Understanding the Government-buying season

One of the highlights of the GAIN conference was a panel of current and former government officials who discussed the myths surrounding the government-buying season. Panelists included: Henry J. Sienkiewicz, Former CIO, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA); Joanne Woytek, Program Manager, NASA SEWP, Goddard Space Flight Center; and Martha Dorris, Former Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, GSA.

To start off the discussion, Joanne offered the following data points about the SEWP contract. Fifty percent of transactions using the SEWP contract occur in August and September. Of that 50 percent, 35 percent of transactions take place in September, and 15 percent during the last week of September. However, though the number of deals increases as the government buying season comes to a close, the number of request for quotes (RFQs) is relatively constant each month.

During the discussion, the panelists offered the following practical tips for vendors seeking to capitalize on business opportunities during the last quarter of the government fiscal year, which we’ve summarized into this handy Do’s and Don’ts list.

  • Do tie your message to the three major pressure points that are facing government: a need to improve constituent services, reduce budgets, and ramp up cyber response capabilities due to the increasing sophistication of cyber threats.
  • Do build relationships with agencies so they understand your capabilities ahead of time. You may have solutions that the government isn’t aware of that could solve old problems in new ways
  • Do market to agencies before a request for information (RFI) is released. You may be able to help craft what the RFI looks like if you get ahead of the government planning process.
  • Do decide whom you need to influence. In some instances it might make sense to focus on a small group of top decision makers; in other situations a broader awareness-building effort may be required.
  • Don’t wait to spend your money in the last quarter of the government fiscal year. The majority of government decisions are made by June, and the last quarter is mostly “order taking.”
  • Do be open to last-minute, business opportunities in September. Some agencies are more likely to sole-source deals at the end of September because there’s no time for full and open procurement.
  • Do respond to RFIs. Joanne mentioned that some RFIs get no response, which means that the agency might change or cancel the RFQ.
  • Do make sure your website clearly defines what your company does. Government procurement teams don’t want to have to dig to understand your company’s capabilities. Stay away from generic language such as “leading IT consulting company.”
  • Don’t waste government executives’ time trying to sell vaporware, technology that doesn’t scale, or non TAA-compliant technology. Understand government’s requirements.

The panel helped to clarify several misconceptions about government procurement. By understanding the cycle of government buying and its purchasing requirements, government contractors can maximize their public sector revenue.

Hope you enjoyed the GAIN conference as much as we did, and we’ll see you at next year’s conference on November 1, 2018!