Navigating the Government Procurement Maze – Phase 1

Phase 1 – In The Beginning

MazeWe fly to many airports, rent many cars, and stay in many hotel rooms. For the most part they are depressingly similar. And, thankfully, they are familiar.

We don’t have to learn a different procedure for every airport boarding and hotel room we purchase for an evening. These suppliers of services to the traveling public have long understood that the more they can standardize a transaction the faster and more efficient they can make it. This minimizes cost to the supplier and annoyance to the customer.

Yeah, we have stood waiting 45 minutes for the rental car bus at the Chicago airport at 2:00 am, but no commercial system is perfect. Our inconvenience was compensated for with a vehicle upgrade and sincere apologies. Nevertheless, the process of renting a car was the same as it has been about a thousand times for us. Customers like familiarity and reward those companies who provide it by buying their services.

The suppliers to car rental companies and airlines probably have a much less rosy view.

And that is what we have found with our customers. It should come as no surprise to anyone that businesses are always more willing to sell you something than they are to buy something from you. Businesses buy what they need and work to sell products people not only need, but want.

Does anyone need three televisions in their home? We bet you have at least that many.

Marketing is the process of convincing people that they not only need something, but that they want something. Convenience and familiarity is a big part of the convincing procedure.

Smart businesses smooth the path for the supplier because they know good and dependable suppliers make it easier to produce goods and services their customers want.  We may spend a lot of time and effort in finding the right person in a business to initiate conversation but once we find the people who make decisions about suppliers the hardest part of your work is done.

Do what you say you will do and do it when you say you will do it and you might have a customer. Developing an atmosphere of trust and integrity is the foundation to any lasting relationship.

In the beginning the American people created the federal government. It started as a noble idea and still is noble when compared to others formed, operated, and fallen since 1789.

We would much rather be governed by the United States government than oh, say, almost any other country. After all, the American system is the longest surviving democratic system in the world.

That doesn’t mean it is the most efficient system, though, if you are a small business trying to supply to the U.S. Government.

Unlike folks in commercial business, there are extremely rigid procedures that must be followed to qualify to supply to the feds.

First, if you are a business you know that you have to have a tax ID. The TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) can be obtained free through the Internal Revenue Service.

Secondly, you must obtain a D-U-N-S number, which will identify you as to contract to the feds. This number is provided by Dunn and Bradstreet.

These two procedures are painless and FREE. There are plenty of people out there on the internet that will be happy to charge you for providing these two numbers. Ignore them. Free is good.

Armed with these two numbers you are ready to list your company with the all-important CCR (Central Contractor Registration). Among the items you will be asked for is the classification of what goods and services you offer, or your NAICS (North American Industry Classification System). These six digits codes classify what services you offer. You are not limited to just one classification since very few small businesses do just one thing. Once you are registered you can update regularly as your business evolves. Look your codes up here http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/.

Note: The feds give special preferences to small businesses that are 51% owned by economically and socially disadvantaged persons. Look it up here

So now you have gone through all these steps and are ready for the phone to ring off the wall with government customers begging you to do business with them, right? Uhhh…..don’t think so.

What you have done so far is to get listed along with about a jillion other people all over the world wanting to do business with the feds. This has got to be a huge database, folks.

What you have done, though, is take the steps that will allow you to solicit government business. Put another way, you are now able market to the government just as you are to private business.

Check back soon as we post Phase 2 of Navigating The Maze titled “Lessons in Patience.”

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