By Sanja Basaric
Penetrating the federal government market is often seen as a daunting and red-tape-clad endeavor, with little or no immediate return. While some of these perceptions remain valid, the federal life sciences and healthcare market is ripe for private sector innovation and engagement. With the right preparation and investments, entering the federal government market can lead to considerable growth and visibility for your company. Consider the following tips for increased chances of success.
- UNDERSTAND THE CURRENT LANDSCAPE. We are seeing unprecedented levels of industry engagement from across the government in life sciences and healthcare. There’s also more cross-collaboration within the government, which means a wider target area for industry. Don’t assume your product or service is applicable to only one agency or program. There’s a good chance that the playing field is both larger and more encouraging than you initially thought.
- BE PREPARED AND POSITIONED CORRECTLY. Do your research and identify what or how you can offer to help clients solve a problem, and then clearly make the connection to your offering. Understand the structure and mission of the office, its existing strategy, and current projects and vendors before crafting a proposition that is tailored to it. Be open to the idea of creating new marketing materials specifically designed for your target agencies.
- GET FAMILIAR WITH FEDERAL ACQUISITION REQUIREMENTS. Government contracting requires understanding and complying with a set of laws set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Included are registration requirements for the System for Awards Management, better known as SAM. The government classifies the business activity of a company based on a set of over 1,000 NAICS (The North American Industry Classification System) codes, which determine whether you’re considered a small or large business. I often see companies dismiss the idea of federal government work based on incorrect assumptions. For instance, a small software engineering firm assumed it wasn’t eligible because it is a foreign- owned entity. It turns out a foreign-owned entity can qualify as a small business, provided that it has a physical location in the United States and contributes to the U.S. economy.
- NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. This market is built on relationships. Nurture existing relationships and establish new ones simultaneously. Identify and prioritize the most relevant workshops, conferences, and events and attend — in person!
- EMBRACE PARTNERING. Forming strategic public- private partnerships, alliances, and trust-based relationships is key. I often hear companies reject the idea of partnering because they believe they provide a niche and best-in-class product or service that no one else can. That’s even more reason to find strategic partners, preferably ones that already have a federal footprint or contract. Find partners that complement your product or service. Perhaps you provide a drug delivery platform but lack large-scale program management. Or perhaps you’re a midsized pharma but lack a specialized IT capability that a small business might have. No one company can do it all, and the government is looking for comprehensive solutions.
- THINK LONG TERM. The private sector is often accustomed to making deals overnight with quick acquisition processes. There’s no denying that entering this market is slow and requires time and patience. Government contracting and funding are long-term investments and thus require long-term vision. The payoff? The opportunity to engage, grow, and succeed in a $4.7 trillion market.
SANJA BASARIC is founder & CEO of SVB Consulting, a Washington D.C.-based life sciences and healthcare business development, strategy, and consulting firm.