The government can be a lucrative client—on the federal side alone, about $500 billion worth of contracts are awarded each year, and legally, 23 percent of all government spending is supposed to go toward small businesses. Here are five ways a small business can secure its piece of government spending.
Do your research
As with other new business development efforts, face time is critical to landing government work, according to Guy Baroan, president of Baroan Technologies, which works with 10 government entities. He suggests you find out who the decision maker is and introduce yourself and your capabilities. “They are more likely to remember you from in-person contact, and reach out when they need a bid,” he says. Also try to attend networking events hosted by government agencies to learn more about procurement databases, timelines, processes, and subcontracting opportunities, says Crystal Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer, a marketing consulting firm that works extensively with government agencies, as well as advising other small businesses.
Talk the talk
Kendrick encourages small businesses to revise their marketing materials to a format used by government agencies; for example, creating a “capabilities statement” rather than a brochure and including the keywords that government agencies use. Reading through archived “requests for proposals” on various government websites can help you with the wording.
Don’t be so eager to talk about what your firm can do that you miss what the government agency needs. “Listen carefully to their pain points and challenges, and then discuss how your solutions can help,” Baroan says. “If you are monopolizing the conversation by just talking about yourself, the solution you offer might just be a miss.”
Acknowledge your diversity
Is your business owned by a woman, veteran or minority? Many government agencies are eager to work with a diverse array of businesses, and underscoring those qualifications can help you stand out. “We encourage small businesses to apply for these special certifications with each agency they identify as potential clients,” Kendrick says.
Deliver great results
Baroan stresses that the hardest part of securing a government contract is being selected in the first place, but once you succeed, that agency is likely to share your name. “You’ll be surprised at what a small community it is. If you’re fortunate enough to earn a contract with one group and do a great job, they’ll be your biggest fan,” he says. You might start out with a small project that grows into something bigger, or a request to do something similar with another agency. “Having a track record with the government is like a seal of approval. Once you have that, they’ll start recommending your services to others,” says Baroan.
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