Alternative Ways to Sell to the Government Part 1: Sole Source and Piggyback
This is the first part of a series elaborating on all the ways government procurement happens outside of bids and RFPs. I want to discuss sole source and piggybacking.
Sole source is exactly what it sounds like. In the complex world of procurement, your company would be considered a “sole source” if a government agency were to identify you as the only supplier of a particular product or service. Why would that matter?
Because, if an agency can prove that you’re their only option, they — and you! — can skip the bid/RFP process. There’s no competition to weed through!
Now, in the real world, how many things actually come from one, sole source? Probably not many. However, when you deal with the government, there are a variety of circumstances that would, at least temporarily, consider your product a “sole source.”
Let’s say that an agency started working with your company a while back, deployed the product, and now they need technical support or additional parts. Suddenly, you’re the only vendor who can offer the support and/or parts you need. Very easily, an agency can work with you to purchase those things without going through the Bid/RFP process.
This is why I ask you to think out of the box. Could you be considered a sole source vendor more often? Does your product or service offer any unique functionality? Do you have a patent? Do you offer a service within your state that only you can provide? Think about your competition. What makes you special?
When a government agency wants to avoid the bidding process, sometimes you can provide information to help them justify the sole source process. Be prepared. Write something up, explaining the unique features of your product or service. When an agency wants to work with your company, you’ll send this to the agency, they’ll have your sole source justification, they’ll send it to the municipality oversight persons — whether that’s the city council, the governor, the mayor — and then that person will decide. It’s worth a try.
Remember, it benefits the agency just as much as it helps you. A government agency will definitely try to sole source it to you if they like your company, so everyone can avoid the very, very long bid/RFP process.
Next, I’ll elaborate on one of the most popular ways to avoid the bid/RFP process, it’s called piggybacking. It’s a funny little term, but it’s actually an excellent way for both you and the agency to save time.
It’s a very simple strategy. If you, as a company, have recently gone through the bid/RFP process and won a government contract, you can use that victory to avoid starting over. All you need to do is have the agency “piggyback” off your last contract. They’ll be able to add volume to the original deal, follow the same price structure, and have a complete request with virtually no effort.
Not only that but providing a recently closed contract will show an agency that this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve been vetted, stacked up against the competition, and won the procurement.
At least one other fellow agency trusts you — and that’s very valuable to a risk-averse agency.
I’ve reviewed before about not wasting your time reinventing the wheel. That’s what piggybacking is all about: taking your successful procurements and building on those wins. Plus, you’ll win a government contract in just a few days or just a few weeks.
In my next article, we will examine a couple more ways the government is buying outside of the bid and RFP process. Remember, 80% of government procurement does NOT go through that process and I want to explain in detail how advantageous all these other procurement methods can be for you.