Harnessing the right historical data from the Government definitely can give you an advantage. Let’s face it, most of us do not have relationships formed with a buyer, nor do we have solid past performance established. This means we need to take advantage and utilize resources that we DO have.
In the commercial market, businesses make decisions based on market information from sales staff, clients or even trade groups. This information is used every day in how they position themselves in the form of what their message is to the consumer.
It just makes sense to have and use this same information in the Government market.
A successful government business knows the market much in the same way they do their commercial business. They know the specifics; what Facility is buying, who the buyers are, and when the buy is anticipated to take place.
Award History and it’s Advantages
Using historical information is often called being proactive; meaning that you are seeking an advantage ahead of a request being posted. This is important because once the bid is posted on the street you are at the mercy of the market. In the part and product world this often means that the lowest price wins, period.
“Why do I want to look at past contract awards…I am seeking opportunities?” I have been asked this question countless times throughout my career. The answer is simple – by having information ahead of the request you can gain an advantage and/or be in a better position to respond competitively.
Information Needed from Procurement History
You are not just viewing past award history for the fun of it. For the most part, your government buyers are like any other consumer, they are creatures of habit. And like all consumers they do have buying patterns.
The next time you are looking at past pricing information try to get yourself into the habit of viewing the following;
The dates the awards are taking place.
Who is the buying activity?
Who is getting the awards, what set aside do they enjoy?
What is your advantage over those winning?
By getting into this habit from the start you will be better informed and know the specifics of your market. This in turn will make it easier for you to gain your advantage and take the path of least resistance.
So where can you find this historical data? The government offers 2 databases that contain any and all procurement information. Depending on your industry and what side of the market you are targeting, will determine where you will look.
What is FLIS? (Federal Logistics Information Service)
Most of us selling parts and products are aware that DLA (Defense Logistics Agency) has the responsibility to assign and manage NSN (National Stock Number) activity. This information is commonly found in FLIS (Federal Logistics Information Service).
Have you done an NSN search only to find nothing is available from your provider? This is because your provider is focused on FLIS and not providing the complete spectrum of buying activity.
The Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS)
If you came up empty researching FLIS for a particular part, you will find it in FPDS (Federal Procurement Data System). FPDS will list ALL procurement information throughout the entire government. This does mean it will also show your DLA activity as well.
So why not just use FPDS for all your pricing information? The disadvantage to information found in FPDS is that it will not show you the number of units purchased or the cost per unit.
This buying activity generated a buy based on NAICS or a keyword. The part or product being procured may have an NSN assigned to it, but the buy is not being generated by the NSN or FSC (Federal Supply Class).
Using Historical Data
If information on an award is found in FPDS you have the ability to do what is called a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.
A FOIA request is made to the FOIA officer at the Facility and not your buyer; too many people try this request with the buyer only to be unsuccessful. Search GovData can identify the FOIA officer(s) at any given government facility, so you can be assured your request will be processed.
Multiple Year Contracts: BPAs, BOAs, IDIQs, BAAs
The part world will see multiple year contracts commonly called BPA’s (Blanket Purchase Agreement), BOAs (Blanket Purchase Order), IDIQs (Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity) or BAAs (Broad Agency Announcement).
What do we know about these types of contracts? These contracting vehicles are used because the government usually has an ongoing requirement and most often they will be re-competed.
It is important to know who, where and when. By looking over past awards you can begin to answer these questions and see a pattern in buying activity. Your government buyers are like any other consumer, they have buying patterns and are creatures of habit.
Using a Set Aside Request
One advantage of knowing about your multiple year contracts is the ability to use a set aside request. This type of request can have the solicitation pulled from the open market to a narrowly focused group with a specific set aside.
I assure you that those who know this technique are very aggressive with it; a 30 second phone call is all it takes. I strongly recommend that this is practiced at least 90 days before a contract expires.
Uncovering the Unmet Need
Every buyer has an unmet need. It is our job as a seller to uncover the unmet need and offer solutions. If you are looking at historical data you will be well prepared.
As an example: I was working with a client and monitoring his market when I found that a particular part was being procured an awful lot. Based on my experience in machining and fabrication, it indicated to me that this might be due part failure (because of the type of material). I spoke with my client and he agreed.
By advising the client to offer a better solution to the buyer, he was able to secure sole sourcing for the rail system of that particular rocket launcher. We identified the problem by watching the movement of the part in question, prepared a solution and then presented it to the buyer and program manager – that simple.
When we know what to do with it and what type of information we need in order to gain that advantage, we begin to see the value in looking into the past.
Remember there is more to government than just bidding, and for a seller to sustain growth in the market they should always be positioning for tomorrow.