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Government Contracting: Explaining the Process in 5 Steps

Government Contracting: Explaining the Process in 5 Steps

Published: August 3, 2010 Updated: November 22, 2016

Many small businesses have products and services that they’d like to sell to government and the drive to make those sales happen. Yet, many lack an understanding of the government contracting process.

There is almost nothing simple about selling to the government. While the federal government is the world's largest consumer, it is also a uniquely different market than the commercial space and requires a different knowledge base.

It can be quite helpful, therefore, to understand how the process works and what to expect.

The following is a quick look at the overall contracting process. Very large bids, as well as very small bids, will likely have a different process. But this short explanation is a good place to start, especially if you’re a small business looking to get a foot in the door.

Step One: Planning and Research

Planning and research are your most critical first steps. Consider your business’ readiness to sell to the government. Do you have a successful track record of service delivery and past performance? Do you have skilled staff who can help you navigate the contractual process? What about marketing to the government, do you know where to start? Read more about these and other considerations in Is Your Small Business Ready to Sell to the Government? Then check out these 8 Tips for Finding Government Contracting Opportunities.

Step Two: Respond to the Government’s Request for Services or Products

Once you’ve got all the basics in place, you’re ready to identify appropriate Request for Proposals (RFP), Requests for Quote (RFQ), and Invitation for Bid (IFB) through online portals such as FedBizOpps.

Step Three: Bid Submission

Part of your planning and research is to understand the overall market for your service or product, and your target agency's history of how it prefers to buy your service or product. This research will come into play when crafting your bid.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the lowest price is not always what your prospect is looking for. Often, agencies are looking for experience, strong past performance, and stability.

The government wants to trust that you'll get the job done more than it wants to save money. If you can't get the job done, that will cost more in the long run.

Step Four: Oral Presentations

Your submission process does not end when you submit your bid. There is a possibility that you may be asked for more information.

Be prepared to deliver an oral presentation of your bid. If the agency has the decision narrowed down to two or three bidders, the bidders may be asked to go over details of the bid and describe how the work will be accomplished.

Oral presentations are more common with RFPs, but it is nevertheless something every vendor should be prepared to deliver.

Step Five: Contract Award

Throughout the decision process the government agency may continue to ask for more information. This is a good sign - it means they're interested enough to know more. Keep providing whatever the agency needs. At some point, a decision will be made and the contract will be awarded.

Next Steps

Once the contract is awarded, you'll be in regular communication with the awarding agency - to set up initial meetings, deadlines, and any other details that still need to be ironed out.

Remember, government values past performance above almost all other criteria. If you win a bid, do a great job - knock it out of the park - so you can use that agency as a reference of past performance and continue building your government business one contract win at a time

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