How to Sell to the Government
Tips for Selling to the Government
While the GSA Schedule Contract is an important tool used to facilitate government sales, it does not guarantee sales to the federal government. At the very minimum, you should have a solid sales and marketing strategy in place to target the government sector before pursuing a GSA Schedule Contract. If your company has already established communications and relationships with agency contracting staff you are well on your way to becoming a successful government contractor.
How to Become a Government Contractor: Setting Up
If you have not already done so, complete the following steps which are required to sell to any government entity, irrespective of the GSA Schedule Contract:
- Obtain a Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) D-U-N-S Number. This is a unique, nine-digit identification number that is used by the federal government as a contractor identification code for all procurement-related activities. This number is required to complete the next step.
- Register on the System for Award Management (SAM). SAM.gov launched the end of July 2012. The site consolidates multiple systems, including the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the Online Representations and Certifications (ORCA).
How to Become a Government Contractor: Market Research/Competitive Analysis
There are a number of tools available that enable companies to conduct market and competitor research within the federal procurement world. The following websites are great resources for researching who is buying what from whom and how:
- USASpending.gov for overall government spending
- Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) for detailed, specific breakdowns of federal spending
- Schedule Sales Query for sales specific to the GSA Schedules & GSA Schedule Contractors
- GSA eLibrary for information on products/services offered through the GSA Schedules and Contractors who hold GSA Schedules
Who is your ideal buyer? What are they currently purchasing? How are they procuring these items (what contract vehicles are they using) and who are they buying them from? Use the tools listed above to answer these questions and to profile agencies that are most likely to have an interest in your products/services, as well as contractors that are currently providing these products/services.
The Federal Acquisition Jumpstation also serves as a resource for finding out how specific agencies procure products and services. This site provides a list of procurement related links broken down by agency.
Selling to the Government: Finding Opportunities
Nearly all federal business contract opportunities are posted on FedBizOpps, or FBO. This is a web-based portal where companies can search for federal opportunities by various fields including: agency, keyword, place of performance, and/or set-aside code. By registering on FedBizOpps companies are able to track selected opportunities. Due to the volume of information posted on this site, we recommend watching or reading the following guides to maximize use of the site: FBO Demo Video, FBO Vendor Guide, and FedBizOpps FAQ.
eBuy is another tool available to find contracting opportunities, however it is only accessible to GSA Schedule Contract holders. eBuy is an online Request for Quote (RFQ) system that allows GSA Schedule Contractors to receive relevant opportunities based upon the Special Item Number(s) they hold.
Tip: When searching for potential opportunities, be selective in choosing which ones you respond to. Many companies tend to jump head first, responding to every possible opportunity that arises; this type of business plan will quickly lead to burn-out and is unlikely to end in awarded contracts.
Selling to the Government: Getting Your Foot in the Door
Typically the question of how to get started with a GSA Schedule Contract boils down to: how to get your foot in the door and establish a presence in the government space? Teaming and subcontracting are by far the most effective methods for building a foundation for future government sales.
Teaming allows your company to join forces with a company that offers complementary products and services, to offer government buyers a more attractive, robust solution. Subcontracting allows your company to build experience by working for Prime Contractors that have done the leg work in establishing the contract and agency relationships.
Just as government agencies are encouraged to meet annual set-aside goals for contracting to various types of small businesses, large contractors that hold a GSA Schedule Contract are also required to develop a subcontracting plan that establishes goals for working with small businesses. GSA maintains a Subcontracting Directory, http://www.gsa.gov/subdirectory, to assist small businesses in finding subcontracting opportunities with large GSA Schedule Contract holders. This directory lists companies and industries by location, as well as the subcontracting point of contact and company specific subcontracting goals.
GSA’s eLibrary site can also be used to identify potential teaming and subcontracting partners. Once you identify the appropriate GSA Schedule, select the Special Item Number (SIN) Category that best fits your offerings to view a list of GSA Schedule Contractors under that SIN.