Where did the week go?

March 31, 2007 on 3:34 pm | In Customer Service | Comments Off

Sometimes the best plans go astray. Hard to believe an entire week has passed since the last posting! Typical month-end stuff; pretty usual for the small business person, however.

What I want to talk about today is the importance of developing the relationship with your customers. There is lot in the business literature today about this topic, but it still seems to skim over the head of so many entrepreneurs. Perhaps it’s because of the influence of bad multi-level marketing (NOTE: Not all of them are bad, but too many of them are!) where they were taught it was all a numbers game. I have to generate 100 leads so I can qualify 20 prospects, so I can schedule 3 presentations, so I can close one sale. What an incredible waste of time!! Look, survey after survey after survey has shown time and again – people buy from people they like! So one of the biggest keys to success in ANY business (and Seinfeld’s soup Nazi notwithstanding!) is to be likeable!

Sure, you want to let anyone and everyone know what you are doing, and you do need to develop a great elevator speech, but more importantly you need to understand that your customer is a 24 hour person and you interaction with them might be only 5 to 20 minutes out of that 24 hours. You have about that much time to impress them, interact with them, and get them to like you – in a word, become memorable. If you are struggling with this, go read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. And if you HAVE read it, go back and read it again.

Become genuinely interested in people. Learn to ask outstanding questions. Keep a log of what you learn about people – it helps you remember things when you see them again. When you develop the relationship FIRST, the sale comes naturally, and when a problem arises, you have an excellent basis on which to talk through a solution. This is truly a win-win arrangement. And besides – most people are pretty interesting once you get to know them!

Who Needs A Business Plan?

March 23, 2007 on 2:41 pm | In Getting Started | Comments Off

So many folks ask us how to go about getting a government contract, but for many of them they have not even thought through what it takes to even run a business yet alone manage a government contract. As a result we spend a lot of time mentoring entrepreneurs on how to get their business started before we even start talking about government contracts.

Anyone who wants to be their own boss should have a business plan. And not jst “anyone” but EVERYONE! There are no exceptions. What kind of business you plan to have will determine how detailed of a plan you might need, but regardless, everyone needs a business plan.

How do you go about doing that. You could go to the bookstore and get any of about 100 books on the subject. You can also go online and find a great number of resources and templates that will help you. Any of those might work, but before you begin you should do two things. First, you should sit down with your computer (or pen and paper, or whatever you use to record your thoughts) and just start writing. Write whatever things you think are important about your business. What do you plan to sell? Is is a good or a service? Where will you find suppliers? Will you do any manufacturing yourself? Will you be importing? How big will your company be? What amount of money do you need to get started? How much will you need to maintain your operations? There are countless other questions you might think about, but just get started! You can organize these thoughts into categories later. For now – just start writing.

 The second question you need to answer is – why am I writing this plan? Am I looking for a bank loan? Do I need an angel investor or a VC firm? Is my plan just to help me organize my thoughts? Plans take a different shape depending on what there purpose might be.

 So these are the first two question sto answer for your self and a couple steps to get started. Watch for more on getting your business started and then seeking government contracts.

Travel to Some Hotels Sucks!

March 22, 2007 on 11:48 pm | In Customer Service | Comments Off

Spent the night last night in $250/nite room at an airport hotel – no free internet (they wanted an additional $10!!) and no free breakfast!! What a cheap place! Give me the old stand-by’s where you get free internet and free breakfast. It makes no sense to pay for all that “class-less class.” I won’t mention the name, but if you had a friend named “It” who you met on the street you might say, “Hi, It.”

FAR To Be Printed Only in LARGE PRINT EDITION

March 21, 2007 on 8:15 am | In The Profession | Comments Off

There is concern about how the average age of contract management professionals is steadily rising. We do not have enough young people joining the profession to fill all of the needs that will continue to exist – in fact grow – over the next 15 to 20 years. If we do not act soon, we will only need to publish the FAR in a large print edition!

It is well known and accepted that there are very few degree programs that channel folks into our profession. The vast majority of us came from related disciplines such as law, accounting, finance, and admin. Much of the training that occurs is OJT, and many will admit that they wanted to get out of whatever they were doing and an opening came up in contracting. Not quite the well thought out career path!

Still, as our average age increases, what are we doing to entice more young people into what we consider our life-long profession? More specifically what are YOU doing?

One thing that CCS has started is to form two groups within MySpace. MySpace.com is a social networking site made extremely popular by teens. In more recent times it has gotten very popular with a more mature membership who are using the site not just for social networking, but for business networking. There are, as of today 19,899 business groups and over 164 million members! Those are pretty impressive numbers any way you look at it. We started two groups within MySpace – one specifically to promote the National Contract Management Association and one to simply promote the profession. These groups can be found at http://groups.myspace.com/OfficialNCMA and http://groups.myspace.com/governmentcontractingprofessionals . Membership in MySpace is free and all you need to get started is a digital picture of yourself (or your dog, or cat, or favorite
South Park character – people use almost anything!). Once you are signed on, look up the two groups and join us. We are trying to get some interesting dialog going there, and in the process attract some of the younger demographic into our profession. To do that, we need more experienced members to be in the group to answer questions, share thoughts, and possibly mentor others.

Do your part to keep the pipeline full. Share your thoughts on what else we might do to promote contract management as a worthy career goal.

Customer Service

March 20, 2007 on 10:32 am | In Customer Service | Comments Off

Much is said and written today about what makes good customer service. Every study ever done concludes that people will pay more for a product or a service if there is excellent customer service behind it. There is so much literature out there that tells us this it is sometimes a wonder that you continue to get poor service anywhere. Yet it is pandemic. Most business providers do not know how, or do not care to provide, excellent customer service.

We all have our war stories about an event where we got poor service. And those same studies tell us that a person who received bad service will tell an average of 20 people about the bad service. Those who get good service will usually only tell three. What makes good customer service when your customer is the US Government?

I published an article in the December 2006 Contract Management magazine that asks the question “Who IS the Government Customer?” In that article (available at http://www.governmentcontractingsolutions.com/CMJan06_p54.pdf) I suggest that there are actually three customers with very different interests representing the government. Just as when you market to the government, you must provide all three of these government representatives with outstanding customer service. These are the technical representative who defines the requirement and usually performs the acceptance testing, the financial manager who certifies the funds and issues payment, and the contracting officer who awards the contract and administers it through closeout.

We’ll talk more about these three in the coming weeks, but if you are a supplier to the government you have three distinct decision makers, and at least three “customers” to keep satisfied.

Government Contracting for the Small Business

March 19, 2007 on 3:14 pm | In Marketing to the Government, Uncategorized | Comments Off

So what does a small business do that wants a government contract? Well we think that there are seven steps to the starting process – BEFORE you start submitting offers. Ask us how.

Hello world!

March 19, 2007 on 2:50 pm | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

So welcome to the preeminent blog for government contracting! If you are here then you must have some interest in how the government buys all of the goods and services that it needs. Perhaps you are already a government vendor; perhaps you have done some business as a subcontractor; perhaps you are just starting out and want to offer your products or services to the government; or perhaps you have a well established business and are now thinking of expanding to include the government as a customer.

Or you may be someone who works in the field of government contracting. No matter where you are starting, this is the place to come for news, information, comments, complaints, the basics, the advanced, or even the esoteric.  If you see something that sparks your interest, post a comment. If you don’t see what you are looking for, contact us and ask a question. We will do our best to keep this blog current and informative.

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