September is the business month of the fiscal year as agencies rush to spend their "use or lose it" funding. ImmixGroup executive Steve Charles offers eight tips for making sure you are ready for the rush.
Tech companies that work in the federal market do as much as 40 percent of their business during September, the last month of the government fiscal year. We can thank the “use it or lose it” federal budget and procurement process for this annual selling frenzy.
For those of you in this part of the market, here are tips to make sure nothing falls through the cracks:
Tip #1: Ask your customer for their deadlines for accepting purchase requests that need to be awarded by the end of the fiscal year. As reference, here are the deadlines of the Department of Interior this year, which are similar to other agencies.
Tip #2: Ask if the chief financial officer, controller, or fund-certifying authority has signed off on the contemplated procurement. Until then, the contracting officer won’t have an account to cite in the order form, making it “subject to availability of funds.” That means the government is not committed to pay. Always ask: “Is the right amount of money in the right account?”
Tip #3: Accepting so many orders in one month creates a huge need for credit. Ever had to walk away from a deal because it was too big? It happens, so get your credit and financing plumbing lined up now instead of waiting until September. Check with your distributor for financial solutions.
Tip #4: Make sure your company’s sales and technical certifications are up to date. Not doing so can mean your company slips down a level with an IT vendor, putting the competitiveness of your pricing at risk.
Tip #5: Check the expiration dates of your registered deals and update or renew them if they expire before September 30. It would be a shame to have worked a deal all year, and then lose it—and your pricing advantage—because your deal registration with the supplier expires.
Tip #6: With government contracting officers working early and late, your team will need to adjust work hours as well. You don’t want to miss the late-night or weekend purchase order. Also, know the extended working hours for your distributors and key vendors (plus cell phone numbers). Something always comes up and you want to make sure the people who can anticipate and fix problems in your supply chain are accessible.
Tip #7: In the rush, don’t make the mistake of not closely reviewing each government task or delivery order. The last thing you want to do is catch an error after sending the paperwork to your supplier. The cascading results can cost you more money and ding your government performance reputation.
Tip #8: Keep talking with your customers. Hopefully, you’ve sent unsolicited proposals to the ones you know would like to buy your products early in the summer. Stay in touch. Agencies spend down their accounts first, with major program commitments often filling in the gaps with technology buys at year-end. If your proposal addresses the many data points of their acquisition process, you can find yourself the winner of a streamlined procurement. But you have to be in the game to win.
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