March 6, 2017

How to.. Land your first Government Contract

by Colin Quinn

You don’t need to be a “big dog” like Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics to land a government contract.

Most people think about government contracting only in terms of defense contracting, but the government buys everything from printing to paper plates. Basically, all the same supplies and services that every other business or company purchases.

Government contracting is not something your business can just dive into. The first step is to do your homework. Research which agencies and departments are buying what you’re selling — and who else is also selling it. There are many websites like fpds.gov and demandstar.com that can help you learn what kinds of contracts are open for bid and who has won them in the past.

A business should have some success and experience behind it before deciding to pursue government contracts. If you think landing a private contract is difficult, just wait until you deal with the Federal Government – it can take years before you gain any traction in the GovCon space.

Achievements become critical when filling out RFPs (requests for proposals), which often ask for input from current and former clients. Your past performance history plays a large role in the Feds decision, if your past clients aren’t giving you positive recommendations, why would the government hire you?

Government contracts are sometimes set aside for certain types of businesses, such as women- or minority-owned companies. Always see if your company qualifies for any of those specific classifications and then get any necessary certifications to support your claim.

When just starting out consider coming on as a subcontractor rather than prime contractor. Learn the ropes, gain the experience, and then move up. You can’t qualify to take on a $5 million contract if your company has never completed a $50,000 contract. Take your time, avoid mistakes, and gain the experience – competing at the local level can also be helpful before pursuing a federal contract.

When it comes to filling out RFPs, follow the instructions EXACTLY to the letter. If the government tells you that you need three client recommendations and you only provide two in your proposal, your RFP will be filed directly into the trash.

Lastly and most importantly, make sure your business can handle the time and effort needed to preform the duties to land a government contract. Government contracting doesn’t come with any guarantees. Each RFP represents hours of work, it’s not just something that you clap together in the twelfth hour. Always remember that occasionally that hard work can be for naught as RFPs can be canceled at any time for any reason.

Don’t let any of this detour you from pursuing and landing a Government Contract. Nothing is insurmountable and government work can be extremely lucrative – Do your research, follow the rules, and you will land that first contract.