How to be a Government Vendor
The process of becoming a government vendor has a number of steps, but the payoff is worth it. Whatever size your business, the fundamentals apply:
- You should research the federal market to make sure that your business is a match with existing federal needs
- Your business must be mature
- You must indicate that you have generated a certain amount of revenue and built a customer base
- You must be registered to do business with the federal government
- You should be aware that certain categories of small businesses (such as those owned by service-disabled veterans, for example) are entitled to set-aside contracts, and larger businesses are frequently looking for those same companies to partner with.
- You must be prepared to network.
Research Your Customers
For understanding what the government buys, review the Federal Procurement Data System, the central repository of information on complete Federal contracting. The system contains detailed information on contract actions over $3,000 dating back to FY2004. FPDS also contains valuable information on those contracts’ administrators, agencies, and exact date of purchase, which can help you match your business to the appropriate agency.
You should research the federal market to make sure that your business is a match with existing federal needs. The best ways to learn about future opportunities is to review FedBizOpps, the master list of all upcoming federal contract opportunities over $25,000.
More sales information can be found at GSA Advantage, the online catalog of products and services offered to federal agencies through GSA Schedules. Within GSA Advantage, you can review also eBuy, an online Request for Quote (RFQ) tool for federal, state, and local government agencies.
Establish and Maintain Your Credentials
Federal agencies want to work with vendors that are seasoned and well-prepared.
One of the first steps in applying to sell to the federal government is listing yourself on the Dun and Bradstreet DUNs system, where you are given a unique identification number for your business. You must also register in Central Contractor Registration (CCR) the official, free on-line registrant database for the U.S. Federal Government. Use ORCA, the Online Representations and Certifications Application, to apply to become recognized for any special designations (such as women-owned, or service disabled veteran-owned), which may give you preference in contracts. Review this page to learn more about how set-asides work in government contracts.
Small businesses who want to sell through GSA Schedules will also have to obtain customer ratings by registering with Open Ratings.
Network to Learn What the Government Needs
There are many networking opportunities open to small businesses. Thanks to the Internet, you do not need to be located near a GSA Office of Small Business Utilization to take advantage of them. The GSA OSBU office offers a virtual core curriculum to get you started.
If your business is near a regional OSBU, that office gives you have many opportunities to network, as well as classes on federal contracting. Review upcoming events on the GSA events page, and sort by “small business."