As Government contractors mature in the industry, a common theme to their success is the realization that knowing one’s strengths, capabilities and potential target Agencies are all critically important in maximizing efficiency and productivity. Having said that, it is important to proceed with caution, to obtain the elusive level of trust that is required for long-term working relationships.
Set Yourself Apart
Times have changed, but if nothing else, a stigma remains about Government contractors within some Agencies. When introducing yourself, it is important to be mindful that the first tentative steps toward a working relationship are bound to be fraught with distrust, hesitation, and occasionally, outright hostility. While FAR 15.201 has made inroads in encouraging Agencies to meet directly with Contractors, varying degrees of resistance should be expected. The first order of business is to set yourself apart from the dozens of other contractors that have reeled off capabilities statements to the same Agency. While bordering on obvious, this is easier said than done, especially to an audience that may only be listening with one ear.
Do Your Homework
An Agency that is showing signs of being receptive will likely become more engaged when they understand that you have done your homework and understand their programs and culture. Not all Agencies think or behave alike, and it is prudent to keep this in mind and avoid falling into a pattern of envisioning all Agencies as controlled by a single mind that facilitates a set behavior. Knowing an Agency’s baseline technology and immediate needs will further confirm that you are not just another hit-and-run contractor dropping off literature like a pharmaceutical salesman trying to hit as many physicians as possible in one day.
You should also project long-term interest. If an Agency realizes that you are seeing beyond an immediate contract reward and looking to the future as well as the present, a much stronger foundation is likely to be established. By projecting this level of attention and interest, you are sending a message that you are more experienced, savvy, and knowledgeable of the less tangible factors involved in starting a relationship. This should instill confidence in your dedication and commitment, which will carry over beyond the awarding of a contract and through the execution of the contract as well.
In summary, place yourself in the Agency’s place. Understand that they have their own concerns and hesitations that you can address in a calm, confident, and attentive manner. Be aware of what they are looking for in the short and long term, and be knowledgeable of their history and culture. These simple and doable objectives are often more than enough to set you apart, with far-reaching positive consequences.
Published author with 30 years’ experience working with Federal agencies and contractors, including proposal development and project delivery.