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February 2022 - Delving Into the Public Sector

We have talked a lot about planning and targeting contracts that your organization wants to be on, but as I was driving the other day I thought “what do you do in the waiting?” I will admit there is a lot of waiting in the Public Sector world. Sometimes the contract you have targeted does not come out to bid for a year, two years, three years, etc. Sometimes it could even be five years!! So, what should you be doing while you wait for the contract RFP to be released that would position you to have a better chance of being awarded when you actually get the opportunity to respond to the bid? To answer this question, I spoke with my friends at NCPA and OMNIA and have complied their great advice below. Although I only spoke to these two organizations, the information can be adopted to fit any Cooperative, State, Local, Higher Education contract that you have your eye on.

  1. Make contact with the organization that will be handling the solicitation of the RFP/the contract you want to be on

    1. Register: some agencies require that you are registered to do business on their website

    2. If you are not required to register but they have an email listed on the website for contact, reach out and see if you can introduce your company and products to start to familiarize them with what you offer

    3. Some agencies use specific platforms (some are free and some charge) to solicit their bids. Find out what the agency will use for their bid and make sure you are registered. Some of the most common are Bidnet and Bonfire

    4. Make sure you can respond to the bid. Some contracts are only for dealers, some only for manufacturer and some allow both.

    5. If the agency does their own solicitation make sure you are tracking the contract closely. I thought NCPA was not going to be out again until 2023 for furniture, but they informed me on our call that they would be releasing the RFP in June of this year!

  2. Unique product opportunity

    1. If you have a truly unique product there is an opportunity that you could get a contract much sooner than you expect. Get in front of the correct people to develop the need for the product you have. The correct people could be the lead agency for the contract or the people that manage the contract. Be sure to cover all your bases.

    2. If the agency does not have a contract currently for what you offer you may suggest a separate solicitation for the category of products. A great example I have of this is the ergonomic contract with OMNIA. It did not exist until 5 or so years ago and was solicited due to a need by a lead agency to have this type of product on contract.

  3. Do your homework:

    1. Know where the bid will be coming out so you can watch for it

    2. A lot of organizations, especially cooperatives, are required to publish the bid responses for the current contract holders. Get familiar with the language and what a successful response looks like.

      1. Review the bid so you know what the response you will need to do will entail and you can prepare in advance

      2. Review the current contracts responses so you know what a winning response looks like

  4. Strategically pursue end users that would typically purchase off the contract you are targeting.

    1. Part of any winning bid response will be references. Make sure you have references that are specific to the type of agency that would purchase of the contract you are pursuing

  5. Partner with current contract holders

    1. If there is a way for you to partner with an existing contract holder while you wait, do it! This allows for you to have sales to the customers and build the brand recognition for when you are able to respond.

6. Tips for the contract response when the time arrives

  1. Make sure you are engaged, registered, and positioned to receive the bid when it is released

  2. Make sure you have done your homework and are ready to put together a winning bid response

  3. The award is based on preset criteria. Know what that is and make sure you spend time focusing on that in your bid response- don’t leave points on the table!

  4. Don’t leave any section blank. An example NCPA gave is the value-added services section. They shared that there was a manufacturer that was awarded a contract because of other products they could offer in addition to furniture that was of interest to them.

  5. If you do not have the team, bandwidth or ability to respond to the bid there are companies out there that that specialize in helping furniture dealers and manufacturers with these types of contracts. Connect with me on LinkedIn and I will make an introduction for you.

The waiting can be the hardest part, but if you have a plan to position yourself for the best chance at success, I think it will be worth the wait!

About Michelle Warren

Michelle Warren is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a firm specializing in providing strategic solutions to the commercial furniture industry to enhance their sales, positioning, and distribution.

With 25 years of industry experience on the dealer and manufacturer side of the industry, Michelle has been recognized as an innovator in selling to the Federal Government, State/ Local Government, Higher Education and Cooperative Purchasing. Her expertise includes: sales strategies, strategic planning, 3-5 year road mapping, targeted marketing plans, distribution development, hiring reps, and training for reps and/or dealers.

She is known as a “serial networker” in the furniture industry and enjoys meeting people and making connections happen. If you’re interested in connecting - reach out at: [email protected], connect on LinkedIn or visit to learn more about her work.


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