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FAQ

Who does the federal government purchase from?

The federal government purchases from business of all sizes, located throughout the country, for all types of services – from dry-cleaning services to disaster recovery. Look for opportunities that you are interested in and see what company was awarded the last contract and the terms – you can search www.usaspending.gov or www.fbo.gov for recent awards.

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Who am I competing with locally?

You can find out which local small businesses in your industry have registered to be able to sell to the government at the System for Award Management website.

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Where and how do I start?

Don’t forget business basics – make sure you have a solid business plan, a marketing plan, and your financial systems in place. You may want to begin the process by asking some hard questions and being honest with yourself: Do these agencies buy what I have to offer? Do they buy from companies like me? Can I show past performance? How soon do you need money? Where are you in your business development? It is a great idea to continue with your contract bid if you think it is a good fit, but be aware of the time you may have to spend to be awarded the contract.

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What are some of the steps for applying for and securing a contract?

  • Get a DUNS number
  • Find your FSC codes, find your SIC codes, and find your NAICS codes
  • Register with the System for Award Management (SAM)
  • Work with PTAC counselor
  • Go after opportunities
  • Search bids
  • Seek sub-contracting or partnering opportunities
  • Build relationships
  • Attend classes and networking opportunities

Remember:

  • It is ok to start with a smaller contract than you would prefer. It can build past performance.
  • Take reasonable steps. If you are at $50,000 in sales, don’t take on a $300,000 contract unless you are partnering with someone or have done it before in another capacity.
  • Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Remember past performance is important. You can also run out of cash.

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How do I leverage my business for competitive bids?

  • Be prepared – know if what you offer is publicly bid and when it is expected to go out next.
  • Know your competition and the needs of the agency.
  • Know HOW the bid usually goes out. If it is narrow in scope (say only X manufacturer), let the contracting officer know the value of competitive products with proven history. If they want the same scope, see if you can create new relationships before the bid goes out.
  • Be creative. If you can think of another contract they can “piggy back on” that you have, share. If you can think of an added value that your company can offer, let them know. The person designing the next contract may find enough value that they include it in the contract.

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What can I do to help promote my business?

  • When talking to someone who can make referrals, make sure the person you are talking to understands what your business does and who would be interested in it (don’t assume they will know).
  • Work with the person you are talking with to determine if you offer a product or service that is being purchased within their dollar thresholds. Keep in mind there are often publicly bid contracts for frequent purchases.
  • If you have existing contracts with other agencies – BRING A COPY!! If you have other customers that show you can perform – share a list of customers/completed projects. Your past successes will help you.
  • Identify the agency’s process for accessing the individuals you want to promote to and provide your information in a clear format that provides capacity, benefits, and pricing.

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I applied for a contract and was not successful. Now what do I do?

  • If you feel your contact with that agency was supportive of your efforts (thought it was a fit, had a system that they felt would work for you, or had the ability to try a new system), follow up and ask for feedback.
    • Ask to find out who won the contract and at what price. They can’t offer the detail, but are required to offer the total dollar amount and awarding vendor.
    • If there were factors other than price, ask if they have any tips where you can improve.
    • See how close you were. It probably only makes sense to bid on similar items if you are in a close range.
  • If you feel there are opportunities with that agency for small purchases with companies like yours and you feel your contact was not interested in your business, identify if cold calling purchasing/departments would be appropriate. You can often find these contacts by doing creative searches on their websites, calling the general number on their website, or looking in the phone book.
  • Build relationships (support their goals; don’t do pressure sales).
  • If you don’t have very good luck, look at your marketing plan.

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