Five hundred billion dollars. On average, that’s how much money the U.S. government awards in federal contracts each year. And your business could get a piece of the pie.
We hear regularly about B2B and B2C, but not as much about B2G – business-to-government. The federal government purchases everything from office supplies to IT services and spaceship parts. You name it, the government buys it. Although selling to Uncle Sam might seem challenging, the payoff can mean substantial growth for any company, large or small.
Government contracting can be especially lucrative for small companies since the federal government sets a statutory goal to award 23% of its contract spending to small businesses. There are also contracting goals for small businesses owned by women, disadvantaged groups (minorities, underserved industries, etc.), service disabled veterans and those located in HUBZones (historically underutilized business areas). This means that agencies are actively seeking small businesses within these socioeconomic groups to help them reach their goals.
As a business owner myself, I’ve reaped the rewards of working with the federal government and recommend it as a growth strategy to my peers and partners. Some benefits of government contracting include:
- A diversified customer base: Having a mix of clients in the public sector in addition to private sector provides variety and flexibility for your company.
- Regular Payment: Government contracts can provide steady, ongoing monthly revenue. In fact, small business government contractors are eligible to receive prompt payments within 15 days from billing as a result of the Prompt Payment Act.
- Relationship building: Through my work with the government, I’ve made valuable contacts not only within the public sector, but also with large and small companies across the country. These relationships have led to additional opportunities.
Lay the groundwork
An important first step in the government contracting process is registering on the System for Award Management (SAM), the database the government uses to find qualified contractors, and where larger contract-holders, or “primes,” seek qualified subcontracting partners. All prospective government vendors are required to be registered in SAM before they can receive a contract. For small companies, register in the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) database for additional exposure to agencies and primes.
Once registered, increase your visibility by exploring certifications and designations relevant to your business. Since the government seeks to meet contract-award goals with certain types of businesses—such as those owned by women, minorities and veterans—these differentiators can help federal agencies discover you. In fact, an American Express OPEN survey of government officials and procurement specialists found that 63% say certifications allow purchasing officials to more easily find businesses in SAM.
Focus on your strengths
Before jumping in, it’s helpful to think about which capability is your company’s strongest . Once you determine your key product or service offering, create a compelling capability statement, which is similar to a résumé and outlines who you are, what you can do, your past performance and any certifications and designations that will help distinguish you from other companies. Your capability statement should be kept up-to-date and adjusted to reflect the needs of individual agencies you are targeting. In addition to your 60 second elevator pitch, this is where you and your business can really shine and play up your strengths to prospective clients and partners.
Identify your target customer
After determining your sweet spot, identify the potential market within the government. What agencies are buying your products and services? How much are they buying? Who are they buying from? When are the purchases being made? Answering these types of questions and digging into purchasing patterns will help you determine a target list of agencies. The good news is federal purchases over the $25,000 limit are posted on FBO.gov with those purchases under $3,500, micro-purchase credit card threshold are public information and readily available for you to peruse.
Competition in the government contracting arena is increasing, so beyond highlighting your products and services, you need to sell yourself as a leader and someone who can add value to an agency or organization. Industry events are a great opportunity to make connections with procurement officials and agency representatives—not to mention, learn the latest information that can help you successfully land a contract. Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) can help direct you to events happening in your area.