Many government contractors rely on bids and RFPs as their main source of opportunities in the public sector. Bids and RFP notifications present near term leads that vendors can pursue immediately, but they come with their own challenges, including short response time windows and high competition from other vendors.
The most successful vendors in the public sector supplement bid and RFP alerts with additional forms of market intelligence to grow their sales. Government market intelligence helps vendors find upcoming projects before the bid or RFP is published as well as identify sales opportunities that fall outside of the traditional competitive bidding process -- either through under-threshold purchases or those carried out through cooperative purchasing vehicles.
In this article we outline four strategies that will allow you to look beyond bids and RFPs so you can grow your government sales pipeline and ultimately, win more government contracts:
Strategy #1: Analyze Past Procurement History
One of the greatest areas overlooked by vendors pursuing government business is past procurement history of agencies. Looking at past bids, RFPs and awards allows you to find the agencies that have purchased products or services related to your specialty. The buyers at these agencies should become your new targets for future business. Why? They have a documented need for your solution, you know their key requirements and concerns based on their previous bid or RFP specifications, you know when they last purchased, and you know who they purchased from and, you may even be able to find out how much they paid. With this procurement history, you can have an in-depth conversation with agency buyers about upcoming purchases they are planning and their level of satisfaction with their current solutions.
Here are a few examples on how you can leverage past procurement history data to give you a competitive advantage in the public sector:
- If you know your competitor’s standard warranty period, look for past agency purchases from your competitors that fall within 6-12 months of the warranty expiration and start your outreach to the agency to ask about their plans for replacements of that product.
- Have safety requirements or standards changed in your industry in the last few years? Reach out to agency buyers who purchased in the last 2-3 years to let them know about the new safety offerings your product provides. Find out if these new features can kick start a sales conversation about upgrading to your safer, or more efficient, latest-generation product.
- For service contracts, call agency buyers 3-6 months before the contract end date to find out if the agency is satisfied with the level of service provided. An agency may have an opt-out or extension clause in the contract and reaching out to them may give you an opportunity to have a discussion about your advantages over their current supplier.
Strategy #2: Leverage Term Contract Expiration & Renewal Schedules
Term contracts are time or ‘term’ based contracts that generally have fixed expiration dates and defined renewal and extension options, giving you the opportunity to know about upcoming projects well ahead of the renewal or contract expiration.
For any target agency, you should:
- Use the early notice to start building relationship with the buyers and decision makers.
- Discover if they are satisfied with their current vendor.
- Find out if they plan to extend the existing contract or open it up to competitive bidding.
- Position yourself ahead of the incumbent by highlighting your unique selling proposition.
Understanding the agency’s plans with a contract and if there are any existing pain points, ahead of the renewal, gives you a competitive advantage in preparing your proposal for that agency.
Strategy #3: Participate In Cooperative Purchasing Vehicles
Many agencies are adopting lean procurement models – they are seeking procurement vehicles and mechanisms that allow them to purchase goods and services without having to go through the expensive and time-consuming traditional competitive bidding (bids & RFPs) process. One of the growing ways agencies are improving efficiency around procurement is through the use of cooperative purchasing. With cooperative purchasing, agencies can leverage existing contracts with cooperative associations or other state or local agencies to avoid the time and cost associated with drafting, publishing and awarding their own custom contracts.
Finding cooperative purchasing activity can be challenging because, by nature, cooperative purchasing reduces the need for agencies to publish bids or RFPs for new work. You may see the initial bid, RFP or award from the lead state (NASPO ValuePoint picks a lead state, for example) but you likely won’t see the subsequent purchases from other state or local entities using that contract.
Because of this, Onvia encourages vendors to:
- Identify the top buyers for your products and services using procurement history data.
- Contact these agencies to find out if they are using cooperative purchasing to streamline their procurement process.
- Identify what cooperative associations they use or what other agency’s contracts they tend to piggyback off of the most.
- Inquire with those co-ops and neighboring agencies about how you can do business with them.
Strategy #4: Research Agency Budgets and Future Spending Plans
Because state and local agencies must budget for future spending years in advance, there is a wealth of actionable government market intelligence available to savvy vendors who analyze agency budgets and spending plans for future bidding opportunities. This form of intelligence is unique in that vendors can discover upcoming projects years before they approach the bid or RFP stage. Searching for keywords related to your product or service in agency budgets can be effective in some industries, but understanding the ‘trigger events’ that drive future bidding opportunities in your industry and searching for those can be an even more effective approach.
What are trigger events? Trigger events are the types of projects that result in future bids and RFPs for the products or services you specialize in. For example, if you sell pool cleaning equipment, your trigger event would be agency spending plans related to a new aquatic center for a city or school district. Or, if you sell energy monitoring equipment, your trigger event would be agencies that are budgeting for energy conservation initiatives in the coming years.
Get creative and think about the trigger events that can drive future business for your firm:
- Search agency budgets and spending plans for terms related to trigger events in your industry.
- Contact those agencies to identify project managers, planners or key consultants who manage and specify requirements for the project – they are your sales and marketing targets.
- Showcase the value of your solution versus competitors to earn coveted “spec’ed in” status on the final project requirements.
For over 14 years, Onvia has been providing the tools government vendors need to identify and pursue government business beyond the bid or RFP. If you’d like to talk with a specialist about how our intelligence can help you get in early to influence project specifications, identify opportunities earlier in the procurement cycle and increase your competitive advantage in bidding scenarios, click the “Contact Us” link above and let us know how we can help.