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The passionate pursuit of selling to the U.S. Government
First a little background history. We are NCI (Nu Cen-Tury Inc.), a small business with over 1500 clients and 610+ Million in contracts won for our customers over the last 4.5 years. We do everything related to Government contracting support for our clients. NCI has been fortunate to have a battle tested staff with great perseverance and knowledge. We offer things such as Marketing, application processing, contract data research and delivery, proposal writing, and more. You could say that we are your turnkey solution for everything local, city, state, and federal regarding government contracting.
I can recall a certain situation in which a potential client was contacted by us and we presented her with her options. She became a client and we wrote her GSA proposal for her then did marketing to the various government contacts that purchase what it is that she sells. We started the marketing process with in late 2011. Up to that point she had done a few small jobs here and there and mainly they were through the purchase card network ($3000 and under). She wanted to expand her 1 person operation and was leaning on us to take her to market. We did initial research and found who the folks were within government that purchased her services. We then proceeded to review a 24 month history of contracts won to identify other business that she may be able to go after. From this point we put together a strategic marketing plan that covered all the target prospects within the radius that she wanted to be in. She was now a GSA schedule holder so that allowed us to go after non bid opportunities via the GSA schedule program as well as open market opportunities where she would have to bid (write proposals) to win the job. NCI took on the role for her as her marketing arm. She was only a 1 person show at the time and couldn’t afford to hire a sales person, marketing person, contract maintenance and management person, let alone have the time to find the opportunities that she was eligible to respond to. NCI became that total solution for her. She paid us a fair monthly fee to do all of this work and a percentage of each contract that we helped her win.
The first three months were challenging to say the least. We had identified opportunities, send out marketing pieces to prospective buyers within government and actively did follow up via phone and email. Two of the biggest problems we ran into where she wanted to stay within a certain radius of her location and second getting the buyers on the phone were like pulling teeth. The government buyers suggest they wish to be marketed to but they don’t pick up the phone very often and emails seem to go unviewed. At this point she started getting frustrated and questioned if she made the right decision in pursuing government contracting. I assured her that based on my experiences, she would be fine. Well another month went buy and nothing. She went off the deep end. She told me that she was going to get out of the government sector and I convinced her to give us one more month as we had a dozen opportunities pending approval or decline. A problem with government is that in the open market it takes a long time to hear whether you win or lose the submitted contract proposal. I have seen it take six months until they even let us know we were still in the running or had not won.
So we are now at the end of our fourth month with her and we had no responses from the buyers on whether we one or lost. I will never forget this call I got from her. She said that she had thought a lot about the time, energy, and money she invested to get into government contracting and at this point she was done (that is a summary. What was actually said I can’t repeat on this forum. It was an unpleasant conversation to say the least).
It was just after 5:30 pm eastern on a Friday. The purchasing agent advised me that our client had made the final cut on this particular RFQ and they needed some additional information and better pricing to award it to her. They gave me a deadline of 9am that following Monday. I get off the phone with the purchasing agent and call our client to tell her the good news. She does not answer. It is now 6:30 pm on a Friday and I have a deadline to meet for this opportunity. I took what I had and started reworking the file adding in what I knew and adjusted the pricing I thought would be appropriate. My office phone rings at 9:45 pm, it is the client. It seems she had a little too much to drink and didn’t expect me to be in the office at that time. I picked up the phone and she seemed startled. I explained the news to her and what I had to do. She said don’t waste your time I am not interested in government contracting anymore. I was upset because I was going above and beyond for this client and we were so close. The call ended and I sat back in my chair and thought we have been busting our humps to win opportunities and now we are at the edge she wants to walk away from it. It was now 11pm at night that Friday. I called her number and it went straight to voicemail. I told her that I was submitting what I had and if she decided to not accept it then I have in good conscious done all that I can do for her and our business relationship was over. I left the office a little after midnight and went home.
She thanked me for being stern with her and not giving up when she had. The long and short of it is she won the award, accepted it, and has gone on to become a very successful Government contractor. To this day she is still a client of ours.
Government contracting is not easy. It will test you and pull at your heart strings, but the payoff is worth it. Billions of dollars are spent per year in the non bid GSA world and the Open market bid writing world. The problems that seem to keep small business owners at wits end is the knowhow. Government is filled with Red tape. You need to be able to think outside the box. It is not Grey it is black and white. Each contracting officer will give you a different answer to the same question so you need to be able to decipher what action(s) you need to take to get the desired results for your firm.
We are NCI, a leader in government contracting consulting. We can be your turnkey solution to all that is Government Contracting.