The federal government anticipates spending over $150 billion dollars for the Katrina and Rita hurricane disaster relief and reconstruction efforts. Contracting opportunities abound for businesses of all sizes and types and there is a great need for varied services and products. Businesses throughout the US can explore the contracting opportunities by following these four steps.
The disaster-related services and products needed in the Gulf states will cover every aspect of life, business and government in the affected areas. Savvy companies are working to fill the needs now. However, this is a long-term, multi-layered process. While initial contracts have already been secured, there will be many more contracts worth billions of dollars to come over the next 6-12-18 months and longer. Those firms that employ both short-term and long-term strategies will be the most successful.
Step 1: Identify the Agencies with the Budgets to Buy What You Sell
This is one of the advantages in doing business with the federal government. Unlike the corporate environment, you can find out what agencies have budgets projected for your products and services and when they are planning to spend it.
The Department of Commerce Hurricane Contracting Information Center (HCIC) will help U. S. businesses, especially minority and small businesses, participate in the Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts. The website www.rebuildingthegulfcoast. gov allows companies to register with government agencies that are providing contracts to rebuild the Gulf Coast. The website also provides basic information on doing business with the government, e-mail alerts regarding specific contracting opportunities, links to other government and local agencies, and information about minority business services.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is constantly changing to best serve the nation’s requirements. The 22 agencies that initially made up the DHS originally maintained independent purchasing power. Now, the eight offices listed here are responsible for all procurement functions of the DHS.
DHS Acquisition Offices:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Note: FEMA is the key agency responsible for the majority of disaster-related budgets
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
U. S. Secret Service (USSS)
U. S. Coast Guard Office of Procurement Management (USCG)
Check the DHS website for specific information regarding the disaster-related contracting opportunities: www.dhs. gov/openforbusiness
FedBizOpps is a federal government website that provides a central listing of most current federal contracts. Register at www.FedBizOpps. gov to receive the notices of bids and contracts that go through the normal contract advertising process. However, it has been noted on the FedBizOpps web site that many emergency contracts may not make it to this public forum. You may need to contact each agency to determine the specific opportunities available.
For past expenditures, check with the Federal Procurement Data Center (FPDC), part of the U. S. General Services Administration. The FPDC manages the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), which is the current central repository of historical information on Federal contracting. The system contains detailed information on contract actions over $2,500. The Executive departments and agencies award over $200 billion annually for goods and services. The system can identify who bought what, from whom, for how much, when and where.
Prime or General Contractors (GC) will be a source of sub-contracts for companies of all sizes. This disaster is of a magnitude that the US has never seen before and many contracting operations will be handled directly by Primes or GCs.
A. Check the agencies that have a history of purchasing your products and services. Go to www.fpdc. gov.
B. Use some sort of contact manager software like ACT! or Goldmine to build your own government procurement database and schedule regular follow-up.
C. New vendors: Get registered in the Central Contractor Registry: www.ccr. gov
Step 2: Find the Specific Offices in Your Targeted Agencies That are Most Likely to Purchase Your Products and Services
The DHS and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have nationwide agencies and offices, as do Primes and GCs. Do you want to target areas that are geographically convenient to you? Do you have service, shipping or delivery issues that demand a local presence to your customers? How will this affect your bottom line? Can you effectively offer regional, national or international support? You will be most effective if you geographically prioritize the specific agencies, primes, GCs and offices to target.
A. Check the DHS open business opportunities that are listed on the Federal Business Opportunities web site: www.fedbizopps. gov/katrina.html. Go to each DHS agency link and click on “Offices” to identify offices geographically.
B. Contact the agencies to participate in their Vendor Outreach and one-on-one sessions.
C. Review the DHS Prime Contractors list on the DHS website for the top five that are your best matches. Contact the small business liaisons to schedule capabilities briefings.
D. Visit the USACE website: http://www.usace. army. mil/ and identify the General Contractors (GCs) that are your best matches.
Step 3: Identify the Specific PEOPLE in Your Targeted Offices
You want to find the specific decision-makers because they are your best connections to getting the business you want. They are THE KEY to your success. Finding the right people and taking the time and effort to building solid relationships will guarantee your long-term success.
Finding the agencies and end-users who buy what you sell is one of the most difficult aspects of government sales. And yet it is one of the most important because finding the people who buy your product or service is the most critical step in a successful targeted marketing and sales program.
Within the agency, thousands of program managers, program professionals, operating supervisors, engineers, and scientists participate in deciding what to purchase and from whom. These are the people you want to take the time find and to whom you want to introduce yourself.
The strategy is to identify both the end-users and the people involved in the actual procurement process. Market your abilities, solutions and products to the end-users so that they recommend your products and service specifications to the procurement personnel, so that yours is the company the bid “was written for. ”
A. Use the DHS and USACE websites to identify the following people who are keys to your success and put them in your contact manager software:
-The Points of Contact (POC) for the US Army Corps of Engineers, DHS agencies, State agencies, Red Cross, etc.
-The Small Business Specialists
-Prime Contractor Small Business Liaisons
B. Use the information you have researched from the FPDC web site to detail the specific people who have purchased your products or services in the past. Add them to your contact manager.
C. Set up a schedule of contacts with these people. The contacts should include personal phone calls, emails, direct mail, visits during procurement conferences and all out-reach sessions. Try for at least 12 to 18 touches per year. Since active procurement projects are progress, step this up to every few weeks.
D. Long Term Action Item: As you build relationships with the Contracting Officers and Specialists, ask them for the names of the end users who are involved in the projects related to your products and services. Ideally, as you work with them you can begin to really understand the problems they experience and educate them how you can solve those problems. And perhaps become a preferred vendor.
E. Join the International Association of Emergency Managers: www.iaem.com
Step 4: Identify Business Development Processes Appropriate for Your Services and Products
If you want to develop both short and long term business opportunities involved in the disaster reconstruction process you must develop a strategy that utilizes a variety of tactics. These are the most effective:
Web site: Make sure it is specifically addresses the government’s purchasing best practices on your home page. Does your home page also note your GSA schedule and certifications?
Email: Is it professional? Do you use your business domain name? Or are you still using yahoo, hotmail or some non-business related address? It is very important to appear as professional as possible. Your business should be stable, reliable, established. Free or personal email accounts make you appear fly-by-night or non-professional.
Do you accept government purchase cards? This is mandatory in the government contracting environment. And it also works to your advantage by speeding up payments.
A. Take a critical look at your business development tools to determine if they meet the specific needs of your government prospects and clients. Give your website TOP PRIORITY.
B. Identify the companies that could be good teaming partners. Add them to your contact manager and start the relationship building process.
C. Schedule a pro-active contact process with all targeted contacts and assign specific tasks to specific people in your firm.
If you use these specific tactics and strategies you will find that you will have better opportunities for government contracts in both the short and long term.
Gloria Berthold is President of TargetGov at Marketing Outsource Associates, Inc. She is one of Maryland's Top 100 Women, a Winner of the Innovator of the Year Award, Past-Chairwoman of the Baltimore/Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce, a national speaker, educator and expert in government contracting and effective business-to-business marketing strategies. She can be reached through http://www.targetgov.com