Learning about the customer

The questions you want to know

  1. Government customers are large and complex organizations and you could spend days finding people and understanding everything about the organization putting out the contract. But you don’t have the time to do a bottoms up research project on a government agency. So here are the questions you want answers to:
  2. What questions you want to be able to answer:
    1. Are they happy with the current contractors performance?
    2. Has their need changed since the current contract was released?
    3. Has the way they want to meet that need changed?
      1. e.g. has there been any guidance from the customer’s political leadership that would influence how they meet this need?
      2. Are there new models or technologies to meet this need?
    4. Does the customer want a “safe” or an “innovative” solution?
    5. Have there been any changes in procurement policy that would make them want to buy in a different way?
  3. Who’s answer matters: Generally you want to be able to answer each of the questions from the perspective of:
    1. The program officer (the end-user/beneficiary of the thing being purchased)
    2. The contracting officer
    3. The program & contracting officers’ leaders
    4. Sub-agency leadership
    5. Agency leadership
  4. Why you want to get different answers: This is a classic playing mom against dad situation. You are looking for answers that favor you. For example:
    1. If you are an “Innovative” vendor
    2. But Agency level leadership is pushing for “safe” solutions then
    3. Go see what Sub-agency leadership is saying, and if they also want “safe” solutions then go learn about the program officer’s interests

Where to get this information

  1. Reading speeches, congressional testimony, GAO reports, and other statements: You probably won’t be able to talk to agency or sub-agency leaders but they make a lot of public statements so you may be able to find quotes about their interests and agendas
  2. Meetings: There is no substitute for an hour long meeting with the program officer and your relationships make all the difference in getting that meeting.
  3. Trade associations: The government contracting market loves to gossip so if you are part of the trade association or other community of contractors you should definitely ask and see what other people know

Other resources

SAM.gov (Individual contract checks)

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FOIA request template

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