PTAC advisors know what it takes to find, bid on, and win a government contract. The path to success is often different for every business we meet with, but one thing is clear: Businesses who conduct effective market research are much more likely to succeed over the long term. And, that’s one of the best things about public contracting – it’s public! We can find out who won contracts in the past, who is performing on them now and how much they bid. This article outlines a few places where you can do some of this research yourself to help answer three critical questions: Who buys what you sell, how do they buy it, and who are they buying from now?
Who Buys What I Sell?
The government marketplace is huge. Refining who in government buys what you sell is the very first step. For federal, there are two places to start with. First, try a Contract Opportunities search in beta.sam.gov for opportunities in your industry code (NAICS). Consider adding a filter for “Place of Performance State.” Look for active opportunities as well as award notices. Second, try a similar search or a competitor search at www.usaspending.gov. This is where government posts any government contract for public viewing. The competitor search is best done using a DUNS number found at www.sam.gov.
For state and local contracts, it gets a bit trickier because these government agencies have a decentralized procurement process so there is no one place to find opportunities or award history. You might consider starting with a look at Washington State Master Contracts and WEBS used by many state agencies as well as local governments and institutions of higher education. You won’t find award notices on WEBS, but there might be other ways to sleuth this public information besides filing your own public disclosure request. Contact your local PTAC for tailored ideas for your business.
How Do They Buy What I Sell?
Government has many options for procuring what they need. Understanding your target agency’s historical process for buying what you sell is very important in predicting how they will buy it in the future. They could purchase from an existing contract or a prime contractor might be in charge of procuring the product/service you offer. If all you did was watch beta.sam.gov, you might miss out! For example, if you see award data with a “GS” in the beginning of the award number, you might want to check out GSA Schedules. Getting on schedule with your product or service is a lengthy process that requires strong market research to justify the time cost of making an offer and the subsequent monitoring of compliance. Once you have a baseline understanding of GSA Multiple Award Schedules, you can do some advanced searching using the Schedule Sales Query Plus tool linked here.
For state and local governments, we’ve already mentioned master contracts and WEBS. The local/state agency might also post it on their website, in a newspaper (Daily Journal of Commerce), or be purchasing from a roster. Get to know your target customer and their unique methods. That will inform your strategy and if you get stuck, contact your PTAC.
Who Is Government Buying From Now?
Knowing your competition is the best way to refine your strategy and save precious time and effort competing on opportunities that you think you can realistically win. In all levels of government it is public information who has won contracts and how much they won it for. Sometimes you can find the original solicitation to tie the information all together with a bow on top! Would you have bid it cheaper? Do you have an edge on your competition based on the evaluation factors for award? Answering these questions can help you be laser focused on the next contract you want to bid and win.
For federal, start with www.usaspending.gov and beta.sam.gov for award notices. For state, start with master contract spend data found here. There are also a few very good market research subscription based services for contracting available for a fee. GovWin IQ from Deltek, Fedmine, and GovSpend are popular, but check out the free sites first so you fully appreciate and understand what you’re paying for with subscriptions to other sites.
Avoiding Rabbit Holes
It’s really easy to start in on these websites and fall down a deep rabbit hole and forget what you were looking for in the first place! We all do it. To get back on track, consider writing down the three top questions you have and try to get them answered. And of course, schedule a meeting with your PTAC who can help show you how to find what you’re looking for.