Aah the fun questions Allen Federal gets during the fourth quarter.  Some are new, but some are on issues of which even minimally experienced contractors should be aware.  Here are our top three “Do’s and Don’ts” based on our most recent email inquiries that, as the comedian Dave Barry once said, “I am not making up”.

1.  Don’t Tell a Customer an Item Is On a Contract If It Isn’t:  GSA Schedules and other Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts continue to be popular at year-end for their speed and ease of use.  There’s a strong temptation by some to misclassify non-contract items as being on the contract vehicle of choice to get year-end business.  Resist this temptation.  Stating that something is on a contract when it’s not invites a (likely successful) protest.  That upsets your customer who is under a time crunch and hurts your relationship.  It can also cause your company compliance issues during any audit.  Instead, properly mark non-contract items as open market.  Regulations allow for this.  Done correctly, it allows your customer to decide on the best way to proceed.

2. Don’t Sell Through Companies You’ve Never Heard Of:  We had hoped that this issue was settled, but, alas, it is apparently not.  Some deals appear too good, at least on paper, to pass up.  A company will call you out of nowhere and say that they’re “definitely” going to win a project so long as they can sell your products to the customer.  In fact, some have even bid your items – that they are not authorized to sell – on specific procurements.  All you need to do is sign on the dotted line and extra business will fall from the sky.  Something may fall all right, but its most likely your reputation by partnering with a company you’ve not vetted and is pressuring you to move fast.  Instead, do business with established re-sellers, vet all partners thoroughly before they sell on your behalf, and make sure you control who sells your products into specific markets and channels.

3. Don’t Try Now For That Introductory Meeting:  Many federal prospects and acquisition professionals do want to hear from you, but not right now.  The winter and spring months are the best time to introduce your company and its solutions to new potential buyers.  Those same people are working hard now to get current projects out the door and awarded.  There is not even enough time to do all that needs to get done, given the short business cycle of the current fiscal year.  Trying for meetings now will likely result in frustration for both your target and yourself.  Instead, work with agencies and industry partners with which you already have established relationships.  Stay focused on business in your pipeline and rely on the established relationships of your partners to provide opportunities in new places.  There will be time for you to follow up next quarter.  Staying focused, using common sense, and being confident in your company’s strategic federal business approach are the best ways to ensure that the next 6 weeks will go well.