A comprehensive list of free GovCon tools contractors can use to stay up to date, respond to market trends and, snag those contracts.
We all know that the GovCon market has some of the fiercest competition in the US. With over 435,000 registered and active contractors and most competitive bids going to a miniscule .023% of those, it would seem like GovCon is an impossible landscape for the average procurement professional. But year after year you all keep at it, so to show our support we’re breaking down a list of the best free tools the persistent procurement professional can use to tackle the harsh terrain that is government contracting.
Breaking things down into 3 categories:
- Keeping Up to Date
- Knowing Your Value
- Finding that Perfect Match
We’re giving you the resources you’ll need to succeed in this dog eat dog industry.
Keeping Up to Date
Keeping up with and predicting trends in government contracting can be harder than predicting the weather with nothing but a thermometer. The adept procurement professional needs an arsenal of sources and intel in order to know exactly which bids to pounce on to get that ever more elusive contract. That’s why we’re giving you our list of life-saving govcon specific media sources.
Coming in as our #1 is Washington Technology. What sets Washington Technology apart from the rest is their approach to the news we’re all looking for. This GovCon tool — this GovCon lifesaver — integrates their news feed with predictions based on both market news as well as Wall Street analysis. Rather than sifting through the latest contract services news and puzzling over the analysis yourself, Washington Technology does all the heavy lifting for you. Their team of industry experts and economic wizards analyze the trends so you and your firm can make the best decisions possible.
Other helpful govcon tools that’ll help you stay in the know:
- The Bridge
- Federal Times
- Federal Game Changers for Government Contracting
- Federal News Radio
- Gov Actually FedScoop
- Intelligence Matters
- GAO Watchdog Report
And, of course:
Knowing Your Value
One of the most complicated and difficult — yet crucial — things to do in any industry is setting your rates. Given the competitive nature of government contracting, this goes double for contracting firms. Determining what prices are guaranteed to return profits while remaining competitive can be a daunting endeavor. A good place to start, however, is knowing what the competition is doing. While it’s nearly impossible to know the actual rates of your competitors for their individual items (or services), you can get a pretty good idea with this next set of helpful govcon tools.
Deducing the Cost of Individual Items
Say you’re in the business of selling actual items, let’s say paper. Say you want to see how much your competition is charging for 100 sheet bundles of printer pages. Well, they aren’t going to come out and tell you, but this information can be very valuable in the Govcon market. Firms use different techniques to keep their pricing as opaque as possible, but there is hope for doing productive competitor pricing research with these tools and techniques:
- Finding the total value of the contract is the best start. USASpending.gov will have the information you’re looking for, and they take their information directly from the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) so you can rely on what you’re getting.
- From here you’ll need to see the details of the original solicitation in order to deduce the cost of the individual bundles. Sites like FedBizzOpps or FedConnect will oftentimes have this information readily on hand.
- If this fails, don’t worry. The Freedom of Information Act is your friend here. Committed to providing open communication and information channels with the public, our government will often report contract information themselves that can be used to determine line item pricing information. And if they don’t (or haven’t already, which you can ascertain by searching the FOIA website), consider creating your own FOIA request.
Determining Labor Rates
Now let’s say that you’re not selling goods at all. Say you run a janitorial and sanitation firm committed to keeping our federal buildings squeaky clean. Knowing the labor rates of your competitors can be just as valuable and just as difficult to assess.
- The first thing you’re going to need is the name of your competitor. If you don’t already have this information, then GovShop is the tool for you. With a searchable database of over 750,000 government contractors, you can easily do competitor analysis using keyword search, or by searching category codes and contract vehicles. From there, it’s just a matter of refining your search parameters and reviewing supplier profiles to fill out your competitor landscape. You can also see which contract vehicles they currently hold, for instance GSA Schedules, which is important for step number 2 below.
- Now that you have the firm and contract you’re looking for you can turn to GSA’s eLibrary. Look up the firm or firms you found during your competitor analysis, and from there look for a link that says “Contractor T&Cs/Pricelist.” Clicking this link will bring up a new document that includes a table of labor rates. Congratulations! You now have your competition’s labor rates.
- If you don’t want to just look at just a single competitor but the market as a whole, then GSA has this amazing new resource called The Contract-Awarded Labor Category or CALC. With this new GovCon tool, you can search the type of labor you want to look at and it will produce a range of prices including a standard deviation. This tool is only for labor rates so item and service prices won’t be available. The tool is fairly new, however, so the results aren’t as complete as we’d like them to be yet, so for now, it isn’t an absolute substitute for the other GSA sources. But it’s definitely a helpful GovCon tool.
Find that Perfect Match
Now that you know which direction the winds of the GovCon market are blowing, and you have an idea of how to keep your rates competitive, it’s time to go get that first contract. Even with all of these GovCon tools, however, this can still be a daunting task, especially for smaller firms.
Sometimes, finding the right government contracting opportunity requires you to find the right customer first. Or more specifically, help them find you, and at their time of need. This is why we created GovShop, to connect government buyers with government contractors.
Designed and created by Public Spend Forum, GovShop is a helpful tool for both buyers and suppliers to find their match. GovShop offers free resources to firms with profiles including event invitations and a place in their growing network of procurement professionals. In an ever more competitive marketplace, the networking potential of a site like this can be invaluable to the procurement firm looking for that next contract. Currently in its Beta, GovShop is working on releasing resources specifically focused on helping small business procurement firms snag those elusive government contracts in the future.
Specifically geared toward small businesses, GovMates is like the eHarmony of small firm government contract procurement. All they need from you in a completed profile and they’ll take care of the rest. Working with the information you provide GovMates will match your small contracting firm with other firms to grow your business to its full potential. GovMates looks into your past performance and business capabilities as well as the needs of buyers and other contractors to put you in view of contracts that you are wholly suited for based on the contract specific needs. And the best part is, all those contractors are looking specifically for small business partnerships, so there’s no worry that your firm is anything but exactly what they’re looking for.
Using these free GovCon tools any government contracting firm is sure to get that head start in the incredibly competitive contract procurement industry. By breaking down the process of bid hunting into 3 categories: knowing market trends, knowing labor rates and line item pricing, and finally, finding the right contracts for your business, we hope you can use these resources to help your company land that next big contract.
Be sure to keep these GovCon tools in mind and don’t forget to check out more posts from Public Spend Forum to stay on top of the ever-shifting government contract market.