The federal sales process boils down to one key concept: face time.
The best way to win a federal contract is to meet first with federal buyers face-to-face at venues where such contact is encouraged, such as at formal matchmaking events, to gather information about what the agency is buying, when it plans to buy and how it plans to buy.
You need this information to decide whether or not each opportunity is a good fit for your company—or a long shot you should skip in lieu of better opportunities.
You also need face-to-face contact with federal buyers to generate trust and establish relationships, because as the old adage goes, people buy from people they know and trust. The federal government is no different—relationships ultimately drive purchases.
Here is one example of a matchmaking event where federal buyers set up appointment times to talk one-on-one with federal contractors and vendors like you:
Thursday, August 14, 2014
9:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
90 K Street., NE, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20002
Department of Homeland Security
Vendor Outreach Sessions with Small Business Specialists.
Note: this session is reserved for 8(a) and SDB companies only.
Appointment setting will begin on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 12:00 noon (Eastern Time)
How can you find matchmaking events like this one, plus similar conferences and events where federal buyers attend?
There are multiple ways to accomplish this, but here are three places to look for such events:
1. The Federal Business Opportunities website at www.FBO.gov, specifically by clicking on the “Small Business Events” link on the right side of the homepage. Look for events labeled like this: matchmaking, vendor outreach session, small business event, industry day, networking event, business expo, procurement matchmaking, etc.
2. Industry associations and trade groups. Join the email and events lists of relevant trade associations within your industry and keep an eye out for notices of upcoming federal contracting events. Here are three examples of events offered by three different trade groups:
- Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) for defense contractors: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Industry Day: Collaborating to Meet Increasingly Complex Geospatial Intelligence Needs
- Wyoming Business Council: Government Contracting Matchmaking Event
- United States Chamber of Commerce: America’s Small Business Summit with B2B Matchmaking and Confirmed Federal Agencies
3. The events page of each federal agency. Once you have determined a handful of agencies you are interested in working for, scour their individual websites to locate their events listings, and check these pages often. You might find events like these three examples:
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) On-Site Agency Visit
- The Federal Aviation Administration eFAST Industry Day: Computer Systems Development
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) Inspection Industry Day
There are other ways to meet federal buyers, but these types of matchmaking events are a great start.
The following is a brief 6-step overview of the general process of working with Government Certification Specialists Inc. (GCS) on your SBA 8(a) application.
Our consultants perform as much of the 8(a) application labor for you as is permissible under the SBA 8(a) guidelines.
Typically these activities entail 30 days or less to complete.
❶ Detailed Telephone Interview and Discussion to Ensure You Qualify
- 60 minute telecon with all owners
- Our consultants ask you multiple SBA questions about your business to hunt for potential anomalies or risk areas
- Our consultants interview the disadvantaged owners to take biographical notes that are used to compose the 8(a) narratives for you
- If we find any “showstoppers” (big problems that prevent certification) your retainer payment will be refunded
❷ Personal and Company Checklists of Required Documents are Provided
- Checklists are issued after the discussion/telecon
- Each owner and spouse will receive a tailored checklist of documents and data required from them
- Company checklist of 50+ documents
- Secure online file transfer using Dropbox
❸ Documentation Review by GCS Inc.
- All personal and company documents are reviewed by GCS Inc. consultants
- We help you find or create missing documents
- We give you helpful examples and templates as needed
- We help you correct any files or documents that fail to comply with SBA 8(a) rules
❹ Electronic Half of SBA 8(a) Application
- We open your SBA online account for you
- We perform all of the data entry work for you
- You have a chance to review and change anything we input into the system for you
❺ Paper Half of the SBA 8(a) Application
- We print, label and collate all of the files in the sequence SBA wants
- We create placeholders for items that do not apply
- We compose all of the disadvantage narratives
- We create the business history, organization chart, and other documents for you
- We flag all pages that require your signatures
- We mail the completed package to you for your review and signature
❻ Correspondence with the SBA
- We help you respond to SBA questions
- We will compose each cover letter
- We will give you advice and guidance on how to respond in a compliant manner
- We give you a list of attachments to collect
- We will explain the SBA’s rationale behind each of the agency’s questions
Please send an inquiry to email@example.com if you would like more information about our 8(a) application services.
Alternatively, for “do it yourself” business owners, you can access SBA 8(a) application document templates, examples, and guides on our website http://www.8aapplication.com.
The Get 8(a) Certified blog by Government Certification Specialists Inc., the longest running 8(a) blog on the Internet, is 6 years old this month!
Thank you to all of our readers and customers as well as all the nice people we have interacted with at the SBA since 2008 for helping to make this blog a success.
Government Certification Specialists Inc. just edited, updated and improved its kit for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) concerns that wish to self-certify under the SBA’s “Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Procurement Program” and become a verified SDVOSB in the VA’s “Veterans First Contracting Program.”
The kit is longer and better yet available at a lower price than before: $29.95
You can securely order and download the SDVOSB kit entitled “How to Register as an SDVOSB: Federal SDVOSB Certification in Simple Language” from our website:
The kit explains key rules and regulations you should be aware of before you claim to be an SDVOSB; helps you tell the difference between the SBA SDVOSB program and the VA SDVOSB program; lists the documents you need; and provides a simple breakdown of the steps you need to take to become a verified SDVOSB for federal government contracting.
(A note about terminology for those who are concerned: Although the U.S. government does not favor the term “SDVOSB certification,” business owners often use the word “certification” when discussing both the VA and SBA SDVOSB programs, so we apply this word in a colloquial sense in this kit and on our website.)
The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) certification program is not for the faint at heart–the ideal 8(a) business owner is patient, confident, yet ready to sell.
Some might claim the classic “Type A” personality–aggressively competitive, constantly compelled by a sense of urgency–is a perfect fit for the 8(a) program, but seemingly contrary traits actually suit an 8(a) business owner better: patience, calm, a strategic and long term outlook.
This is because events in the 8(a) world actually unfold rather slowly: a 105 day application process; a subsequent business plan approval process that can take an additional 30 days; and weeks if not months of business development groundwork to carefully court federal clients. Contracts—even sole source set aside contracts–take weeks of preparation to be executed properly and without error.
The ideal 8(a) owner is driven yet patient; attuned to the value of time yet calm rather than hasty in the face of stress; well prepared and detail oriented, ready to confront reams of federal paperwork (albeit less than with other categories of competitive federal contracts) with an eagle eye for detail.
This patience can be rewarded with great benefits–sole source awards up to $4 million in value, long term relationships with federal buyers who trust you with their future requirements, etc.–but to reap these benefits, the 8(a) business owner must engage in self-marketing.
The ideal 8(a) business owner should be confident, ready to shake hands and network, and able to explain to federal buyers (quickly and articulately) how he or she can help resolve the buyers’ problems or pain points.
Hiding behind a desk all day or hunting for RFPs within a massive database will not readily bring forth 8(a) contracts, so the 8(a) business owner needs to leave the office weekly, attend events and meetings and invest his or her time in self-marketing.
(The introvert 8[a] business owner can vet and hire a “people person,” a sales professional with a proven track record in government sales, to help represent him or her in public if the notion of attending conferences and meetings induces too many shivers, but a sales talent like this will cost the organization $100K per year or more to employ.)
In summary, the successful 8(a) business owner is patient, strategic, unfazed by paperwork and red tape, capable of long term thinking and goal setting, and above all able to sell, sell, sell.
Happy New Year 2014, small business owners!
Now that the calendar year has changed, your 8(a) application will need the following documents updated:
1. Obtain a new Certificate of Good Standing dated 2014.
2. Prepare your year-end 2013 balance sheet, profit and loss statement, aging of accounts receivable, and aging of accounts payable.
3. Refresh your Certificate of Insurance for 2014.
4. If you do not yet possess two consecutive years of federal tax returns for your business, prioritize the completion of your taxes for the year 2013, which are absolutely 100% required for 8(a) certification in 2014. Furthermore, your year 2013 company taxes must show some revenue on them to get 8(a) certified.
5. Be sure to obtain current copies of any lease agreements (e.g., if your office lease renews annually, obtain the most recent addendum or attachment covering 2014.)
The SBA recently updated its list of mandatory 8(a) documents here.
We wish you and your business the best in 2014!
An ideal SBA 8(a) application will contain personal taxes for the years 2012, 2011 and 2010 which meet all of the following requirements:
- Your tax returns must be signed or electronically signed.
- Your tax returns must be complete meaning all pages, all schedules, and all attachments–you cannot take any shortcuts here.
- Your tax returns must be legible; unreadable copies or pages with missing sections will not be accepted.
- You need to include any any all W-2 forms you earned from all sources of employment, not just the applicant firm.
- If married you have to include all of your spouse’s tax documentation including their W-2 forms.
- If you also earned income on 1099 forms as reflected on Line 7 of the tax return, attach copies of the relevant 1099 forms.
- You can remove the state pages.
- If your tax return shows you owed taxes (no refund), then you also need to attach proof of full payment such as a cancelled check from your bank (be sure they copy both sides) or an IRS payment plan with documentation evidence of the 3 most recent payments made under the plan.
- If you include an IRS payment plan it must be all of the pages–typically 5 to 7 pages in length.
- If you don’t have a payment plan yet but you still owe the IRS taxes, don’t apply for 8(a) status until after you have established a formal payment plan with the IRS.
For more help with your 8(a) application feel free to contact our certification specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-350-8381.