Non Traditional Approaches to Government Contracting (Podcast Transcript)Aug 30, 2022
[01:13] Richard C. Howard: Hey, guys. Rick here with government sales momentum, the podcast and Richard C. Howard and associates. If you're watching this video or listening to the podcast, thanks for tuning in. Today we're going to talk about something I think is probably the most interesting as far as selling to the military, selling to the government, and that's what I would consider the nontraditional approach to acquisition. So what I mean about that is if you're new to this or even if you've been doing it for a while, you'll know, you could spend years researching and learning about just the RFP process, the request for proposal process, or submitting requests for information or sources thought. But there are a lot of GSA schedules, there are a ton of ways to sell to the government that are if you do the research, eventually you learn what they are. But there are a lot of what I would consider nontraditional ways that aren't spelled out for you that just you learn by spending some time in this arena or maybe having the right contacts within different organizations.
One I'm going to talk about today, which my clients had great success in. In fact, we just won one of these opportunities is called FORGS Challenge. Africa is basically, you could think of it as a part of the Air Force. Now they're doing, I guess you could say, some very interesting things as far as putting companies on contract quickly, putting money into innovation. You can almost look at some of what they're doing, almost like a venture capital approach. But over the years there have been a lot of different organizations within the government trying to put the gas on government acquisitions. If you've been listening to this, you know, I tell people you got to plan on twelve to 18 months consistently engaging before being on contract. And those timelines frankly, are extremely long, right? Especially when we're talking about small businesses that are tech startups or if you don't have the capital to just do that for a year and a half, you need to have another revenue stream coming in in order to maintain that. Well, with APWorks and some other agencies within the Department of Defense and other government organizations, like I said, they're doing things a little bit differently. And so this is one of the approaches I would consider nontraditional. And this is called F Work Challenge. Right.
I'm going to talk about today because one of my clients just won a spot at the Afwerk's Showcase. And so if you're following along on a video, I'm about to share my screen. If you're listening to the podcast, that's fine too. You could go to Africanchallenge.com to see what I'm talking about. And basically when you look at a challenge, they're going to have different topic areas. And this is just one of the many not traditional approaches. I mean, there are ways to sell directly to the government, meaning you can sell directly to the government without kind of using the traditional acquisitions process. There are a ton of programs like this Afworks Challenge, but this is the one we're going to talk about today. So taking a look again, I'm on Afworkschallenge.com, you're going to see different topic areas, right? So the first thing this is very similar to if you're looking at a small business, innovative research or STTR type of contracts type of way, where the government would be investing in the development of a solution, those and you've probably heard podcasts that I've given on those before where you're basically looking for a topic that your product or service in some cases fits into, right? And they're usually pretty broad. So now I'm on the Efforts Challenge website and I can see a couple of the challenges. One is airfield maintenance and repairs one's flight line security. The other one is aircraft maintenance operations, right? So all of these are pretty broad flight line security. There's a lot that could go into that. Same with airfield maintenance and repair. But let's talk about I just clicked on the flight line security one and what it does is it kind of walks you through what their process is. So with this process, first they're going to define I'm going to go to the overview first.
There's the Challenge overview. So for this, they're going to give very specific details about what they're looking for. Now this one, you're already past the submission phase, right? So my client and I, we already submitted solutions to this and we're already in the showcase selection phase going into the Challenge Showcase. But I just want to walk you through what the process for something like this looks like because there's going to be other challenges that open up here over the next couple of months and one of them may meet one of the technologies that you're working on. So this gives me all the parameters, what they're asking for, improving flight line access and control, enhanced communications and connectivity, leverage advanced data, counter threats from small drones. Now these are even within themselves, pretty broad areas. So there are a lot of companies that are going to have a technology that kind of meets one of these solutions. And one of the nice things about this and it goes through, it gives you different focus areas. So there's a lot more information and I'm not going to read it all to you, but when you go to submit for an affords challenge, unlike a traditional proposal where you may be having to write a ten or 20 page proposal or even bigger than that on a large contract with something like this, it's actually, I'm going to see if I can bring it up here. It might be closed, but it's really just a digital form that you fill out online. And when you fill that form out online, you're just answering specific questions. Now with these two, it ends up being maybe two pages long and you're restricted by word count as well when you submit. So you're not going to have to write more than two pages. And it's a great way to get your solution in front of somebody and get an idea if you're really hitting a nerve with what you're providing.
Now, if you're watching the video, you can see I hit submit and I don't think it's going to let me actually get to the application page since we're already past the date. But there are a bunch of blocks down here if you're looking at the video. And each one of these is a solution that somebody submitted and it'll also say not selected or selected based on because they just had a review. So they had 80 different groups of military, government, acquisitions guys, people that are looking for this App Works challenge in particular, to review each one of these and make a go no go decision. So you can come on here and review. You can see what one of these applications looks like. I'm not going to go through that now just to get a sense of what's required when you submit. But what happens is after you are reviewed and they go through the selection, then they'll send you an email. So I had a client win one of these. I had a client not win and I got two emails. So they were very prompt on the date that it was July 30, when I was supposed to find out. We got emails from Afwerk and one of them was, congratulations, you've been selected for the showcase. The other one was unfortunately, we had X number of entries and you weren't selected. So yeah, you may not be selected, but you're not really going to know with the showcase. You're going to have a broad idea of what they're looking for and then they'll tell you a little bit more after you win and kind of go to the webinar, hey, this is specifically what we're looking for and this is why we chose you guys. Now, this doesn't mean that you're on contract with the government, okay? So this is a process, but what it does allow you to do is just being selected, right? Just being selected off that simple two page application means that now our client is able to use the commercial solutions opening for App Work specific to the Challenge. And I would just think of that as one of the biggest questions that a government agency or an acquisition officer is going to ask when they find a company that they want to put on contract is how do I put them on contract, right? So, for instance, if you have a GSA contract vehicle, that's a way I can put you on contract.
If you're on NASA Soup, I can put you on contract with that. And those are the type of vehicles that companies collect over time, but you may not have that, especially if you're just starting out. So the fact that you can now use this Sizzle is that something that you can bring up to any agency and say, hey, look, we were selected, we were vetted by App Works. We're on this commercial solutions opening that is available to us to go on contract if the agency you're talking to wants to use that. But that's an aside. So now that we've been selected, now what's going to happen is they're going to move to the Challenge Showcase. So from there, they are going to do a video pitch, which is going to be reviewed by the corresponding acquisitions officers on the other side on the AFWERX team. And then they're going to go to Las Vegas with the couple of dozen other companies that were selected and they're going to present their solutions in a booth. You can think of it kind of like an industry day, but this is very specific. There are going to be people that are looking to put one of these companies on contract for specific things. There's also going to be people outside of the organization most likely that are going to be looking at the different companies as prevented on a vehicle that they can utilize to put them on contract. So this is going to open up a lot of doors for our clients as far as potential contracts coming up and could result in a contract award after the Challenge Showcase. So this is just one of the many kind of nontraditional ways that you can go after government contracts, but it's a great way that everyone's not using because think about it, most companies don't even try to sell to the government right? Then the ones that are I would say most of them are registering to sell and then they're just responding to RFPs and if you've listened to me for any amount of time, you know that's not the route you want to take. You want to be finding out about opportunities before they're an RFP or a Solicitation. So you're responding to RFIs and Source and sought and shaping the battlefield. Right. So I would say a minority of the companies are doing that. The ones that are actually succeeding to sell to the government, but even less are going a route like this with an African Challenge or an SBIR STTR or selling Direct. I mean, there is a lot of ways specifically that you can sell to the government and really get a leg up on the competition and jump-start your government contracts process. So I hope that this was beneficial to everyone.
Again, if you're listening to the podcast, I'm going to have the video on our YouTube channel and on my website so you can review, you can look at how we're walking through the websites and the different phases on here. And of course, you can go to Africatschallenge.com and go through each of the upcoming showcases or sorry, challenges. We review the process for each showcase. And again, you can go in here and actually look at the submissions from the companies that won and didn't win. And that is great Intel for you, right? Actually, I was going to close the podcast, but this is actually a good thought that I want to follow through on is in government contracting, almost everything is publicly available. So you need to know that as a company that's making a submission because other people, other companies can take a look at what your maybe pricing is or what your solution offering is. But what's great for you as a business is that you can go and you can look at what other companies are doing. Right. So I can go and look at any company's past performance with the government. I know who they're selling to, what. And for how much. I can go into this affords challenge and see the people that submitted and were chosen and the ones that weren't. And you can kind of get an idea of the type of language that they're using. You can look at maybe things that weren't striking a nerve with the App Works and Challenge Team and some things that were, give you some ideas of how you can package your offering and get that. Hopefully enjoyed episode that helps. Thank you for listening.
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