What to Do About Contracting Delays and the End of the Fiscal Year

If you sell to the federal government, you’re entering the last month of its fiscal year.  Statistics show September has two times the number of contract awards on average more than other months.  Yet, it appears this year, contract delays will be high, and for many of you, September may not be a strong finish.  In an article in Washington Technology, Dawn Jordan provides some statistics originally produced by Input on the current state of contracting as we finish up the fiscal year:

  • In year-over-year comparisons, the number of awards for each of the first six months in 2011 was down versus the same month every year dating back to 2005.
  • Using the total number of awards made in 2010 as a guide; in the first six months in 2011, 30 percent of awards had been made.
  • Both the civilian and defense sectors have slowed but the greater impact has been on defense.
  • In each of the past three years, over 80 percent of the RFPs issued were awarded in 12 months. Based on the first half of 2011, it appears the percentage of RFPs awarded within 12 months will be closer to 65 percent.

There are a variety of reasons behind this.  Contracting staffs appear to be smaller.  The whole budget debate and continuing resolution process seems to have had a significant impact.  And the number of protests have increased over the last few years, causing award delays.

So what is a contractor to do during times like these?

Pedal to the Metal

First, don’t let off the gas with existing prospects.  You have to keep pushing forward, building relationships and highlighting customer value.  Know what is happening in procurement and where your deal stands.  In many cases, the procurement process will eventually unstick and you’ll be ready to move rapidly.

Build a Pipeline

Second, now is a great time to pursue new prospect relationships and build your pipeline.  While you’re visiting a current prospect (and hearing about yet another delay), ask who tin other agencies or departments might also benefit from having a problem solved.  Sometimes, it just takes asking.

Make New Friends

Third, while we’re thinking about relationships, now is a good time to build relationships with current/potential partners.  Government selling is all about teaming, and finding the right partner can make the difference between success and failure.  Too many times, contractors don’t have partners on their radar until they are scrambling to plug a hole in an RFP response.  Build relationships before you’re under the pressure of a proposal deadline.

The last month of the year can be a frustrating, but exhilarating time of the year.  This year, don’t let contract delays and budget wranglings get you down.  Build for the future.


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