How to Find Hidden Federal Contracting Opportunities You Can Shape

Would you like to find federal contracting opportunities long before your competitors do so that you can shape the RFPs? This post explains how.

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When I learned about this method I was flabbergasted, because it was so superior to anything any of my employers had done.

Over the course of my career I have worked for nine different federal contractors, initially as an IT business analyst and then later as a project manager and program manager. These companies generally found opportunities too late to shape the RFP. They found opportunities by:

  • Waiting for RFPs and RFIs to come from contract vehicles they held
  • Finding procurements announced on or its predecesssor
  • Reading the procurement projections issued by an agency’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
  • Finding opportunities listed by subscription database services
  • Obtaining word of mouth insight from contacts who would give them advance notice

The problem with the first three methods is that by the time these announcements are made, there is usually little opportunity to convince the customer to modify the RFP to fit your solution. And your competitors have access to the same information at the same time. There is no opportunity to get a jump on the competition.

Subscription database services offer information about opportunities long in advance, but the problem with that information is that it generally assumes that contracts will be recompeted when they expire. But those recompetes may or may not happen. The government might not even fund them. And even if it does happen, it comes with a built-in incumbent contractor. You can try to shape it in advance, but it might be a a waste of time and money.

Even learning about the opportunity from inside contacts might not give you enough time to shape the opportunity.

There is a much better way:

Look at the federal budget.

The budget describes each agency’s spending plans for the coming year. You can review the budget, find line items related to your capabilities, and then plan pursuit.

A book describes this process: How to Win Business from the Government: A Tactical Guide to Understanding the U.S. Federal Government Information Technology Marketplace by James Baker

James Baker details how to extract opportunities from the budget and other publicly available documents. He even explains how the budget can help you find opportunities with no incumbent contractor who would need to be displaced. Although the specific websites used in the process have changed since the book was published in 2009, the principles remain the same and we have been making good use of them.

My firm recently used this process to help a client identify more that 200 upcoming opportunities at the U.S. Department of Justice that matched their capabilities. This enabled them to winnow down the list to create a pipeline of opportunities they would pursue.

I was astonished when I learned about this superior method of finding federal opportunities, because no one I knew used it.

Now I cannot imagine finding opportunities any other way. Can you?

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