How to Find Federal Opportunities and Capture Government Business
Government Business Development | 5 Min Read
One of the basic requirements to a successful acquisition is having an access point into the federal marketplace. As a GSA Schedule contractor, you not only have a major access point through the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS), but you have an advantage over other government contractors. The federal government likes to choose GSA contractors for their solutions because they are pre-vetted, and the prices are guaranteed the best value.
While the federal government often prefers to purchase through the GSA MAS program, opportunities will not necessarily fall into your lap. You’ll need to be proactive about finding federal opportunities and winning business through a well thought out capture strategy and proposal which we'll walk you through below.
How to Find Federal Opportunities for Your GSA Schedule
The key to finding federal opportunities for your GSA Schedule is knowing what tools are available to you and how to use them. In the federal contracting space, you have several programs and platforms to track opportunities like beta.SAM.gov, GSA eBuy, and Acquisition Gateway. You’ll want to pay special attention to Requests for Information (RFIs) and Sources Sought notices on these sites because these can drive future Requests for Proposals (RFPs).
You can also sign up for certain industry subscriptions that track acquisitions and attend trade shows/GSA events whether in person or virtually to network, find partners, and locate customers.
In addition to knowing what tools are out there, you’ll want to make sure you assemble the right team to follow these opportunities and capture government business. When searching for someone to add to your business development or sales team, you should consider people who are well connected or knowledgeable about the market. You’ll also want someone who knows your solutions well and can talk about them to government customers, not just commercial customers.
How to Determine if a Federal Opportunity is Right for Your Business
Once you have found a federal opportunity, you need to decide whether you should go after it. Government opportunities can take a lot of time and resources, so it’s important you take the time to qualify them and make sure they are right for your business.
There are 3 main questions you can ask yourself to qualify an opportunity:1. Is the Opportunity Real?
You’ll want to determine if the government customer has the budget, if it’s competitive (so you can fairly compete in it), and if they are going to move forward with the solicitation.
2. Can Your Business Win it?
Do you have a solution that aligns with the government’s needs? Are your prices in the right range? You’ll want to ensure your business is not reaching too far on this opportunity.
3. Do You Want to Win it?
You should ask yourself—does this opportunity align with your company’s strategy? You want to make sure that you can be profitable if you win this opportunity and it's worth your time and resources.
How Do You Capture Federal Government Business?
Now that you have identified a federal opportunity and decided you want to pursue it—how do you win? It’s absolutely essential that you find and pursue an opportunity as early in the process as you can.
If the government agency first hears of your company in the final proposal, it’s not a good sign. Bids are often unofficially won before the Request for Proposal (RFP) comes out, so you ideally need to catch an opportunity while it’s still in the early stages.
It’s also important you make a solid capture strategy and plan. You’ll want to identify what the government customer’s timeline is and how you can pass each milestone accordingly. Let’s cover some of the main aspects you should consider in your plan.
Shaping is the process of getting to know your government customer’s unique challenges and educating them on how your solutions can fit their needs. This should be done before there is an RFP or a draft RFP. It’s more successful to shape a customer’s understanding of your solutions before the proposals are sent out.
Researching Your Competitors
This is a crucial strategy to winning government business. You should conduct some research on who will be competing with you on the bid. You’ll want to research your competitors and see how they represent themselves and what contracts they have won in the past. You’ll also want to identify their weaknesses and use them later on when you are crafting your proposal.
It’s important to consider all aspects of your competition including cost, capability, relationships with other customers, and contract history.
Identifying Your Value
Next, you’ll want to identify your value. What can you offer the government? What differentiates you from competitors and makes your solution valuable? Make sure your offerings are simple and meets the customer’s needs without breaking the budget.
Focus on your “win themes.” What are the strengths of your solution? How does your company outshine its competitors?
Even if your solution is the best thing the government has ever seen, if it blows their budget, you won’t win. The federal government has budgets in place for a reason and there isn’t much wiggle room like there might be in the commercial world.
Figure out how to strategically propose pricing. What price can you offer without leaving money on the table? You can find out how your competition was priced in the past through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) so you have an idea of where to set your price.
How to Prepare a Successful Federal Government Proposal
If you remember writing papers in school, you always had to pay attention to the formatting and grammar, or your grades would suffer. It’s very similar in the federal marketplace.
Request for Proposals often specify page count, font size, graphic size, etc., and your proposal can be discarded if it violates any of these parameters. Pay attention to these specifics and review your work to catch any mistakes.
Use the same outline and section names in the government agency’s Request for Proposal as much as possible. You should also mirror keywords and the lingo they use so the customer hears themselves in your proposal.
Make sure to downplay your weaknesses, emphasize your strengths, and do the opposite for your competitors. However, you must remain professional and accurate when you discuss your competition, being careful about who you name.
Submission, Evaluation, and Award of Your Proposal
When you are ready to submit your proposal, make sure you follow the directions verbatim. If possible, you should submit early to leave room to fix any last-minute mistakes. During the evaluation process, the government customer may reach out and ask for clarifications—answer them promptly and only address their question.
If you happen to lose the award and a debrief is offered, you should request it. This is valuable information for future bids so you can learn from any mistakes.
If you choose to protest their decision, you need to be absolutely confident your company is the rightful winner. Protests are messy, can get expensive, and can leave a trail for your company’s future.
Resources for a Successful GSA Schedule Contract
On the flip side of finding and winning government business, you’ll want to make sure you are properly marketing your GSA Schedule so government customers can find you.
Business development is a crucial part of being a GSA Schedule contractor. For more information on federal opportunities and capturing government business, tune in to our on-demand Lunch & Learn webinar, "Federal Opportunities and Capture Processes."
If you want to learn more about marketing your contract to the government, check out our blog on the basics of government marketing. If you want more tips on selling to the government, check out our blog on tips to increase government sales. If you have any other questions about your GSA Schedule contract, feel free to reach out to one of our consultants.
About Stephanie Hagan
Stephanie Hagan is the Content Writer and Digital Editor for Winvale where she helps the marketing department continue to develop and distribute GSA and government contracting content. Stephanie grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and earned her Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism and Rhetoric/Communications from the University of Richmond.