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Networking for Government Contractors

Whether you're trying to land a federal, state or local government contract, the path from start to finish is a long one. You've built your business and done your homework, painstakingly endured the hours of completing government forms and registrations, obtained your Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) codes, and explored all the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) options for additional contracting opportunities. You've learned the differences between IFBs, RFPs, RFQs and RFIs as you've scoured the available government contracts and found several that are a perfect fit for your business. You've employed a superior writer to author your proposals and met all the submission deadlines. But you still haven't unlocked the door to winning a single government award. So where's the golden key? 

 

Steps to Get Started 

Find the Decision-Makers 

The key to winning more government contracts is building a relationship with the decision-makers. It's not enough to merely add the point of contact (POC) or contracting officer to your contact list or know that person's name. Although a good starting point, it's important to know that the POC may not be as invested in the outcome as you are, and almost always, that person is not the main decision-maker. Fostering a relationship with the POC may help you get past the gatekeeper, but you also need to focus on networking and making connections with the person making the final decisions. 

Identify the Decision-Makers 

Learning the structure of the government agency is just as important as knowing your own business inside and out. Just as the best elevator pitch is useless when pitched to an empty elevator, pitching your proposal to the wrong people won't land you the government contracting jobs you want. Part of your research must include learning: 

  • The personnel structure of the government agency or agencies

  • The gatekeeper, usually the contracting officer or POC

  • The actual decision-makers for the government contract

 

Learn About Their Background

To start building a working relationship with decision-makers, you need to learn about their background. Look for information about their:

  • Education
  • Hobbies
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Affiliations
  • Previous employment

 

Find things that you have in common, such as favorite sports or similar hobbies. You may find that you have children in the same grade or attending the same college. Finding points of interest for conversation can be a great lead-in or transition to business discussions. Fill your quiver with as many winning points as you can so you'll hit the mark when networking opportunities arise.

 

Learn About Their Positions in the Agency 

Not all government agencies are arranged in the same manner. After you've determined who the decision-makers are, identify their positions in the agency and how they interact with other positions. Some questions to answer are:

  • Do they have assistants?
  • Do they answer to one person or a group?
  • Do they work closely with subordinates?
  • Are they a part of a team?
  • Do they have offices in one location or are they mobile?
  • Do they have their own budget authority?

The more you know about the work environment of decision-makers, the more information you have to find networking opportunities. 

 

Ways to Network 

Network With the Decision-Maker in Person 

Networking is a way to market your business in a positive manner with the decision-maker. After you've learned who the decision-makers are and where they fit in the structure of their agency, the next step is to network with them. Find opportunities to be in the same place at the same time, such as: 

  • Conferences
  • Professional workshops
  • Trade shows
  • Luncheons
  • Professional development lectures

Try looking for events where they will be speaking, presenting a demonstration, or attending. Not only will you be able to network with the intended decision-makers, but you may also meet other people who can help you land additional government awards and contracts. 

 

Use a "Calling Card"

In this age of all things digital, don't forgo the traditional business card. Find a shape, size and color combination that attracts and keeps people's attention. The decision-maker will remember you more when seeing your name on a proposal if you have a memorable business card. The card also gives you the opportunity to add your preferred method of contact, your website and any other pertinent information. Keep plenty of cards on hand so you can exchange them with new contacts. 

 

Keep Your Web Presence Updated 

After you've spent your valuable time and energy networking in person with the decision-makers, make sure your web presence is current. When people do their research on your business, you want them to see you in the very best light. Check that your website, Facebook page and other social media stay up-to-date and display your finest work. Positive but realistic testimonials, stunning photos of your work and biographies about you and your employees can help decision-makers choose you for the government award. 

 

Bringing It All Together 

Remember that it's not enough to merely search for available contracts and contact the person on the form in order to win the bid. Building relationships takes time and effort, but the results can put you and your business one step ahead of the rest. By using these helpful strategies that we've shown you to build relationships, you'll easily win more government contracts by identifying the decision-makers, learning who they are and not just their titles, and building a lasting relationship to build your network and find other potential clients. Finally, make that first impression a great one so your company is ready when your clients are ready for you. 

 

If you want to learn more about finding the right contacts in the Federal Government click here.