Win Government Contracts By Improving Your Business Development Part 1

Federal Business Development


We’ve been going through our video archives, and the desire and need to know how to consistently win government contracts hasn’t decreased in the slightest. Some of the references in the video above may be dated, however, the article contains OST’s current methodologies. The government’s push for more civilian solutions drives the creation of more small federal contracting companies. In fact, the US Government has continued to put pressure on government agencies to award at least 23% of all eligible prime contracts to small businesses. Here are some other interesting award goals:

  • Small Disadvantaged Business Award Goal: 5% (2017: 9.1%= $40.2B)
  • Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Award Goal: 3% (2017: 4.1%= $17.9B
  • Women-Owned Small Business Award Goal: 5% (2017: 4.7%= $20.8B)
  • HUBZone Award Goal: 3% (2017: 1.7%= $7.3B)

The US Government has hit their goals for the last five years, with the exceptions being WOSB’s and HUBZone businesses. Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t know how to execute their business development in a consistent and organized manner. As a result, of the out of over 50 million small U.S. businesses, only 200 companies categorized as small businesses won 25% of the $110 billion in prime small business dollars awarded by government agencies in fiscal 2017.

In our experience, a lack of consistent dedication to business development is the primary reason most small businesses fail to secure these government contract awards.

58 million small businesses in the U.S., just 200 companies categorized as small businesses won 25 percent, or $28 billion, of the $110 billion in prime small business dollars awarded by federal agencies in fiscal 2017.” -Washington Examiner

Business Development for Winning Government Contracts

In our experience, companies normally fall into one of two categories for bad BD practices:

Inaction, which is pretty self-explanatory. Companies land one or two profitable contracts and then the pressure to make payroll or close the next deal disappears. If you don’t constantly bid on contracts then you won’t have any revenue streams when your current contracts end.  We recently saw a company lose their $250M contract that they’ve had for eight years and they have no other contracts to replace it.

Conversely, it gets more complicated when companies do a lot and see little to no returns. When you submit bids and spend money with nothing to show for it you typically end up going through feast and famine cycles (or just famine). Then you end up hiring people to do your BD for you, but all they know how to do is use their Rolodex and play golf.

These guys you’ve hired, their intentions may be good. They think “I’m from the government. I know this agency, and I know the customer,” but they probably don’t produce any results.

The Federal Business Development Cycle

Business development has distinct stages. These stages are:

  1. Build Capacity to do Business with the Government
  2. Strategic Planning
  3. Market Research
  4. Pipeline Development
  5. Opportunity Identification
  6. Marketing
  7. Capture Management
  8. Proposal Management
  9. Perform BD during Project Execution

Today, we’re going to discuss the first six in the BD cycle.

winning federal business development cycle
The cycle of federal business development. Through consistent and organized efforts, you will win more government contracts.

Stage 1: Build Capacity To Do Business With The Government

At various points in your company’s development and growth, you will need to add more capabilities and certifications. For example, as your company grows, you may need:

  • To earn an ISO or CMMI certification
  • A facility clearance to bid on classified contracts
  • To add to your business development department (capture or proposal managers)
  • A DCAA audit of your accounting system to bid on cost reimbursement contract
  • To have your cost estimating methodology certified
  • To establish an earned value management system

As your company grows, you will bid on more contracts. Additionally, you will bid on larger contracts as your ability to deliver larger solutions grows through experience.

Stage 2: Strategic Planning

Many business owners treat strategic planning (or planning of any kind) as an administrative task. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Planning is actually a huge part of growing your business. However, sometimes, small business owners get so involved in day-to-day tasks that they forget to plan.

The first step you must take in strategic planning is understanding where you’re trying to go. Then you need to look at where you are. Finally, you’ll take a hard look at the what it will take to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

We’ve identified four key steps in a successful strategic planning session:

  1. Recruitment Strategy: who is going to do your business development? Who are you going to hire? Are you going to hire consultants or use your internal staff? If you’re going to use your internal staff, then you must assess which BD skills they lack and plan to train them. You’ll need to take a candid look at your business and your goals and decide if you want to bring in an account manager, a capture and proposal team, or even a production staff.
  2. Top Down BD Budget: This isn’t opportunity specific. You know that BD is critical to your success, and you need to budget for it. You’ve got to set aside dedicated money for business development. After you select an opportunity to pursue, you’ll intentionally spend a lot of money because the gain is worth the expense.
  3. Ideal Customer Profile: When you develop your ideal customer profile (or buyer persona), you’re essentially describing your perfect customer. If this customer existed, they would be perfect for your portfolio of products or services.
  4. Target Customers: You probably already have some target customers in mind. However, you need to thoroughly research target customers, markets, and agencies. When you’re finished, you should have an organized list of your priorities and target markets.

Stages 3, 4, 5: Market Research, Pipeline Development, & Opportunity Identification

We lump the next three steps together. They usually happen concurrently or sequentially, and we execute the steps quickly as part of one process. You can use a variety of different resources for market research. The various capture databases provide different information, depending on which area you’re operating in.

Another often overlooked resource is the contracting officers, government decision makers, and small business advocates. Ask them what sorts of opportunities they have.

Finally, be sure to check the Presidential Budget. You’ll find out where the administration’s priorities are, which is where the money will go. Then you can align that data with information from the other resources we’ve mentioned.

Once you’ve gone through the various resources, you should have a few dozen opportunities to look at. Besides checking to see if they fit your portfolio, you need to check their timeline. We don’t recommend looking at anything due within 3 months. Other companies will have prepared for it, and you’ll likely submit a proposal and waste a lot of resources.

The opportunities you should really explore will be at about the six-month mark. This will give you plenty of time to prepare and execute the rest of the business development cycle. Finally look at opportunities that are 1-2 years off and add them to your opportunities database or list.

Stage 6: Marketing to Federal Customers

Marketing is really part of your capture plan, but you must also perform general marketing for brand recognition to the public. Your ideal customer profile will be of use as you plan your marketing strategy. You don’t need to be everywhere on the internet, you just need to be where your prospective customers are. Plan your marketing accordingly.

A huge oversight companies make is not taking the time to understand the congressional appropriation cycle and the fiscal year, so your marketing efforts focus on funded opportunities. Agencies will often speak to contractors because you have a solution to their problem. However, just because they are speaking with you doesn’t mean they have the funds to pay for your services or products.

Where Can I Find More Resources on Federal Business Development?

Finding quality resources for government business development is a great first step towards securing the future of your company. The first thing you should do is watch our free webinar, titled 12 Ways to Fill Your Pipeline and Find Opportunities to Win Government Contracts. We reveal transformational approaches to business development, helping your company grow by finding higher quality contracting opportunities.

Finally, our Bid and Proposal Academy courses are a great fit for any company looking to train their internal staff on business development. We recommend starting with Foundations of Federal Business Development. In this course, your staff will gain an understanding of the BD cycle, and how to navigate the US Government marketplace.

Your business development is the sustenance that your company needs to thrive. What changes have you made recently to improve your business development, and as a result, your win rate?

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