People often ask, “how can I sell to the government when the RFPs are so highly specific I can’t meet the technical qualifications?” They point out seemingly impossible specifications: “Must have performance experience in Juno, Alaska and uses 2.78 in. LG fiber optic cable. I can’t even bid for this!”
We stand by our opinion that GSA asks for you to tell them what the specifications should be! So, talk to them earlier. We recognize that this can be a difficult task. Running a business is a full time job. Sales outreach and marketing efforts can absorb buckets of your reps’ time. Moreover, compliance and administration require their own language and constant vigilance. So the idea that you need to invest additional time into activities that will not necessarily produce immediate nor guaranteed financial payouts, basically to help the government do its job better, sounds absurd.
But it is not.
It is essential.
This can be illustrated by the following story. Several years ago, I attended an informational session, the kind you can find on GSA’s Website. I didn’t know anything about anything, really, but I wanted to learn. I went down to 18th and F Streets in Washington, DC and sat in a government building that looked like a high school built in the 1950s. We sat in an auditorium, with the built-in wooden fold-down chairs that are mostly indestructible, and listened to an official talk about technology infrastructure change. Long (long) story short, the government was replacing all of its copper wiring with fiber and cloud technology.
And there I sat, in the dullest lecture of my life, surrounded by several hundred business men. Everyone was furiously taking notes. At the end of the presentation, 40 hands shot up for questions. And the very first one, by a man who’s name tag listed his employer as Verizon was: “who do we talk to about shaping the technical specifications?” Thirty hands went down. GSA answered that they had established GSA Interact, a collaborative site where government and commercial sectors could communicate rapidly and openly on this and every other topic.
Those executives were in that dusty auditorium because $50 billion dollars was on the line. They were determined to ensure that the government understood why they needed to buy from them.
We’re not saying that all RFI processes take years and result in the opportunity to win billions of dollars. But for a small business, it could take weeks and result in millions: is that worth it? Simply stated, if you don’t put in the work, your competitors will.