Editor's note: There’s no shortage of tools that can help firms land more federal contracts. Here is another in GPN’s series on selling strategies as the end of federal fiscal year 2017 approaches on Sept. 30. GPN reached out to Lourdes Martin-Rosa, American Express OPEN Advisor for Government Contracting, to get her views on the federal marketplace in 2017. Below are Martin-Rosa’s views.

GPN: Are there any agencies or product/service categories that offer special opportunities this federal fiscal year-end?

Lourdes Martin-Rosa: The federal acquisition budget was approved late this year due to a new administration, but funding is quickly starting to flow as agencies are trying to find small businesses with the capabilities to fulfill their contracting needs.

The end of the fiscal year is approaching (Sept. 30th) and all agencies need to meet their small business contracting goals. Access to good viable small business contractors is not as easy as you may think. An agency may view a small business as a high risk if they've never done business with the federal government.  What can you do to behave as an experienced government contractor?  Learn the federal language. For example, Department of Homeland Security calls their sub-agencies “Components,” whereas the Department of Interior calls them “Bureaus.”

We predict that the agencies that will receive a boost in funding this year are the Department of Defense, Nuclear Security Administration and those related to the defense or military industries, including the Department of Homeland Security.

GPN: What tactics should buyers and sellers try as the end of the federal fiscal year approaches?

LM-R: To have an edge in government contracting, small businesses should take the following steps:

a    Ensure your SAM, Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) or SBA Profile is active and is fully undated with your information. These portals are utilized by most contracting officials as a search vehicle.

b    Research agency procurement forecasts and understand their particular buying methods. If you see a viable procurement match for your firm, begin to research the agency's missions and goals and explore opportunities to team to strengthen your bid. For example, if the upcoming contract opportunity is a set aside for 8(a) and you are not 8(a)-certified, team with a business that is 8(a)-certified.  How do you find them? You can use the DSBS profile to find 8(a) firms within your area or identify companies with the technical expertise you need to help you win that contact.

c    Schedule a visit with your local SBA office. Many SBA local offices have Procurement Contract Representatives (PCR) whose responsibility is to identify local opportunities to help boost small business contract engagement within their geographic communities. These officials sometimes have trouble finding small businesses to complete agency requests so you’ll want to be on their radar.

GPN: Is there anything special about the 2017 federal fiscal year-end?

LM-R: We anticipate that the trends we saw throughout 2017 will stay through the end of the fiscal year. Which means that like in 2017, IT and Professional Services may continue to dominate in the small business contracting spectrum.  To prepare for the end of the fiscal year, visit federal agency websites to find the schedule of their Vendor or Industry Days. You can also explore events like ChallengeHER, hosted by the SBA, WIPP and American Express OPEN, which provide resources for women involved or looking to get involved in government contracting. Both of these events are free and allow you to speak with contracting officials as well as other small businesses that could make strong partners.

In addition, as a small business owner myself, I know that there is a lot of opportunity at the end of the fiscal year to secure contracts. Before jumping in, be sure to examine the requirements, payment methods, profit margins and weigh if you are able to complete the tasks. You never want to make a bad impression entering the federal sector. By pursuing opportunities you know you could fulfill with your requirements and those of your teaming partners, you’ll be setting your business up for contracting success.

Editor's note: GPN will be spotlighting government buying and selling opportunities as the end of the federal fiscal year approaches. The topic will be discussed in a series of four Use It or Lose It e-newsletters that will be deployed in July and August before the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept 30, 2017.

Please email michael.keating@penton.com if you'd like to submit a commentary on what federal buyers and contractors need to do before the end of the federal fiscal year, the federal marketplace or similar topic. Go here for a sample issue of the free Use It or Lose It e-newsletter.

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