Most businesses receiving services from our CIRAS APEX Accelerator program are receiving a Bid Match service from us no cost. This service helps businesses find formally-posted opportunities related to their products and services. The majority of posts found by the Bid Match, however, are in the solicitation phase, in which government agencies are actively seeking offers from industry. These solicitations already contain detailed specifications or Statements of Work. The agencies may have implemented set-asides regarding which small businesses can submit offers as prime contractors (or, alternatively, agencies may have decided small businesses can’t handle the entire scope of work, and are allowing large businesses to pursue the opportunities, directly competing with small businesses).
In many solicitations, the government has already figured out what features the products should have, or how the services should be performed, and they have a general idea of what vendor(s) can meet their needs. In other words, it may be too late for your business to steer the direction on what’s being purchased and how the purchase will be made. You may already be ineligible by the time you actually read the solicitation!
If only there was a way to have more advance notice about future government opportunities…
Did you know federal agencies try to identify and publish information about future opportunities by way of Procurement Forecasts? Many of the federal forecast sites will allow you to search for future needs related to your capabilities by keyword or an industry code (NAICS or PSC). The forecasts identify what quarter of the year agencies plan to make purchases, and they may reveal points of contact you could reach out to with any questions you have. If no point of contact is listed, then it’s a good strategy to contact the agency’s Small Business office for initial guidance.
When federal contract opportunities are posted on the System for Award Management (SAM.gov), businesses are usually limited to communicating ONLY with the listed Contracting Officers for submitting any questions – contacting anyone else could result in your disqualification for award. During the forecast phase, however, the rules are not as strict! You can try connecting with end users and others at the agencies for more details, present information about your solutions, and help shape the specifications and acquisition strategies in your favor.
There are many benefits of federal agencies posting their anticipated acquisitions on procurement forecasts. For agencies, the use of these procedures promotes more competition and helps facilitate obtaining the best value for taxpayers. For industry, vendors are given more time and access to ask questions, offer input, and (if needed) seek teaming partners.
Although the Bid Match service is a powerful tool, it does NOT capture listings included on Procurement Forecasts. It’s up to businesses to periodically check these sites on their own. While state agencies, counties, municipalities, and public educational institutions don’t typically use or post forecast lists, we often encourage our clients to respond, when possible, to Sources Sought and Request for Information (RFI) notices when posted (federal agencies also post these).
If you find something of interest listed on a forecast and have questions about the next steps, you can always contact your CIRAS APEX Accelerator for guidance.