New Realities of Government Contracting

A solid article by Steve Charles in Washington Technology, discusses the “new realities” of government contracting.  Some of the more interesting points include:

  • A greater preference for firm, fixed-price contracts
  • More scrutiny surrounding the use of interagency contracts requiring written justification that the vehicle chosen is the “best procurement approach” of all available interagency contracts
  • Greater focus on shared technologies, infrastructures and commodity purchases
  • Movement towards mobility and teleworking

We concur with all of these points.  Most of these trends are in line with what is happening in the private sector as well.  Technology is driving many of these things as access, sharing, mobility, security, and other related trends converge.

What do you think?  What trends are missing from this list?  We’d love to hear from you.

 

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President Obama Proposes Merging Agencies and Elevating SBA Head to Cabinet Position

Seal of the U.S. government's Small Business A...

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Today, President Obama proposed merging six trade and commerce agencies into a single agency, while elevating the head of the Small Business Administration to a cabinet level position.  The plans would affect the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade and Development Agency, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The president can’t make the change on his own, so he will ask Congress for authority to undertake the reorganization quickly.

According to the Journal article, “the president appears to be seeking to show that he is looking out for a part of the business sector that Republicans say is the main engine of job growth, and one that other Obama policies have hurt.”

At this point it is unclear whether Congress will give President Obama what he seeks. Reorganizations are tricky in Congress because they impact certain committees’ oversight structure.  At least, however, discussion and focus are being placed on Small Business–a key engine for economic growth.

Last Chance to Register for Free Selling to Government Webinar

Don’t miss your last chance to register for GSS’s FREE one-hour webinar entitled “Seven Myths of Selling to Government” taking place Thursday, April 28 at 11:00 a.m. PDT, 2:00 EDT.

Based on our newly released book, Rick and I will introduce concepts that help eliminate harmful government selling myths.  These myths are traditional B-2-B sales practices that just don’t work in government contracting.  Examples include:

RFPs drive government business (they don’t in highly effective sales organizations–find out what is more important)

Cold calling is king (learn another strategy that will yield better prospecting results)

Consultative selling works (it doesn’t–learn what really taps into customer value)

Good salespeople overcome objections & close the sale (closing is way overrated–learn other methods that are more critical)

• And more.

If you’re trying to apply old-style sales techniques to government buyers, it’s likely you’re leaving money on the table.  Join us on Thursday to learn how to get in front of more opportunities, get ahead of the RFP and win more contracts.

But hurry!  We’ve almost reached our limit on the number of attendees for this session.  Click on the “Free Webinar” link to the right and sign up now!

White House Attempts to Bust Government Selling Myths, Too

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.

  1. “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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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”
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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,

Rick

Top U.S. “Digital Cities” Reveal Government Technology Trends

Skyline of Back Bay, seen from the Charles Riv...

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Which city governments are considered leaders in e-government initiatives that provide real returns on investment?

That question was the focus of an annual survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology magazine.  The 10th annual survey measures and assesses the use of information technology by local governments.

According to the results released last week, here are the top winners in each population category:

250,000 or more population
Boston

125,000-249,999 population
Richmond, Va.

75,000-124,999 population
Pueblo, Colo

30,000-74,999 population
Castle Rock, Colo.

OPPORTUNITY WATCH:  SHARED APPLICATIONS

In the past, municipalities were able to invest in technologies that made life easier (or were just plain cool).  Given today’s economic climate, technology investments are geared towards initiatives that provide measurable returns on investment.  Collaborative projects are examples of this. Shared networks have become more common over the past few years, and many believe shared applications will be the hot trend over the next 12 to 18 months.

For technology vendors selling to the government, illustrating clear and measurable value is the goal.  And, creating solutions and applications that can be shared by multiple departments across a municipality will have broader appeal.  Analyzing the winners of this year’s Digital Cities awards reveals that opportunity for technology in government has not died;  the game has just become more interesting.

Happy hunting,

Lorin

Sales and Marketing Together: Implementing a Coordinated Attack on the Market

Wiki battle

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Achieving any significant military objective requires the coordinated efforts of multiple branches of service. As citizens, we would be outraged if we knew the Army refused to cooperate with the Air Force in the heat of battle. We would be appalled if each division decided to “do its own thing” with no cross-branch coordination. We would not be surprised if battles were lost due to poor cooperation and ineffective coordination.

Yet, a parallel situation happens in companies every day where people refuse to coordinate strategic attacks on the market among the front line “branches,” namely Sales and Marketing. In some cases, the divisions operate in silos, doing their own thing and losing the power of a focused, concerted effort. In other cases, bitter rivalries, jealousies and internal politics create constant turmoil and an unproductive environment. Whatever the case, when coordination among Sales and Marketing is weak, battles are lost to more worthy competitors, leaving money on the table in the form of declining sales, and wasted precious resources.

To win in government sales, Sales and Marketing must commit to working together and moving in the same direction. They must have regular and frequent interaction. Salespeople should attend marketing staff meetings regularly, and marketing people should be invited to sales meetings with frequency. Time must be spent understanding what is working and adjusting what is not. Where practical, marketing people should accompany salespeople on sales calls (at least occasionally) and sales people should be invited to participate in marketing brainstorming sessions.

Marketing people must set aside their need to control every aspect of the “brand” and value salespeople input into the battle plan (garnered from those in the trenches). Salespeople must lay down their egos and appreciate the creativity and strategic perspective brand-oriented marketers bring to the fight.

Working together, these two groups can create significant leverage and focus, helping achieve the ultimate objective of winning more business.

So, how coordinated is your attack on the market when it comes to Sales and Marketing?

Traditional Government Contractors Teaming with Commercial Tech Giants Like Google and Apple

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Recently, we’ve joined the ranks of the techno cool by acquiring iPad 3Gs.  Since then, we’ve pushed the boundaries of what these things can do for actual work (in addition to the mindless fun).  We love them.   As we’ve naturally showed off our new toys and discussed our purchases with others, we’ve noticed a bit of buzz from contractors and agencies surrounding these and other new “consumer” gadgets.   It has made us wonder how quickly government agencies and contractors will jump on new personal productivity technologies as standard issue.

Apparently we’re not alone as an article in the Washington Post discusses how contractors are looking to team with consumer tech giants to solve problems traditionally relegated to internal IT departments.  The article points out how Google Federal is partnering with Unisys to offer a services program that would include IP-based e-mail, calendar and collaboration tools. Prior to this, the company teamed with federal contractor CSC to offer a search application for the Defense Department and with Lockheed Martin on geospatial products.  Unisys’s federal division is partnering with Google and working to secure Apple iPhones and iPads for government use.  Unisys  says it is readying a secure “sandbox” feature that would partition government data from other data on these devices.

Apparently, technology consumers who are employees of government agencies are driving the demand for applications that work on their personal devices (with which they are already comfortable).  This is an interesting reversal where traditionally, IT departments and requirements drove the delivery means.

It will be interesting to watch how these technologies continue to morph from personal fun machines to serious work horses.  Just please don’t expect me to stop listening to my classic 80’s music collection while playing Paper Toss, at least occasionally.