No Quals? No Problem!
In the world of RFPs, having the proper qualifications is key to successful bids.Especially in the Government sector, if you don't have the experience required in the solicitation, your journey is over before it begins.
Many companies have cutting edge technology, industry knowledge and proven solutions, but have never won a government contract. Others have been successful at the municipal level, but can't meet a statewide or federal experience requirement.
So how to you gain experience if you are disqualified from bidding? Well that Catch-22 is what keeps many companies from growing their government business. But there are proven ways to bid without quals while establishing them for the future.
Very few companies have all the solutions and qualifications to bid on all government contracts. So it is important to find partners that are focused on the same verticals as your organization. Whether you prefer to prime or subcontract, a partner can help meet the qualification requirements. And once you have a government contract under your belt, you have experience for the next RFP. What to look for in a teaming agreement:
A partner that enables the prime to communicate stronger performance and capability.
A partner that makes your response more competitive.
A partner that compliments and does not compete with your value proposition.
You may use teaming agreements as your core strategy or on a case by case basis. But establish them before you need them to allow you to react to the final RFP.
Influencing the RFP
This should be the goal of every government sales professional. Once the RFP is out, the agency will very rarely make any changes regardless of the number of concerns based by potential bidders. So if there are irrelevant requirements or "cut and paste" language from a solicitation released in 1998, you're stuck with it.
All the lessons you've learned over the years regarding prospecting and sales still apply even when RFPs are the primary buying vehicle. You need to get in front of the client, understand their pain points and craft a solution to meed their needs. When you truly understand the potential client's strategy and desired outcome, you can be a invaluable resource they can use to craft the RFP. Key points to remember:
Highlight your strengths that solve their issue so that they may be included in the solicitation.
Counter concerns of failure that dictate the need for detailed experience requirements.
Relationships you build are ten times more important that being on a GSA schedule or MSA.
Your best opportunities are the ones where you have built a strong relationship with the decision makers and spent weeks, months and sometimes years focused on pre-acquisition activities to influence the RFP.
The Government sales cycle is one of the longest due to regulations , contract length and limited resources. Therefore you need to create a strong pipeline and not rule out opportunities because you don't have the quals. Formulate a strategy and expand your net.
And remember the three Qs: qualify, quality and quantity!