GovCon Expert Joseph Letke, founder and CEO of TKS, published his first piece as a member of Executive Mosaic’s GovCon Expert program on Friday detailing the issues surrounding the latest procurement challenges in the government contracting (GovCon) sector and how bidding teams should reflect on engineering their edge during the contract and operation period of time.
“The ambulance billing market represents another case where edge is absolutely needed, not just to win the contract, but to motivate the use of the third-party optimization. Without the nudge of the compelling gravity/weight of the edge, movement towards a first invoice is made more difficult. Like trying to reach your destination on an icy road.”
You can read Joseph Letke’s latest GovCon Expert article below:
Crafting an Edge
Bu GovCon Expert Joseph Letke
The 2021/2022 buying cycles have completely worn the sticky side of the tape off. The general feeling is that the typical buyer is not sticking to procurements. Large public buyers are abandoning nice-to-have contracts, facing hurdles with recruitment, and are exhausting the market by not leveraging their pre-existing contract stock for volume savings.
Anecdotes are a dime a dozen, but a great example of RFP waste is the category bench that has broad applicability with other active benches (e.g. landscaping and lawn maintenance, or security and safety). GPO jumping while departments are still siloed and unaware of which GPO or cooperative agreement is in place is another common example.
Questions sit on portals while ‘OOO’ messages haunt vendor inboxes simply trying to receive an ETA or pre-bid meeting invite link. Similarly, notices of award are causes for celebration, but DocuSigns are consistently being pushed back for my clients, creeping on pre-production and transition times set aside for launch.
My take on this craziness is that we are not living in normal times, whereby a vendor is secured (and locked in) for a specific service. There is no Phase Done after one passes the evaluation rounds.
Because of this, I recommend that contractors and bidding teams reflect on and re-assess when the pre-contract period stops and the contract/operational period picks up the pieces. If possible, one should engineer their edge – That bold and defining characteristic that will speak to the stakeholder the loudest – within this space of reflection.
Edge should service both sides of the coin; be there to push the proposal over the consideration hurdle and act to pressurize the purchaser’s Go kettle. What does this look like from a technical angle? What are some examples? Let’s dive deeper into things a bit more.
The first example comes from the outreach services / media campaign enhancement world. A public purchaser in California desired postcards and b-roll video shots within one historically marginalized neighborhood.
Reframing both elements in the original proposal pushed the submission onto the desk of the main purchasing agent and got the operational actors into place quicker than mere agreement to the terms as written.
Rather than one physical postcard, the awarded video agency pitched two digital postcard variants and a timeline of using the funding to first capture the neighborhood and then use this footage to apply for a grant to expand on the portrayal with stories, interviews, etc.
In the above example, the successful vendor was able to precisely list their responsibilities and show that stakeholders were needed only on certain key milestones; clearly labelling commitment.
A reasonable commitment level was highlighted, with efficiencies built in. Further, a sense of urgency framed the delivery of the services: the grant for the second video was due in 2022 and required a speedy finalization. Upon completion, the contract stood apart and the final video product won an award for Government Video.
Edge makes notable stories as a consequence of follow-through. Very few stories of exceptional service deliveries have instances without a built-in edge.
The ambulance billing market represents another case where edge is absolutely needed, not just to win the contract, but to motivate the use of the third-party optimization. Without the nudge of the compelling gravity/weight of the edge, movement towards a first invoice is made more difficult. Like trying to reach your destination on an icy road.
Exactly how much time to devote to the uniqueness of the edge is correlated with the ambitiousness of the public purchaser. The more ambitious, the more your team will need to whiteboard some scenarios and offer a defining solution that captures attention.
I suggest condensing it down to ‘The Power of X’ (X being your solution, which could be executive coaching or cloud migration, it is ultimately interchangeable). Then define what the power is and give it the ability to make real widespread improvements.
An Emerging Trend for Edge Formation
Many times public purchasers ask for an equipment list or similar inventory of items to be used on the contract site, but this is outmoded.
A Dynamic Perks List is a much-needed enhancement, especially when it can label applicable research and data visualization tools, software and platforming capabilities, help desk articles, and externals like exclusive partnership discounts or other tangibles. Narrative or “page real estate” should be spent on contextualizing the usefulness of these tools and the efficacy of an approach that incorporates the resources/perks.
The second outcome of incorporating these externals and partnerships is the claim to stability. A network, when highlighted well, gives a vendor some amount of (social) credibility, influence, and status.
For smaller contracts, I sometimes even replace/substitute client financials with these externals and associated partnership benefits, though it can be riskier.
My main point here: It is sometimes an edge to embrace cooperation, as we see with newcomers winning contracts simply due to where they sit in the ecosystem of other cooperative arrangements.
Matching Weight With Weight, Length With Length
So you’ve heeded the above and added in a beneficial web of perks once selected, How do you know the job is done? At what point does the edge receive its last sharpening? This is obviously more of an art than a science, and many contractors go the wrong direction of filling in the void, adding complexity where it is not needed.
If you find yourself adding in more attachments than executive-level language, reconsider the value and impression given when leaning more towards the administrative.
I like to use the rule of matching tone, seriousness, and overall length with that of the purchaser. In another article, which can be found here, I mention how the Social Responsibility section’s overall importance should be matched in the submission as well.
Not only will a trimming down or enhancement bring clarity to the narrative, but it forces one to revisit the neglected parts that rarely change. You will know that the work is done once the consideration for the topics of concern (sustainability, workplace safety, etc.) is matched and when the executive, sharper edge prevails.