The Government of Canada, which spends about $20-billion annually on goods and services, wants to do more business with small and medium-sized firms – including sole proprietors. In recent years, it has been simplifying low-risk, low-dollar contracts, which account for the bulk of federal contracts. Here are 10 tips for landing contracts:
1. Take free webinars and seminars. Get tips on writing proposals, security clearance, exploring niche markets like federal defence and security procurement, and more. The Office of Small and Medium Enterprises offers free training sessions online and in-person across Canada. Check the events calendar at buyandsell.gc.ca, the procurement portal for suppliers and federal buyers.
2. Register in the supplier registration information database. Do this at buyandsell.gc.ca. This gives you your procurement business number, essential for getting paid.
3. Employ short-, medium- and long-term sales tactics to improve your chances of winning business. See below.
4. Subcontract (short-term). Working for a company or staffing agency that already has a contract gives you federal experience if you lack it. Check Contract History, Awards and Standing Offers and Supply Arrangements at buyandsell.gc.ca for sources. Or search Treasury Board's Proactive Disclosure section for all departmental contracts over $10,000.
5. Get on source lists / government-wide procurement vehicles (medium-term). Source lists are for purchases up to $25,000. Approach departments/agencies that match your expertise. Phone materiel managers or e-mail other managers relevant to your sector (see Government Electronic Directory Services). Also apply to get registered with relevant government-wide procurement vehicles for services. Especially important is the new ProServices mandatory tool for contracts up to $80,400 – it covers 150 job roles.
6. Bid on tenders (long-term). Many requirements for higher-value contracts are posted on buyandsell.gc.ca, particularly for goods. Browse new tenders daily. Proposals take time to prepare but they can pay off, especially if you win a standing offer or supply arrangement award. These lists of pre-qualified suppliers are often valid for three to four years or longer.
7. Market yourself, always. This is critical. Let materiel managers and others know when your firm has won a standing offer or supply arrangement award. Post award details (where permitted) on your website, your LinkedIn company page – any Internet profile. Contribute to social media networks. The federal government is increasingly active on social media. E-mail the project authority or contract authority on your standing offer/supply arrangement to let them know when you're available. Update them on any helpful new skills you've acquired, too.
8. Do your research. Check buyandsell.gc.ca for news. Go through the Throne Speech, read key departmental publications and stay abreast of Treasury Board policies connected to your industry. Find government publications recommended on Twitter (try the #goc hashtag) or peruse Canadian Government Executive magazine.
9. Know the Government of Canada fiscal planning cycle. The fiscal year runs from April to March. Q1 (April to June) is for setting budgets. Q2 (July to September) is for establishing programs and work plans. Q3 (October to December) is for purchasing. And Q4 (January to March), the busiest time of the year, is for wrapping everything up.
10. Avail of government programs and services. Stress your goods' or services' environmentally friendly features. The government is mandated to buy green now. Improve your bidding strategy through the government's new Learning from Bids service. Trying to get your latest invention to market? The federal government buys innovative goods and services to nudge the process along through the Build in Canada Innovation Program.
Marion Soublière of Ottawa is the author of Getting Work with the Federal Government: A guide to figuring out the procurement puzzle. Follow her on Twitter at @msoubliere.
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