVOSB

Eligibility Requirements:

  • The Service Disabled Veteran must have a service-connected disability that been determined by the Department of Veteran Affairs
  • Must meet the small business requirements for the NAICS code assigned to the solicitation
  • Must own 51% of the company, control the management of the company, and hold the highest officer position in the company

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Michael LeJeune is a Partner at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that provides companies with the templates, processes, and strategies for winning government contracts. For more information about RSM Federal, please visit www.rsmfederal.com

Government Conferences – 7 Marketing Steps

7 Steps to Crafting the Perfect Call to Action (CTA) When Marketing at Government Conferences

Government Conferences and EventsTrade shows and government conferences are one of the costs that companies take into account in the annual marketing budget. This makes sense as conferences and events are one way companies solve the challenge of identifying how to find government contracts. It makes sense that you go into each event with a strong game plan for how your company will achieve the maximum Return on Investment (ROI). How many times have you heard the phrase “government conferences and trade shows are a waste of time and money” from one of your colleagues? Probably quite a bit. In fact, many companies are frustrated with government conferences because they don’t achieve the results they want.

The reason most companies don’t acheive the expected ROI from government conferences boils down to one simple problem that you can fix before your next event. It’s called a Call to Action or CTA. A call to action is simply a CLEAR ACTION that you would like prospects to take. Now before I get into the steps of creating a call to action, let me be clear about something. There is such a thing as a bad CTA. So if you think you have a CTA but you aren’t getting the results you want, you may need to review the CTA to see if it’s any good.

If we can get a decent response from a blind list, we know we’re going to get a good response from people that know us.

In our business, RSM Federal, we are always testing our CTA’s with sample lists to validate conversion rates. My sample lists typically consist of 2,500 blind emails. These are people that have never heard of us. The reason I do this is that I want an unbiased review of the CTA to see what the best and worst possible responses may look like.

So let’s talk about how to craft the perfect CTA for government conferences.

1. Start with a Goal in mind

When I use the word goal here, I’m not saying: “How many sales do you want” or “How to find government contracts” or “what is your overall goal for the government conference.” I’m simply saying: What action do you want people to take when they see your CTA? What you should be thinking is: How do I get qualified people into my system / pipeline / funnel? You DON’T want raw volume here. You want qualified prospects. And the best way to do this is to have a really juicy piece of irresistible content that you are giving away.

While our model is B2B and B2G, most of our work is supporting other companies. So once or twice a year, we give away something called the Government Contractor’s Success Kit (GCSK). The kit comes with some really cool templates, a graphics pack, and a bonus video.  The rest of the year we charge for it.

When we go to government conferences, we hand out business cards with instructions on how to download the kit on the back and we offer it at the end of our sessions, webinars, and keynotes. Our goal is to generate 100+ downloads of this kit at each conference.

So why is this the main CTA that we use? Because we have tested it against several other CTA’s and it performs the best. It has the highest conversion rate from a blind subscriber to downloading the kit and it’s an easy entry point into our system. For companies that want to learn how to find government contracts, this kit provides solid value. When used in combination with other CTA tripwires, it produces amazing results. I’ll explain more about tripwires below.

2. Make it easy, but not effortless

The one CTA that I hate at government conferences and events is the old drop your card in the bowl to win a TV or something. That CTA is effortless and it puts a lot of unqualified prospects in your database. This clutters up your database. Quick bit of marketing trivia: Did you know that a single unqualified lead in your database is estimated to cost as much as $1,000 over the course of time? Think about if for a second. If you market to them just like they are qualified, you may spend $500 alone on postage, direct mail pieces, time writing emails, and phone calls. Unqualified prospects suck precious minutes out of your day that you should be spent talking to qualified prospects.

So back to my point of simplifying your CTA’s at government conferences. There are a lot of ways to fill your pipeline, both government representatives and perspective teaming partners, to help you identify how to find government contracts. We love using a handout like a business card or postcard with a link on it. This also allows you to setup custom url’s so you can track where leads come from. You can also use QR codes, setup signup stations in your booth, or use social media, to name a few.

Filling out an application or watching a demo is not easy. Don’t do that. It’s irritating.

3. Remove the risk

Before you can remove risk, you have to understand what is risky to a cold prospect. Being asked to fill out 15 fields of information (that are all mandatory) is risky. Most people are willing to give you their name and email. That’s not nearly as risky as giving out a phone number and mailing address.

Marketing at government conferences is one activity to help you identify how to find government contracts – but you still have to remove the perceived risk. So when you are asking people to fill out a form, just ask for name and email. It’s proven that this method converts the highest and it’s also proven that qualified prospects won’t typically give you their phone number and / or mailing address without having a stronger relationship with you or your company.

4. Qualify the prospect.

The easiest way to do this is to create an offer for your CTA that matches the greatest needs of your ideal prospects AND lines up with a service that you want to provide them. Back to our Government Contractor’s Success Kit as one example of how to find government contracts, or in this specific case, how to identify and qualify government contractors. Our headline on our CTA is: Win More Government Contracts. Download the Government Contractor’s Success Kit Today. This headline talks about a need of our ideal prospects. To win more government contracts. AND it ties to our services, which helps our clients learn how to find government contracts and how to win them.

Now, this doesn’t eliminate the people who can’t afford our services, but it does focus-in on people who have winning more contracts as a top priority and that gets us a step closer to qualified. Our tripwires help qualify people even further. This CTA will only attract people who want to win more contracts and it will position us as a company who can help them. How does winning a free TV qualify people? It doesn’t. It just puts business cards in a bowl.

In fact, the next time you’re looking at how to find government contracts and you’re planning marketing at one or more government conferences, how about a white-paper or case study that specifically targets government program managers? When a government decision maker or champion stops by your booth, tell them that based on your past performance, you’ve come to understand the four or five most common challenges faced by other agencies, just like theirs. You’ve written a case study called “The five most common challenges. . . [in your field] faced by federal agencies and the 9 most common solutions to those challenges.”

“If you’ll give me your card, I’ll forward the study to you.”

You only execute this CTA when you’ve confirmed it’s a government representative and potential buyer. Sure, you have to design and develop this, but what an excellent call to action AND you’re not only educating a prospect, your creating the perception that you’re a subject matter expert (SME). This is just one example.

5. Make it scalable.

Scalable equals automation and technology. I try to only use systems where people are entering their information on their phone, tablet, or computer. It’s just not feasible for me to do this any other way. That is why I love sending people to a form on our website. This allows the prospect to enter in their own information (saving me time and money) and it increases the accuracy of the data. If you have your own people inputting data, you will almost certainly have errors and lost leads.

Making the collection of information scalable also allows you to use the CTA in multiple places, which is excellent for government conferences. For us, we get to use the same CTA at our booth, while we’re walking around the event, and while we are speaking from the stage. This creates multiple collection points and this accelerates our results for how to find government contracts and the contractors who want to win them.

Another thing you want to do is integrate your marketing system with your CTA. For example, have the signup form on your website automatically add the lead to your email list (Constant Contact, MailChimp, Infusionsoft, or whatever email system you are using.) If you have an autoresponder, have the new lead assigned to the autoresponder so they get your ‘drip’ marketing.

Another reason I like having people input their own data is that it requires a little bit of effort. I want someone to go through a few hoops to get to me. Not large hoops because we know name and email is the best approach. Having prospects enter their own data shows they have interest. If you make it too easy to reach you. . . you will be bombarded with unqualified leads.

6. Add in some Tripwires

This is probably my favorite step in the process that helps us at government conferences. Tripwires are a simple and great way to engage your prospects at multiple levels and to further qualify them. The concept is very simple. Think about what you have to offer your prospects for free or even low cost and gently sprinkle that into the process of signing up for the original CTA.

Tripwires are used extensively for marketing across all industries. As soon as a prospect says, “Yes, I want that,” after entering their data, you put another CTA in front of them. You ALREADY have their contact information! Now you can place even more value in front of them.

If you sell or want to sell to the federal government, perhaps your first CTA is a case study and the second CTA is you’re willingness to have your project manager go to their office and discuss a contract with another agency that solves challenges very similar to the ones they be facing at their agency. This is just one example.

7. Measure it

Last but not least, you have to measure your CTA’s to find out what works best. I try to test 6 to 10 at a time. Obviously, this many works best online with your website or other landing pages. For government conferences, you probably only want two or three. Once I have a winner, I will often play with the headline, message body, and even the unsubscribe notice to see what converts best. Marketing is all about math and knowing your numbers.

What performs the best and what generates sales? A high conversion rate of “subscribers” may not be the right CTA for your company if it doesn’t generate revenue. In fact, you will sometimes find that a CTA with a lower upfront conversion rate may generate more sales.

For example, you will have a high conversion rate for giving out a free TV, but the odds are slim that it will generate sales for your company unless you sell TV accessories. That is why it’s so important to measure everything at every step. In our business, I not only measure the initial conversion rate, I measure the conversion rate from step to step and the overall conversion rate from lead to sale. This helps RSM Federal make marketing decisions based on data and facts instead of gut feelings.

Bonus Tip: Be Prepared to Be Patient

I get asked a lot how I became so good at marketing. My answer is simple. I try a lot of stuff and make note of what works and what doesn’t. I stop doing what doesn’t work and I ramp up what does work. It’s not a complicated formula, but the average person / business owner wants to craft the perfect CTA on the first round, “in a vacuum,” and pray that it works. That is NOT a good formula for success. If you want long-term success, create half a dozen CTA’s. Create multiple headlines for them, and test the crap out of them. That’s the formula for crafting the perfect CTA.

Need help crafting the perfect CTA for your company? Talk to us.

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Michael LeJeune is a Partner and the Federal Access (FA) Program Manager at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that provides companies with the templates, processes, and strategies for winning government contracts. For more information about RSM Federal, please visit www.rsmfederal.com

Government Contract Awards – Where To Find Them

Government Contract Awards – Where To Find Government Contract Data

USASpending and FPDS

Government Contract Awards - Where To Find ThemOne of the great things about selling to the government is that it is fairly easy to research government contract awards and who buys what you sell. My favorite two tools for researching government contract awards are USASpending.gov and the Federal Procurement Data System or FPDS.

USASpending.gov data primarily comes from FPDS. USASpending is MUCH easier to use than FPDS. However, FPDS has more fields of data for highly detailed searches.

You can search these tools by NAICS code (product or service you sell), agency, department, place of performance, keywords, and just over 320 other fields of data. However, none of these tools will provide what you need if you don’t know how to use Microsoft Excel and pivot tables.

The Federal Access Platform, RSM Federal’s flagship platform, includes hundreds of resources, templates, and step-by-step sales strategies. (It’s NOT a bid-matching system.) We don’t normally provide access to these resources outside of paid membership but over the last couple years, more than a dozen Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and several of our partners said this was one of their greatest challenges in helping their clients. They asked that we make this video public.

This is a short video on basic FPDS searches, downloading data from FPDS, and step-by-step how to create and edit pivot tables. If you prefer to use USASpending, the same concepts apply and you have to know how to create pivot tables.

For advanced techniques and strategies, including advanced pivot tables and exactly what fields to search, learn more about the Federal Access Program.

 

 

Now that you’ve researched past government contract awards and you’ve crunched the government contract data, you now know who buys what you sell, how much they buy, and how often they buy it.  You can then start searching FedBizOpps (FBO) or whichever bid-matching or contract management system you use.
You’re now searching specifically for current acquisitions with the the agencies / organizations that you found in FPDS (or USASpending). You are not necessarily looking to bid on an opportunity at this stage. You are looking for intelligence on the organizations you want to sell to.

USASpending.gov and FPDS help you identify who buys what you sell, how much they buy, and how often they buy it.

What types of solicitations are your target agencies releasing? What is the average value of their solicitations? How many solicitations do they have open at a given time? What else can you learn from reviewing the opportunities in FBO? Hint: Multiple solicitations for products / services you sell means they are serious about buying those. So pay close attention to those organizations.

Calls You Should Make

Once you’ve researched government contract awards zero in on an organization you want to work with, I suggest calling the Small Business Office (OSBP /OSDBU). Every organization has an office whose job is to help YOU learn how to sell to that particular organization. In some cases, this office influences acquisitions for that organization. But remember, small business offices are a microcosm of society. Some are very good at what they do and others are not. You’ll know when you start talking to one.

For example, if a small business office is aware of an SDVOSB that can do the work they will tell the contracting officer that the solicitation should be SDVOSB instead of full and open. But this only happens if they know about your company. Here is a list of the several small business offices and their contact information. Be aware that the government is consistently changing their websites. If the link does not work, simply Google the agency you want to target with the phrase “small business office.”

The Procurement Center Representatives (PCR) and Area Directors for your geographic region can be a source of great information. PCR’s can answer specific contracting questions in their area and help you make connections to other PCR’s.

You will also want to call the contracting officers specific to the organization you want to do business with. One of the easiest ways to get this contact information is to ask the agency’s small business office or do a quick search on FBO for that organization. Solicitations on FBO will have at least one if not multiple contracting officers listed at the bottom of each solicitation.

Questions You Should Ask

This list of questions applies to discussions with the small business offices, PCR’s, and contracting officers. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it should give you a good start and help guide your discussions.

NOTE: Don’t expect everyone you call to be willing to answer all or any of these questions. It may help to just ask a few, thank the person, and then call back with additional questions.

Here’s a little trick that I’ve found to getting help from just about any government representative. When you call, say the following: “Hi there, I’m [your name] with [your company]. I was wondering if you could help me with something? [Pause – they will say yes] I’m new to government contracting. We’ve done a bit of research and it looks like your organization buys what we sell, but I have no clue where to start. Can you help me with a couple questions?” They will most likely say yes and start providing the information you need to be more competitive.

Here are several questions you can start with:

  • How does your agency procure the products / services I sell?
  • Do all acquisitions get posted to FBO?
  • For what I sell, does your agency use federal supply schedules (GSA Schedules)? If so, to what extent?
  • Do you have an approved vendor list? If so, how do I get on it?
  • Do you utilize simplified acquisitions? (Simplified Acquisition Procedures are under FAR Part 13 – up to $250,000)
  • Are there any important conferences or industry days that we should plan on attending?
  • What projects or procurements do you have on your radar for the next 6-12 months?
  • What contract vehicles do you use most often?
  • If you were me, who else should I be talking to?

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Michael LeJeune is a Partner and Federal Access Program Manager at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that helps businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to winning government contracts. For more information, videos, and contact information, please visit www.rsmfederal.com