The U.S. federal government buys about $100 billion in goods and services from private businesses each year. But selling your product to the federal government demands a different approach than does the commercial sector. And because a certain amount of Uncle Sam’s budget is specifically set aside for small businesses, you’ll also need to meet a few regulatory guidelines to make sure you’re qualified and registered to sell to the government.
Sound like a time-consuming process? It can be, for some small businesses. However, when done right, with plenty of planning and research, small business owners can land their share of federal business contracts. Here are a few important steps to take if your would like to try your hand at entering the federal marketplace.
Step one is to get certified and registered to do business with the federal government. It’s not that hard or complicated, although it can get time-consuming.
Once you are sure that you qualify to sell to the government as a small business, you’ll need to apply for a Dun & Bradstreet, or D-U-N-S, number. A D-U-N-S number is a unique nine-digit identification number for each physical location of your business. D-U-N-S number assignment is free for all businesses required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants.
Next, you’ll need to register in the System for Award Management (SAM) database. SAM is a database of all businesses that sell to the government. It is used by government employees and purchasing officials to search for services and products and the companies that sell them.
You’ll also need to obtain a Contract Vehicle. A Contract Vehicle is a form of pre-authorization that lets government purchasers know you are an approved supplier. They also include pre-agreed pricing for your products and services. They can sometimes get lengthy and often take a substantial amount of time to complete.
Make sure you identify your target market just like you would in the civilian market. Agencies and departments have different goals, so aim your research at finding your best fit. The information you need to research agency goals, missions and budgets is in the public domain. Sites like USA.gov, USAspending.gov, FedBizOpps.gov and the Federal Procurement Data System have information on agency profiles, government spending, and current opportunities.
Once you’ve identified your target market, line up reference customers and case studies that support your performance as a trusted supplier in the marketplace. The government is very particular about past performance.
The U.S. federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. Start the bidding!