The Unites States federal government is the world's largest single buyer of products and services spending billions of dollars annually. And when the federal market procurement dollars are combined with State and local government agencies procurements then the overall government market is an ideal market for minority businesses to generate revenue and grow. This is especially the case with our tax dollars are involved and given the goals that government agencies have in making contract awards to small and minority businesses.
Many minority firms have enjoyed eating at the government procurement trough, but based on government agency data from all levels, a substantial number of minority firms are unsuccessful in government procurement and miss in winning contract awards. There are many cited causes for this contract award gap, but from my many years of being successful in winning government contracts and from my observations, below are the three biggest mistakes that minority firms make in government contracting.
Mistake #1: Not conducting research and learning about how to do business with a targeted government agency
A government agency will not give you a contract because your firm is special. Government agencies follow strict procurement processes and adhere to guidelines and regulations stipulated through formal policies. And gaining an understanding of your targeted agency's procurement process i.e. how to propose on contracts and do business with agency is a key first step in government contracting.
In addition, doing your homework can save time and lots of dollars by determining if your targeted agency procures your type of products or services. If they do not buy your goods or services then continue with your research to identify that ideal client / government agency that does use your products or services.
Mistake #2: Failing to attend pre-bid and pre-proposal meetings to build relationships
Those minority and small business firms that are successful in winning government contracts consistently attend pre-bid or pre-proposal meetings to learn specific information about the advertised solicitation and equally important, to introduce their company to potential teaming partners, large primes, and to the agency decision makers. Participating in pre-proposal meeting also provides your firm with market intelligence such as other firms vying for project and which firms already have established relationships at target agency.
In addition, many agencies sometimes provide small and minority businesses an opportunity to introduce their firms to large primes and agency project managers plus participate in matchmaking sessions. Taking advantage of this free marketing and relationship building opportunity only happens if you show up and attend pre-bid / pre-proposal meetings.
Mistake #3: Not consistently marketing and staying top of mind with agency procurement staff
Key sales and marketing data show that people buy from people (firms) that they know, like, trust and that are at the top of mind. This top of mind awareness known as TOMA is important to gain a foothold in target agency accounts. When your minority business is out of sight then it is not top of mind to a government agency's Procurement Officer or Project Manager when a certain project opportunity comes up that is a match to your products or services. This results in a missed opportunity and potential hit to generating revenue.
In summary, being in the government market -- local, state, federal -- requires a proactive plan to win; and successful small and minority businesses take specific actions that the unsuccessful small businesses have selected not to do.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.