The human factor is still important in government contracting.
If your company does business with the U.S. federal government, you’re interacting with one of the single largest, most complex organizations on the planet.
But don’t forget that organizations, no matter how big they are, are always made up of people. You can position your small business for success by building solid working relationships with the men and women who oversee their agencies’ contracting process.
“Contracting folks are people, too, and they remember people they meet, and they remember people who follow up with them,” said Patricia Brown-Dixon, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Region 7 administrator.
Brown-Dixon also leads the Kansas City Small Business Networking Event, a monthly get-together where small businesses can introduce themselves to federal agencies’ procurement officers. The event takes place at 7:30 a.m. on the first Tuesday of most months, inside the Greater Kansas City Chamber’s Boardroom at Union Station.
Brown-Dixon shared five tips for making a great impression on procurement officers.
Get to know SAM and FedBizOpps // There’s a lot to learn about government contracting, but if you are familiar with just two pieces of the system, you’ll show procurement officers that you have done your homework.
» Any company that wants to sell to the government must first register via the System for Award Management website (www.sam.gov)—SAM for short.
» Check out the Federal Business Opportunities site (www.fedbizopps.gov). FedBizOpps lists all the things that agencies need to buy or work they need to hire out.
Polish your elevator pitch // You should be able to explain what you do in less than two minutes. Be careful about using jargon. It’s better to describe your company’s product or service in layman’s terms.
Bring handouts // Practically everything is digital these days, but it’s still a wise idea to show up with business cards or one-pagers— a one-page document that details your company’s capabilities, any registrations you might have and your contact information. If you make a good impression, you want people to have a way to contact you!
Ask for business cards, and then follow up by phone or email // By doing this, you demonstrate your seriousness and your attention to detail. This will help build trust with procurement officers.
Don’t ask if you can get together for breakfast, lunch or coffee // For starters, it’s against policy, and most procurement officers already keep a busy schedule. They don’t have the time for many out-of-office meetings.
A better strategy? Ask if you can come to their office to talk about your company. But remember, it can’t be a social call. Focus on how your company can help that agency meet its goal of better serving the public.
True, networking with government employees is different from meeting private-sector clients, but it’s not that different. Ultimately, it’s about developing trust and communication.
“The human factor is just as important in federal contracting as it is in private-sector contracting,” said Brown-Dixon.
For more information about the Kansas City Small Business Networking Event, visit www.kcchamber.com.