Finding the opportunities starts with identifying your ideal set of customers through market research who buy what you sell, and who have money to buy. You first need to define the profile of your ideal opportunity. Here are some of the parameters you could use:
- Maximum dollar value you could possibly perform, based on your largest past performance contracts and financial capacity
- Socioeconomic set-asides you qualify for
- Whether you are willing to sub or only want to prime
- Facility clearance required or not
- Location Facilities or capital investment requirements
- Search terms you would use
- Certifications required (ISO, CMMI, etc.)
If you are in doubt of what it should be, or how you could grow and stretch, you could examine a company to imitate (or at your competitors) and analyze how they have grown. You can look up their history of winning contracts in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), and research them more, to see if there is a pattern to the way they went about growing. For example, do they hold specific multiple awards IDVs you should have as well in your portfolio? Do they use them? Did they go after a certain set of government customers? What were the characteristics of the opportunities they bid on? You can then see what you could emulate as a pattern.
Once you have determined your ideal opportunity criteria, you need to look at four avenues of filling the pipeline.
Finding New Opportunities Through Research
You can find opportunities to win government contracts without leaving your desk, through research. Either as a standalone method of finding opportunities or the necessary component of the other methods, research is something that you must master as a government contractor.
You need to use a variety of free and paid sources for your pipeline. Examples of free sources include FBO.gov and Fedconnect.net, searching for notices about new opportunities posted by the government, and responding to Requests for Information and Sources Sought notices. You can use FPDS.gov and USAspending.gov for searching for expiring contracts.
You should get the agency forecast for the year, posted on their website.
While doing market research, you should look at policy changes, announcements, and industry news to predict new opportunities early.
You should mine the IDIQ portals (the indefinite-delivery vehicles that you have in your portfolio) analyzing them for expiring task order work and monitoring them if the government posts forecasts.
If you are serious about government contracting, though, you should invest in paid databases such as GovWin IQ, BGov, Govini, pipeline, or others that enable easier searches and provide additional information, saving you a tremendous amount of time.
You could also hire a consulting company, such as ours, to help you scour the market and search for what is available.
Doing the Legwork
You need to augment your research with visits to prospective customers. This includes office visits, industry days, vendor outreach events, trade shows, and conferences where your customer is likely to attend. Attend events at associations where government employees are likely to participate, such as the National Contracts Management Association (NCMA) or ACT-IAC, and get on the board of those associations, if you have the time.
The key to this effort is to create a contact plan and to ensure you keep track of everyone with whom you met in your pipeline Contacts section.
You must reach out to people at the right levels of the government, meaning that the procuring contracting office issue most contracts and not the higher-level leadership. Opening doors at the highest of levels brings high satisfaction but often doesn’t yield the desired results.
Legwork-based BD also requires regular follow-up, and focus on priority contacts that are likely to award you work. Many business developers can spin wheels for a year or longer (while convincing their management that activity is progress) in the thrill of having meetings that don’t result in contract dollars.
Having the right mechanisms for contract award handy, like a GSA schedule or your 8(a) status, also helps in sealing the deal; if you are a large business breaking into a new market, for example, a mentor-protégé relationship with a small business who could lead the way could facilitate this process.
Mining Your Existing Customers for New Work to Expand Existing Contracts or Add to Your Pipeline of New Opportunities
Many companies depend on a small group of business development staff, or the owner(s) to build a business. In the more successful companies, however, the entire workforce gets trained in business development, to become your salesforce.
Armed with the ability to recognize opportunities, and knowing whom and when to contact in your business development organization enables your personnel to feed your pipeline on a continuing basis. If you get a timely alert, you can visit the customer and seal the deal or feed the opportunity into your pipeline for better preparation. Being onsite, talking to the customer on a regular basis, popping in weekly or semimonthly makes them think of you when a need arises.
As already mentioned, you will need “easy” mechanisms of getting a contract awarded, or hold existing contracts at the agency with similar scope. This will enable a constant revenue stream you shouldn’t ignore because once the government likes you and your people, they keep awards flowing. And, capture intelligence means that you can move opportunities through the pipeline further, with more ROI.
Defending your Recompetes
All of your current work should be added to the pipeline as soon as you win it, even if a recompete is 5-10 years away, so that you have it on your radar to start preparing for a recompete. Your existing work, unless it is with a problem customer who isn’t profitable and doesn’t pay on time, should be automatically designated as a “must-win.”
Never lose your turf once you have gone through the trouble of winning it; even when you graduate from your small business size or socioeconomic status, work on a strategy to retain a portion of the work. With this comprehensive approach to finding the right opportunities, your pipeline should stay full, feeding your consistent growth.
For additional techniques on finding opportunities, and details on how to do it, consult our Blueprint for Federal Business Development self-study course, or take our Foundations or Advanced Business Development Courses in our Bid & Proposal Academy.
Contact us to learn more.