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How To Win Business With Department of Veteran Affairs

Veterans Affairs website screenshot featuring a brightly colored map

Summit Insight’s team works with Federal agencies every day. I love to share the top changes in online resources with you and show you how you why they’re useful right away.

The Department of Veterans Affairs organizes Veteran Health Administration facilities by Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs).


Why the VISN map and structure matter

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is a big agency with a large budget. You need to know how your buyers are organized. The handy VISN map page can be hard to find! HERE’S THE LINK TO THE CURRENT ONE. Bookmark it and click on all the intelligence behind the links in regions where you’re marketing.
  • Want more Federal sales success at the VA? Organize and prioritize your sales and marketing plans by VISN if you market to buyers in Medical Centers and facilities managed by the Veterans Health Administration.
  • The map can also help you locate small business specialists in each VISN who are available to help vendors connect with Veterans Affairs buyers who need what you do.

Keys to success


Think Local.

Medical centers and clinics have tremendous local buying authority. You’ve got to get to know the decision makers and end users one at at time.

That can feel like an overwhelming process, but it’s what the successful companies all do. You’re going to do it sooner or later, so save yourself a lot of time and aggravation (and money). If your research shows you that Veterans Affairs has problems you can help solve, then get your marketing and sales efforts aligned with that priority, region by region and center by center.

Research Who Bought What, When, How, and How Much 

Stop asking “What can I bid?” and start finding out “Who’s my buyer, and what do I know about them?” 

“The Government” doesn’t buy anything. People do.
~ Judy Bradt

Good news: Federal contract award data points you  right to the people and offices who need what you do. They’re already looking to buy more of what they bought last time, or something they’re going to need right after that. Those are your clues.

Even better news: you don’t need to spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars on Federal contracting dashboards or databases or services!

The Federal government publishes over 200 fields of free data on its past contract awards, going back over 35 years. A few hours’ investment in learning how to read Federal contract data gives you custom competitive intelligence on your Federal niche any time you want it — for free.

Truth: you’re going to spend time, and you’re going to spend money. All you get to choose is the mix. 

Learning how to read data helps you get more from any mix of time and money you invest in competitive intelligence that’s essential for GovCon success.

LEARN MORE: Explore and get your copy of the Federal Procurement Data System Data Dictionary >>MORE

First, look back.

Your choices for past contract award data include and Contract Data. USASpending is prettier, but excludes some super helpful information like points of contact. Contract Data — Ad Hoc Reports takes longer to learn but is the gift that keeps on giving. A few short  instructional videos totaling 60 minutes are waiting for you.

You won’t be a instant genius, but you’ll be able to show up with much better questions in every meeting with a Federal buyer, prospective partner…or Small Business Specialist (about which more in a moment).

Next, look ahead. 

The VA procurement forecast is not the prettiest or newest database, but if you haven’t looked there, you better believe your competitors have. The purchasing plans are organized by VISN, so start by looking at what’s going on close to home, or in regions of the country where your company is already doing business.

Think about what you see: these forecasts list projects worth over $250,000, and often much larger that that. What you do might be wrapped inside one of those bigger projects.

How could your products or services help the person listed as point of contact for that project?

Plan to invest time and money to travel to the VA Medical Centers you want to serve and get to know  those buyers.

Can’t be bothered? Think you’d rather just stay home and write proposals? If you think it’s too much work to get to know them, believe me: they sure as heck don’t have time to find out about you. 

Finally, see differently.

You should be reading current buying activity on every week. You might see a “perfect” opportunity pop up, a final stage Request For Proposal for what you do. 

If there’s less than 30 days to go, and  you don’t know the buyer, you don’t know the budget, you don’t know the incumbent, and you don’t know the history, all you’re really doing is market research. 

In that situation, what your hopeful bid is most likely to do is fill your buyer’s file with evidence of a fair competition as they move closer to awarding the work to someone who has taken the time to get to know them.

Winnable opportunities rarely show up as a surprise. Winning opportunities are ones you’ve seen coming, and often ones where you’ve participated in pre-solicitation activities like Sources Sought or Requests for Information, Draft RFP’s or Industry Days.

Instead of chasing that SAM opportunity…

…scroll to the bottom to the points of contact. If you’ve never met them and they don’t know you, decide how you’re going to change that. They’re already super busy buying from people they know. Don’t expect them to take your call and have much of a productive conversation about that opportunity right now. Start planning how you’re going to get to know them for their next purchase, and the one after that.

Master the Players And Layers Methodology (PALM) (R) 

Your Federal buyer is more than one person!  Successful GovCons know their players at all five layers. Each has distinctly different roles and goals in every office where you want to win. 

The Players and Layers Methodology (PALM) (R) shows you who they are, and what to do, what to say, and what to ask. 

Get the at-a-glance infographic HERE, or download the full GovCon Personas Guide HERE.  

Discover the whole system today! Short complimentary videos and tools are waiting for you.  MORE >>

Once you tap these resources, you have the basics to create a custom capture plan to build relationships with the players at all five layers in your focus agencies.


The average Contact Relationship Management (CRM) System shows you who you know. 


great Federal account plan does two more things: first, it shows you who you don’t know, but the data says you need to know. Second, it gives you a methodical, systematic way to knit together the relationships between the people who already love you and the ones you haven’t met who need you.

If you don’t have a big fancy CRM…congratulations! The simple spreadsheet is your friend. The time you and your team invest to set up and consistently use a shared spreadsheet to enter and update your calls and contact will drastically reduce the cost (and improve the quality) of any CRM you might set up when the time is right.

Next, Take These Steps To Engage The VISN’s Small Business Specialist 

The Small Business Specialist is the easiest person of the players at all five layers to find. If you do your share of the work, they can save you a dramatic amount of time and money as you seek out the other people you need to meet.


RELATED:  Find the VA’s Small Business Specialists in every VISN: >> MORE

Got complaints about them? Don’t find them useful? 

HINT #1: The more precise your questions about a small number of offices, requirements, incumbent contracts coming up for renewal, and opportunities that might be set aside for a business like yours, the more helpful the Small Business Specialist is likely to be.

HINT #2: Show your work. 

Before your call, make a confident choice and short list of priorities of where to focus your sales and marketing efforts, based on your analysis of that past Federal contract data, a review of the forecast, and a final check for what’s on the street right now.

Then share your research with the Small Business Specialist. Show them who you’ve found, ask whether these are the right people. Let them know who you’ve tried to reach, and who you might have missed. If they were you, who would they be calling next? 

HINT#3:  They’re just as human as you are. Just like you, they’re doing the best they can. Be generous, and when you’ve done your best, move on.

BONUS: You’ll save time and money avoiding distractions of endless invitations to small business outreach events that are not in your plan or supporting your path to profitability

Start Small. Be Persistent. 
Your players at all the layers, in unique roles, each have big, top-of-the-appraisal annual goals. They’ve got milestones to help them stay on track. And they’re slogging away at the small everyday stuff. 

Before every call, ask yourself: what are you bringing them this time? How can you show them (without even trying to sell something) that you’ve got their back? That you’re always focused on moving them towards their goals, hitting their next milestones, and solving that pesky problem that just won’t go away? That’s the journey to trust.

RELATED: It all starts with trust. 

My recent article, published in Contract Magazine, tells you how James Turiano, CEO of SDVOSB Lighthouse in New Jersey, used these steps to win a contract to build a hybrid surgical suite for the Bay Pines VA Medical Center!

Discover more about their goals and milestones, and make it easy to spark conversations (what I call “micro-engagements”) to open opportunities to serve them and make them look like the rockstars they are. >>MORE

Sounds simple, right? 

Uh, not so much.

Veterans Affairs is a giant customer filled with thousands of buyers, serving hundreds of thousands of veterans. If that were your only agency, you would never run out of people to talk to.  They all need you. Where to begin?

If you know this is what you need to do, and you just can’t find the time to get it all rolling, you’re not alone.

This is why I created the Federal Business Intensive.

This private program is how my team and I have created and launched dozens of capture plans for GovCons who are dedicated to serving and supporting the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

My clients who do the work and actually dig in and use their plans are successful — in the hundreds of millions of dollars of Federal contracts won.

You could be one of those companies. Let’s chat and explore how.

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