By Red Team’s Jeff Shen
With the proliferation of all the existing IDIQ and BPA contracts in the Federal Health market today, what can a company do to differentiate itself or better market itself to decision makers?
The Federal market is built on relationships, and many contract awards are influenced because of those relationships. Even with a strong proposal, companies with limited exposure to Government decision makers introduce perceived risk in the performance of the work.
Prioritizing relationships requires both establishing new foundations and nurturing existing connections. Companies on both ends of the spectrum should consider the following strategies to establish awareness and cultivate a trusted relationship with decision makers.
Identify a List of Agencies
Choose to build relationships with those Federal Health agencies that align with your capabilities and experience. Then, determine whether you hold a vehicle that can be used to secure a contract.
- If you don’t have the primary IDIQs such as CMS SPARC, NIH CIO-SP3, VA T4NG or VECTOR, or even GSA Alliant 2, then consider how you can leverage your GSA Schedule 70 or PSS. Keep in mind that certain agencies will defer to specific vehicles. For example, CMS will defer to using SPARC, so if you don’t have SPARC, focus on another agency, unless you can subcontract to a SPARC Prime. DHA has committed to using GSA based contracting vehicles for their IT and professional services spend, so if DHA is a target agency, make sure you have access as a Prime or sub to a GSA contract. The key here is to research the historical and current usage of contracts by these agencies – you can find this by researching GovWin, reading G2Xchange updates, and attending agency-specific industry days. And of course, you can also ask teaming partners with experience in that agency which contracting vehicles that agency prefers.
We are all connected within one to two degrees of separation. Use LinkedIn to identify those in industry and Government who can help with your relationship development. Find those Federal Health Primes with existing work within your target agency and use LinkedIn to make a connection to begin a dialogue on future teaming opportunities. Target agency decision makers as well using resources such as the OSDBU office. Don’t branch out too far! If you do work primarily in Civilian Health, do not think you can immediately begin winning work in Defense Health Agency.
Do not come empty-handed. Do your research, determine your value proposition, and identify what you can offer. When meeting with other Primes, you must present value add outside of just your socio-economic status. Consider offering potential workshare on a separate contract you are Priming or offering to pay the fee for attending an upcoming event. Being prepared is equally important when meeting with Federal agency decision makers who see hundreds of individuals and companies a year. Study the agency mission, programs, and decision makers, and be prepared with specific questions for the meeting. Listen to their challenges before giving your value proposition.
Network, Network, Network
This is the best and most effective way of gaining the necessary exposure and branding your company within the Federal Health market. There are numerous avenues to pursue. Consider networking events from your target agencies, including VA, DHA, and CMS, but do not limit yourself to just agency specific events. G2Xchange, ACTIAC, NCMA, PSC, and AFCEA Bethesda are great groups to consider joining. Seeing familiar faces both in industry and Government will help you to build the relationships you need to gain that eventual trust.
Stay on Top of Your Customer.
Just because you have strong existing relationships does not mean you know everything there is to know inside that agency. All Federal Health Primes need to continually stay on top of new policies, changes in the leadership, and updates to priorities for their targeted agency. In 2018, there has been tremendous change in key leadership positions at several agencies – you need to continually identify and meet the new or emerging leaders that are taking over.
Refine Your Value Proposition
Just because you have extensive past performance in an agency does not mean that you bring any sort of unique value proposition. Start reviewing your past performance and internal qualifications to see if an opportunity exists to develop “intellectual property” or a value proposition that will distinguish you. The Government often has challenges seeing the unique differences between companies in the evaluation process. Make this easier for them and describe in advance why you think your “solution” is uniquely positioned to perform on an upcoming program.
Offer Opportunities and Share Information
Do not rely solely on your customers for opportunities and information; find ways to increase their visibility as well. You might consider:
- Inviting them to an upcoming conference.
- Finding a speaking opportunity at an event.
- Sharing articles you feel might be of interest.
- Syncing them with other agency points of contact you know that are working similar programs. Sometimes a Government to Government introduction can be very valuable.
While some of these recommendations may seem straightforward, it is often the simplest of strategies that are the most effective! Depending upon the breadth and depth of your relationships in the Federal market, one or more of the above suggestions may strengthen your relationships and grow your business.
About Jeffrey Shen
Jeffrey Shen is Vice President and General Manager at Red Team Consulting, bringing more than 20 years of proven leadership and expertise in Federal contracting, corporate strategy, and business development. He has consulted to the U.S. Federal Government and Fortune 500 companies worldwide.
Red Team Consulting, LLC (Red Team) is one of the premier providers of proposal development consulting, capture management, pricing strategy, and training services in support of Government contractors. Our mission is simple – help our clients grow their business. Visit Red Team on the web at www.redteamconsulting.com.