Vendor Outreach is HARD (But Worth It!)

As a person responsible for government purchasing, have you ever sat back and thought to yourself, “This is perfect! I have so many great Vendors responding to my proposals that I can hardly keep up! I am really getting some great deals here and saving the public so much money!”

Oh I’m sorry, did I wake you up from a nice dream??

Competition in the Government Vendor Community

When any government agency puts out a significant proposal for bid, not only do they want many Vendors to respond, in most cases the law requires it! Having more Vendors responding increases competition and ultimately results in your agency getting the lowest price possible for the goods or services. It also shows the public that you understand you are spending their money and are doing your best to ensure it is spent wisely.

No matter the need, there are usually a very large number of Vendors that can and would love to give you their business. The difficult part is ensuring that as many of those Vendors as possible are aware of your particular needs. The process to find these Vendors should start well before you need them. Having a good pool of trusted Vendors will make you much more successful when it comes time to solicit their services.

Easier Said Than Done

I know you’d love to channel your inner Harry Potter, wave your magic wand, and those wonderful Vendors would be knocking at your door. Unfortunately as we all know, it’s not that easy. This process requires a bit of effort, but it should not be that difficult. These Vendors want your business, remember? Once you’ve established that relationship, they should be ready for your call when it comes. Just remember to continue to reach out to the community over time so you don’t miss out on new Vendors!

Internet Searches Are Your Friend

So, the easiest way to find new Vendors is the same way you would find anything else on the Internet. Search for it using your favorite search engine! Using the commodity, category, or keywords you should be able to find Vendors out there that will be able to help you with future needs. Once you’ve located them, invite them to register in your purchasing tool. I doubt you will have to ask them twice.

Reach Out Locally

There are a number of ways to find Vendors in your community. Using local Vendors ensures that the public’s money is being reinvested in the local economy so everybody wins! You also stand a higher likelihood of maintaining a diverse group of Vendors.

Recurring Outreach Sessions

Setting up a recurring outreach session each month allows you to stay connected to the community and provides an opportunity for more Vendors to participate over time. It also provides a great forum for Vendors to ask questions about purchasing processes so that everybody ends up being successful. These should be advertised in the local newspaper (some people do still read those!). If the demand is high, you may even want to have sessions broken up by industry. This will allow the session to be focused on specific issues within that industry that may not affect others.

They should also be advertised using all of your social media accounts. If you do not have a social media presence, now is a great time to establish one specific for your government agency! Post and/or tweet often to keep engaged with your base. Here are some hashtags to get you started, but you are only limited by your imagination.

#procurement
#publicprocurement

Use Your Website

Your local website is likely already being used today to expose government services to the public. Why not use this same platform to let potential Vendors out there that there may be opportunities for them? It is easy to do and you already have a user base to see the information. Just make sure you get them to send you their info after you’ve captured their attention! Which leads me to…

Set Up Mailing Lists

Set up a mailing list and allow Vendors to subscribe. You can break it out by industry or keep it simple. Then as needs arise, you simply need to notify the army you’ve collected over time. Competition and great prices are right around the corner! There are lots of online tools out there that will facilitate most of this for you (MailChimp is a great one).

Software-based Approaches

If you already use enterprise-level software to manage to your proposals, then you already know how this works. You create the proposal and let the software take care of the rest. Vendors have already registered in the system and specified the types of goods / services that they provide. All of those Vendors are automatically available to you and are even immediately notified when new opportunities are released. They probably already have a large pool of Vendors that will see your proposals without any additional on-boarding work on your part. In addition, they take care of advertising your requests to the general public and can even have that content embedded in your existing web site.

If you don’t have software helping you facilitate this entire process, you should start looking for one ASAP. There are many different solutions out there suiting governments of all shapes and sizes (though I am a bit partial to one in particular 🙂 ). #webprocure #perfectcommerce

Let’s Do It!

Ideally, you should be following all of the steps that I’ve outlined above to ensure you get as many Vendor proposals as possible. You should also be looking for new ways over time to connect with potential Vendors both in your community and elsewhere. In a future article, we’ll talk about making sure your Vendors are real, qualified, and adding value to your sourcing process.

What do you think??