Staying Connected to Potential Buyers in a Virtual Environment
As we continue to navigate the new normal in the COVID 19 environment, it is a good time to re-visit what’s changed and what remains the same as it relates to contracting with the government in the virtual world. If you have attended any of the recent virtual federal government events, you may have heard the phrase “the government is still open for business”. Indeed, it is and in fact, contracting with the government from a tactical standpoint has not changed. That said, staying connected to potential buyers in this virtual environment is more important than ever and the ability to use technology efficiently is key to retaining and building those relationships. Let’s delve into what has changed and what remains the same in the government contracting environment.
What Remains the Same:
- Find out who buys what you sell at the federal and state level by conducting research on the following free sites: FPDS-ng.gov , Usaspending.gov and Fiscal.ca.gov.
- Identify small micro-purchases and Simplified Acquisition purchases through research. Identify any buyer patterns that can be helpful in developing a marketing strategy.
- Review beta.SAM.gov for current contracting opportunities and
- Review the forecast of what the agencies intend to purchase.
- If you are a Norcal PTAC client, ask your assigned Procurement Specialist to conduct research on GovSpend during a counseling session.
Registrations and Certifications
- Obtain a DUNS# from Dun & Bradstreet here or again, if you become a PTAC client, your PTAC representative can assist you in obtaining one during a counseling session. Note: as a potential or future government contractor, the DUNS # is completely free.
- Identify your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS – Federal) and United Nations Standard Products and Services codes (UNSPSC – State of CA) codes. Learn more by viewing our NAICS webinar and the State of California’s guidance on UNSPC codes here.
- Register or Update your Systems for Award Management (SAM.gov). If you are currently registered, ensure your registration is renewed annually. An expired registration could cause you to miss out on a federal opportunity.
- Update your Small Business Profile while registering or renewing your SAM registration or create an account on the Dynamic Small Business Search portal. That includes adding keywords, identifying a primary NAICS, adding a capabilities narrative, and customer references. This step is as important as a SAM registration since agencies use this site as a resource when conducting market research and/or when looking for qualified firms.
- Get certified in areas where you qualify. That is, obtain certification based on business size, location, minority, veteran, and/or woman-owned status. View our Federal Certifications or State Contracting page to determine which are a fit for you.
Create a Capabilities Statement
Once registered and certified, create a Capabilities Statement that will be used in marketing to agencies and prime contractors. View our Capabilities Statement/SOQ page where you can download a template and review our webinar on this topic.
Marketing and Networking
- Contact the Small Business Specialists and Advocates of the top agencies whom buy what you sell identified during the research phase by email and phone.
- Schedule one-on-one sessions with agencies and/or primes to discuss capabilities and opportunities, when possible.
- Create a follow-up system for regularly checking in with Small Business Specialists, Advocates, and Supplier Diversity representatives to create opportunities.
- Respond to Sources Sought and Requests for Information, posted on beta.SAM.gov.
- Consider subcontracting opportunities that can help you gain past performance. There are many sources available such as registering on the vendor list of prime contractors, contacting those prime contractors that advertise as seeking subcontractors, and sending introduction letters to those who may benefit from a partnership with you (for example if you offer a complementary product or service or qualify for set-asides).
Virtual Meetings and Conferences
Although initial contact with agencies and prime contractors will continue to (mostly) occur through phone and email, events that were once in-person are at least for the meantime primarily conducted virtually. Here is where it is important to be familiar with the technology platforms that are used for virtual meetings and events such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and AdobeConnect for example and to familiarize yourself with how to present yourself professionally through use of a virtual background or other non-distracting setting. Most virtual conferences have virtual break-out sessions, agency booths, and matchmaking so expect to login and out of sessions you want to attend. It is key to note that in a virtual environment you will want to have your Capability Statement digitally available when you enter a session and be sure to familiarize yourself with the protocols established by the agency for entering virtual meetings. A good first step is to attend any pre-conference sessions designed to help you make the most of the virtual conference. Finally, make sure to login to sessions early when possible, to ensure access and/or troubleshoot any issues so that when it is time for the event/meeting to begin, you can connect seamlessly. Check out general tips for preparing for a conference and/or matchmaking event here.
Be sure your virtual company profile is complete so that others can learn more about your service or product offerings and hopefully drive traffic or a request to meet. Attend virtual networking or after-hours events when able .
Opportunities to attend events nationwide
The upside of the virtual environment is the elimination of the need to travel across the country to attend a conference which might be cost-prohibitive for your company. Search for industry and government events that will allow you to continue to network and learn through virtual meetings.
If all of this seems overwhelming, remember we are here to help. Check out our Calendar page for upcoming training and our Past Webinars page a comprehensive list of on-demand webinars. Reach out to your Procurement Specialist for further assistance or apply for no-cost government contracting support here.
Written by Christina Jones, Sr./Lead Procurement Specialist.