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A client of mine had been having a really tough time getting their GSA Schedule contract negotiated. The Contract Specialist was skeptical of whether the company knew what it was doing and if they could actually be a successful government contractor. It was far from certain that GSA would act positively on the company’s offer.

The relationship drastically changed though, when the client took the extra time to explain an aspect of their business that the Specialist knew nothing about. The topic wasn’t specific to the company but was rather about an accepted industry standard the Specialist should know to look for from any company offering similar services. The Specialist knew his Schedule business but not the industry-specific knowledge the company had. Now, armed with both pieces of the puzzle, the GSA rep could make better award decisions.

Even though the tenor of their own GSA discussions had been less than ideal, the company took the time to impart specialized information to help someone in government do their job better. The Contract Specialist greatly appreciated the education and, while the company still has no guarantee of a Schedule award, the tone of their discussions has definitely improved.

The lessons here for other companies are two-fold. First, government contracting officials deal with dozens of companies a week. You can’t expect them to know everything about your business. Education, as always, is vital.

The second lesson is taking the time to be a resource, even when there may be nothing directly on the line for you. Government buyers generally want to make smart buying decisions. However, they lack the time and ability to know a lot about the many different markets they encounter. Helping them learn can be an important way to develop or improve an important relationship.

You may take it for granted that “everyone” knows about the ins and outs of your market segment. Because you work in it every day, it all seems natural to you. To outsiders though, it may as well be Greek. Taking an outsider’s perspective can not only help you educate others, but sharpen your own business perspective.

Successful government business is equal parts processing knowledge and building relationships. Remember that your firm is one of many seeking to differentiate itself from others. Sometimes, that means helping someone else get better at their job.

It may or may not lead to business tomorrow, but will certainly set your company apart from competitors and develop trust. These are elements of success every contractor should strive for.

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