Focus, Connection, Consistency
We give our clients ten building blocks of a winning proposal – proven tactics they’ve used to win over $200 million in Federal contracts! I’m sharing three with you in this blog post (as well as how you can open up all ten for your whole team).
Greater success starts when you:
- Focus on the right opportunities for you
- Connect with the right people at the right time with the right message
- Consistently engage in developing strong relationships long before bid time
Let’s talk about the precise steps to help get you focused, connected, and consistently winning.
Step 1: FOCUS — And Decide When to Bid/No-Bid
Leveraging Limited Resources
Let’s say for a minute I’m the Federal contracts fairy. I’m going to award you the Federal contract of your dreams…IF (remember fairy tales always have a catch?) you have the stuff, the staff, the space, the servers to perform that work right now.
Federal buyers are quite risk-averse. If they’ve never done business with you, they want to know how you’ve solved their problem before, for someone just like them.
If we’ve never done business in their agency before, or with any Federal or government agency, then we can expect it to take time and resources to build trust. With our limited resources, we can only do that well in a limited number of places, so how to choose?
Define Your Niche and Set Priorities
Successful GovCons make confident choices based on hard data and past contract award intelligence.
When we focus, we dramatically reduce our capture costs. We can succeed by concentrating our investments in marketing and contract vehicles/proposals on a shortlist of carefully selected agencies.
BIG SECRET: you don’t need an expensive database to uncover that intelligence. It’s available for free, online, right now! Find out more with our complimentary guide, Three Easy Lessons in Free Federal Market Research. Download Free Report
Use a Bid/No-Bid Checklist
Surgeons and pilots use checklists because there’s so much at stake. (That’s why I use one when I fly airplanes!) So do moms, teachers, emergency medical techs, and successful GovCon, for the same reason.
Bid/No-Bid decisions based on consistent criteria safeguard thousands of dollars and months of time. Team morale stays higher – and you retain your talented proposal writers and your sales professionals – as your win rate rises.
Which checklist to use? Where to find one? There are plenty of templates already customized for GovCons. No matter which one you use, the four keys to checklist success are: pick one, adapt it for your business, use it consistently, and review and revise each year based on experience.
Need a Bid/No-Bid Checklist?
- Bid/No-Bid Diagnostic Checklist
A fast, inexpensive tool that lets you identify warning signs upfront.
- Bid/No-Bid Decision Worksheet
Calculate the true bid cost you in terms of cash and opportunity using our numerical scoring in the matrix.
- Sample Bid/No-Bid Evaluation Matrix
A structured model for decisions that accurately predicted a winning opportunity 94% of the time.
Make Capacity a Key CriterionIf you were a Federal buyer and a vendor bid on a project three times larger than the biggest thing they’d ever done before, how confident would you be in their ability to perform? What would it take to convince you? Past performance speaks volumes. Want to prime? Look for similar opportunities in size and scope to projects you’ve done for clients with needs and missions similar to what your prospective Federal buyer needs. How much work can you actually handle and deliver with the top-quality results you promised? Are you making a bid that’s going to be a stretch? It can be done! You’ll need to substantiate for your buyer how reliably and quickly you can scale up and still be the lowest risk choice. Knowing your volume parameters will help you filter opportunities to choose those aligned with your capacity to deliver superbly. “Start small, be persistent” is the advice that successful GovCons follow. Those that start with smaller contracts typically grow over time into bigger contracts as they gain trust and deeper relationships with federal buyers and their teams. Avoid going for contracts that will stretch you beyond a realistic capacity. Set yourself up to win the bid and win at the results you produce around once you’re contracted.
Step 2: CONNECT — At Multiple Layers
Five Different Layers
One important thing to remember is that all of this nurturing is an investment. It will take both time and money to complete the steps we’re talking about. Especially when it comes to the sales team and your sales process. Only go after new bids and proposals when you’re in a good position to make these investments.
And did you know? Your Federal customer is working with players at five different layers when choosing vendors! Successful GovCons find them and engage them long before the competition. Over time it’s critical to build authentic relationships and inroads with all of the layers of players.
Know The Players At Every Layer
Our Federal humans have everything on the line when they choose us.
Hundreds of companies I talk to every year invest thousands of dollars and months of time and are achingly disappointed to win very little. I asked them what they did to develop relationships with buyers. Many look at me blankly or with expressions of abject horror or utter frustration.
Here’s the thing:
There’s no such thing as doing business with “The Government.”
There’s only doing business with people.
And there are multiple layers. Some of them are influential, and some of them are decision-makers. You need to know all of them over time and understand how they work and what they need. Only then can they even consider you for a contract. When you approach the relationship as a committed, long-term investment yourself, your layers of players are more likely to respond to your bids.
For tips on relationship building, read more about Connection here in this article: Win More Federal Government Bids—Focus On The People
Step 3: CONSISTENCY — In Your Messaging and Delivery
Establish Your Best Values
You might know “Best Values” by other names: “Unique Value Proposition,” or “Differentiators”. No matter what you call them, these are an essential part of your capture efforts.
Federal buyers always want to know what makes us stand out as the low-risk choice. Best values are objectively verifiable, ideally quantifiable. Why are they so powerful?
When we’ve picked two or three of the most compelling best values, and use them strategically and consistently, we make it super easy for our Federal buyers to know us, trust us and ultimately choose us–and at our price.
Here’s how that works…
Discuss Your Best Values–Day In, Day Out
Once we’ve defined our best values, we sort out the right ones to spotlight in our calls and meetings for the right person in the right role.
Then, as we communicate with the players at all the layers, we can emphasize the best values that will resonate most strongly with the individual people we’re talking to.
When decision time comes around, we’ve got the whole customer team pulling for us…each for their own reasons, tied to their own professional goals.
The Small Business Specialist will probably be the one who is most lit up by our small business certifications.
The Contracting Officer might feel more at ease by not only how our contract vehicles match the ones they use most. Confidence also rises when they know how many years our company has been in business and the past performance or corporate experience we have that is similar to the upcoming requirement.
The folks at the End User—from program managers to the shift supervisors and technicians—will need multiple conversations to understand our unique value and how why we have delivered award-winning, successful, cost-effective, on-time, on-budget results for our other clients. Using this information, the End Users will craft a shortlist of desirable or mandatory requirements for the RFP. Since the specification includes our input, it becomes easy to choose us when they get down to the final candidates.
Deliver Perfectly, Every Time…and Get That on The Record
Once we win, we have to walk our talk. Exceptional performance begets more wins.
Remember, we are helping our Federal buyers successfully deliver their mission. We do the work, and we make sure our Federal customers get all the credit. Make sure their management knows how well they did as they worked with you. You might even encourage them to apply for recognition or awards based on the exceptional results you helped them achieve.
AND…make sure you get credit for your hard work in just one way. Always follow up with your Contracting Officer to ensure that the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) reflects that exceptional performance, and that we talk about our CPARS as one of our best values moving forward!
A Final Thought: Harvest Your Lessons Learned
EVERY loss also brings lessons and contributes to momentum! We are in a culture that glorifies pinnacle achievement and dismisses the effort. But you can’t have one without the other.
Stop the pain of losing at the end of the game. Start today to win tomorrow’s federal bids and proposals.
You’ve got this. And we’re here to help if you need a hand along the way.
About Judy Bradt & Summit Insight
Judy Bradt is an expert speaker and author of the Amazon #1 Bestseller “Government Contracts Made Easier.” She has over 32 years of experience in federal business development and strategy and provides consulting services helping companies to win government contracts through her company Summit Insight.
When you’re ready to take the next steps to Focus, Connect and be Consistent to win federal bids and proposals, get in touch with Judy.