Most of the small businesses I speak with regarding moving into the federal marketplace don’t really have a strategy on how to approach federal selling.Therefore this week I am going to outline the path we believe works best for the majority of small businesses.
Obtain a sam.gov registration. This has to be the first step in the process because the federal government cannot pay your firm for its goods and services until this step is completed. If the firm is a small business they should be sure to acknowledge this during the registration process.
Step 1: GSA Schedule
If your firm is eligible, I recommend obtaining a GSA Schedule Contract. The federal government is not unlike any other business on the planet. They would like to test a vendor with smaller contracts before they begin purchasing larger amounts. The GSA Schedule system provides for this type of testing. The GSA Schedule system also provides federal buyers with a contracting vehicle in which to place orders against in order to comply with FAR regulations. A GSA Schedule also provides the federal buyer with some assurances that your firm has been vetted for price and quality prior to placing an order. A GSA Schedule usually takes 4-6 months to obtain so therefore it is a good idea to obtaining a schedule early in the federal launch process.
Step 2: Certifications/Verifications
Obtain any special designations or certifications that might give the firm preference in the award of federal contracts. These certifications are 8(a) certification (minority owned), HUBZone Certification (Historically Underutilized Areas of the Country), Veteran Owned, SDVOSB (Service Disable Veteran Owned Small Business), WOSB (Woman Owned Small Business, and EDWOSB (Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business)
Step 3: List Generation
Work at generating the list of contracting officers you wish to solicit for business. This gives your firm the ability to target and begin building relationships with the right federal buyers.
Note: If at this point in time you have not completed Steps 1 & 2 you will find in many instances that the contracting officer asks you to complete these tasks before they will be able to buy from you.
Inside DC Beltway – I recommend targeting three agencies that your firm thinks would benefit from your goods or services and start there.
Rest of USA – Concentrate on the contracting officers that purchase your goods and services based upon your geographic location.
Step 4: Register with Large Federal Prime Contractors
Sign up with federal Prime Contractors. The majority of the federal prime contractors have either an online porthole or a form you can submit to get registered as a vendor. Federal Primes are required to spend over 30% of the funds they receive from the federal government with small business. Therefore this market is 70% of the small business market. Quite large considering how often it is ignored.
Note: As with Step 3 if you do not have a GSA Schedule or all applicable certifications these will not be listed as part of your vendor subcontractor registration which will decrease your marketability to the Federal Prime Contractor.
Step 5: Bid Monitoring
We recommend that you either monitor fbo.gov as well as other federal sites such as GSA ebuy for contracting opportunities or seek the help of a service to do so. The federal government in many cases issues multi-year service contracts and obtaining a place on one of these contracts can account for a large portion of a small businesses federal sales. Therefore it is critical that these opportunities are not missed.
Step 6: Exceed Expectations
Perform on your contract opportunities. Make sure your firm does a good job and follows up with the federal contracting officer to make sure they are satisfied with you performance. As in the private sector, generating repeat federal business is the name of the game. Additionally, gaining high grades in your past performance give your firm the ability to move towards higher value contracts and lets you leverage your performance with other agencies.
Step 7: Repeat Step 3 thru Step 6
You are not a successful small business federal contractor.