It looks like we’re in good company trying to turn around myths about selling to government. In our book, “Seven Myths of Selling to Government“, we take exception to seven, OK actually eight, common perceptions about government contracting and selling to government. In a nutshell, though, it’s a book about building relationships and establishing value, rather than flying blindly responding to a bunch of RFPs.
Well, the White House has come out with its own set of myths to debunk. It comes in the form of a memo from the White House Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy to federal acquisition officers, senior procurement executives, and chief information officers called, “‘Myth-Busting’: Addressing Misconceptions to Improve Communication with Industry during the Acquisition Process”. Some of the facts behind the myths may surprise you.
- “We can’t meet one-on-one with a potential offeror.” Fact: Government officials can generally meet one-on-one with potential offerors as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment.
- “Since communication with contractors is like communication with registered lobbyists, and since contact with lobbyists must be disclosed, additional communication with contractors will involve a substantial addition disclosure burden, so we should avoid these meetings.” Fact: Disclosure is required only in certain circumstances, such as for meetings with registered lobbyists. Many contractors do not fall into this category, and even when disclosure is required, it is normally a minimal burden that should not prevent a useful meeting from taking place.
- “A protest is something to be avoided at all costs – even if it means the government limits conversations with industry.” Fact: Restricting communication won’t prevent a protest, and limiting communication might actually increase the chance of a protest – in addition to depriving the government of potentially useful information.
- “Conducting discussions/negotiations after receipt of proposals will add too much time to the schedule.” Fact: Whether discussion should be conducted is a key decision for contracting officers to make. Avoiding discussions solely because of schedule concerns may be counter-productive, and may cause delays and other problems during contract performance.
- “If the government meets with vendors, that may cause them to submit an unsolicited proposal and that will delay the procurement process.” Fact: Submission of an unsolicited proposal should not affect the schedule. Generally, the unsolicited proposal process is separate from the process for a known agency requirement that can be acquired using competitive methods.
- “When the government awards a task or delivery order using the Federal Supply Schedules, debriefing the offerors isn’t required so it shouldn’t be done.” Fact: Providing feedback is important, both for offerors and the government, so agencies should generally provide feedback whenever possible.
- “Industry days and similar events attended by multiple vendors are of low value to industry and the government because industry won’t provide useful information in front of competitors, and the government doesn’t release new information“. Fact: Well-organized industry days, as well as pre-solicitation and pre-proposal conferences, are valuable opportunities for the government and for potential vendors – both prime contractors and subcontractors, many of whom are small businesses”
- “The program manager already talked to industry to develop the technical requirements, so the contracting officer doesn’t need to do anything else before issuing the RFP.” Fact: The technical requirements are only part of the acquisition; getting feedback on terms and conditions, pricing structure, performance metrics, evaluation criteria and contract administration matters will improve the award and implementation process.
- “Giving industry only a few days to respond to an RFP is OK since the government has been talking to industry about this procurement for over a year.” Fact: Providing only short response times may result in the government receiving fewer proposals and the ones received may not be as well-developed – which can lead to a flawed contract. This approach signals that the government isn’t really interested in competition.
- “Getting broad participation by many different vendors is too difficult; we’re better off dealing with the established companies we know.” Fact: The government loses when we limited ourselves to the companies we already work with. Instead, we need to look for opportunities to increase competition and ensure that all vendors, including small businesses, get fair consideration.
There you have it. Now you know what myths the top procurement official in the White House wants to squelch. In effect, he’s telling buyers some of the same things we tell sellers. Communicate and build relationships. As Daniel Gordon says in his memo, industry partners are often the best source of information on markets, “so productive interactions between federal agencies and our industry partners should be encouraged to ensure that the government clearly understands the marketplace and can award a contract or order for an effective solution at a reasonable price”. You can find the full memo here.
We’ll take on some of the myths one by one in future posts.
All the best,