Matchmakers: Bringing Small Businesses and Government Buyers Together

Matchmakers are invaluable opportunities for making connections

Meeting face-to-face with potential buyers is an invaluable component of marketing, whether in commercial or government contracting. But meetings with government purchasing officers can be difficult to obtain, especially for small firms. A great place to gain some exposure –and some experience – is at Government contracting “Matchmaking” events. Many Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) sponsor or participate in at least one major Matchmaker each year, and many government agencies hold their own events as well. Upcoming events around the country can be found on APTAC’s Training Events calendar.

Also known as Procurement Conferences or Government Expos, matchmakers typically bring together acquisition officers from a number of agencies or buying activities to meet with aspiring vendors. Major prime contractors are usually in attendance as well, seeking capable subcontractors to help them meet their requirements. Small business owners and their staff are the primary audience, with workshops offered on basic contracting issues as well as “How to do business with…” specific agencies. Networking opportunities – such as receptions, breaks or luncheons – are often part of the agenda, allowing participants to connect informally with both buyers and potential teaming partners.

Matchmakers - ICBS

But the highlight of the event is the “matchmaking.” A series of “round-robin” meetings – sometimes called speed partnering – is held, during which small businesses owners can have brief (usually 10-15 minute) appointments with agency or large prime contracting personnel to learn more about how they buy their goods and services and to showcase the company’s expertise, leaving the buyer with marketing materials for reference.  It is a rare chance to meet with multiple customers at the same time and place.

 

Matchmaking events can be tremendously beneficial for small contractors, and those that come prepared can gain a competitive advantage by attending. In short, these events offer a structured opportunity to practice all of the components necessary for successful marketing to the government, including:

 

  • Researching ahead of time which agencies are buying what you have to sell, and then further focusing on how you can help them meet their objectives
  • Honing your elevator speech and Capabilities Statement to highlight how your company fills their need
  • Listening closely to buyer requirements and purchasing processes
  • Observing and learning from your competitors – both their strengths and mistakes – and being alert to teaming or partnership opportunities.
  • Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.

Attendance may not directly lead to a contract award (most often it won’t), but the lessons learned and relationships begun can be essential stepping stones to multiple contracts in the months and years ahead.

Your local PTAC can not only alert you to Matchmaker opportunities in your area, they can help you prepare to make the most of them. Our previous blog post, Preparing for Matchmaking Events and Other Government Expos, offers some general tips that your PTAC counselor can assist you with applying to your business and your specific circumstances.

Some small business owners find value in attending several events a year, traveling out of state – or even across the country – for the opportunity to meet with a specific, target agency. Once again, your PTAC counselor can help you determine if this is the right strategy for you, and information on a wide range of PTAC and federal agency events can be found on APTAC’s website at: http://www.aptac-us.org/contracting-assistance/ptac-training-events/ .

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To receive assistance with any aspect of vendor registration with any government agency at no cost, please feel free to contact a PTAC near you.


Selling to the Defense Commissary Agency

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) – the “Other Defense Agency”

Did you know that there is a “littler known” agency within the Department of Defense that provides food and other household products for military families, with the major mission to improve their quality of life?

This agency is the Defense Commissary Agency, and another interesting point is that they buy a lot more than food and beverages for families. The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), is considered an “Other Defense Agency”, and manages a worldwide chain of stores that provides groceries and supplies to families (military, retirees and other authorized patrons) at cost (plus a small surcharge fee).

But you don’t sell food products?? Remember I said they bought many other items/services, to include but not limited to:

  • Services: Shelf Stocking, Custodial, Receiving/Stocking management, Armored Car, Inventory, Linen/Laundry, Pest Control, Trash Removal
  • Supplies: Packaging products, paper bags, plastic bags, labels
  • Construction/A/E Services: Design, New construction, Renovations, Remodeling
  • Food/Resale Items: This category includes the food products, non-alcoholic beverages, pet foods, detergent, health/beauty products etc.
  • IT/Software
  • Equipment: Copiers, Balers, Pallet Jacks, Safes etc.

How do they buy supplies/services?

  • As a Federal agency, they are bound to the competition requirements of the FAR, and all procurements valued over $25,000.00 are posted to www.fbo.gov.  Click here to see some of the current requirements.
    o With this there will be opportunities for limited/flexible competition if not required to be on FBO. Marketing will help build awareness of those opportunities (see below).
  • Food/Resale items are purchased under slightly different rules known as the Grocery Items Special Rule in 10 United States Code 2486.
    o Name brand items with a UPC that have been sold in supermarkets/commercially, will be purchased on a non-competitive basis and from the manufacturer or an authorized representative.
    o Other than Brand name consumable or household items such as meats, vegetables, firewood etc. will be competed on a competitive, best value basis always on www.fbo.gov.
  • You can read more at the Business Guide for DeCA.

How do you market DeCA to determine if your product/service can/will be purchased?

  • If you are selling brand name products for resale (above), there are some very specific things the agency will ask of vendors (see all on page 9 of the business guide), but some include knowing your distribution/stocking methods, pricing structure, providing samples for evaluation, similarities/differences to other products that are being sold.
  • Contact the small business office, and make initial/follow up contact to market, develop relationships and build visibilities to increase potential opportunities with the agency. The small business office is located at http://www.commissaries.com/business/small_business.cfm
    o Ensure you have done more research on the agency, the locations within your geographic area
    o Research past, current and future opportunities for the supplies/services you sell. DeCA provides information on previous pricing and awarded contracts (click here).

So what do they have going on in the future?

For more information on how DeCA may be a good target customer for your company, or any other Government Contracting related questions, contact your local PTAC’s Procurement Specialists today!


More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.