Seven Tips for New Federal Government Contractors
Growth is a part of every business strategy, yet many companies are hesitant to work with the largest buyer in the world, the United States Federal Government. This article aims to provide insight into the government’s framework so new federal government contractors can expand their business and win at the federal level.
The following seven tips from GovWin will help introduce new federal government contractors to the skills needed to begin winning in the federal market.
New to Federal Contracting?
1. Register in the SAM Federal Database
The System for Award Management (SAM) is the official U.S. federal government system for vendors to provide company information, a DUNS number, a business category, business size and confirm agreement with government regulations. Registration with SAM.gov is free, and once the registration is complete, vendors will get a CAGE code registration number which will be required on all proposal submissions.
This system can be used without registering. SAM.gov can be used to gather information on competitors or to vet potential partners and teaming opportunities. For each registered entity, SAM.gov will show if the company has delinquent taxes or has been debarred or excluded, and it provides key regulatory clauses used in federal government contracting. The beta.SAM.gov site can also be a resource to find some information about government contracts, although companies should consider Deltek’s GovWin IQ platform of federal market intelligence if they want more than just the basics offered by beta.SAM.gov.
"While government websites can be sources to find information on the basic elements of government contracting, like bids and RFPs, companies succeeding at selling to the government are taking proactive steps to go beyond the basics to find all of the information they need."
2. Get Comfortable with the FAR Government Portal
FAR is the Federal Acquisition Regulation portal for federal government procurement. There are specific rules on contractor discussion, bidding, market research, costs, protests and more. The federal government uses three main contract types: Time and Materials, Cost Reimbursement and Fixed Price. Each one of these carries different levels of risks. The FAR will help vendors understand the rules and how to assess the impact on business. Vendors can use these regulations to help develop policies and procedures required for federal government business. Vendors interested in teaming partners can find requirements as well as government clauses that are not required of the vendor by a large contractor.
3. Identify Business NAICS Codes
When the federal government wants to buy goods or services, it identifies the NAICS code that describes the principal purpose of that procurement. Selecting words or phrases from NIGP commodity/services codes can help find the best NAICS codes for a business. This list may change over time. Vendors should add any new NAICS codes to their NAICS code list and update in SAM.
NAICS codes are chosen by the contracting officer. It is important to learn the language of federal government contracting to increase the probability of winning and being noticed by potential partners and government agencies. If a NAICS code is more aligned with the requirement than what is listed in the RFP, vendors can request it be changed with the contracting officer. If it is not changed, but a vendor qualifies, the vendor can add it to their list.
4. Understand Past Performance
The federal government wants to hire contractors that have knowledge and experience with the work required. A federal agency may request the vendor’s clients to complete and return a past performance questionnaire, or a vendor may be asked to complete a description. It is good practice for vendors to specify in the bid or RFP how their work is similar in scope, size and complexity to the work being requested, and provide a point of contact, period of performance and contract award amount.
Vendors should also create past project profiles to have them available when needed. The order of precedence for federal government past performance is federal, state/local then commercial. No past performance is to be deemed neutral. If a vendor has no project experience, the vendor can use the experience of its key personnel.
5. Identify Government Contracting Opportunities
Vendors should seek to identify the federal agencies that spend the most money on their product or service. This will help build agency profiles, create buyer agency target lists and develop relationships with key agency decision makers. Participation in pre-proposal conferences, industry days, etc. is also useful to gather more information about the agency, potential partners and the competition. On a routine basis, vendors should assess the environment and stay abreast of current agency needs and related policy issues.
One of the best ways to maintain an up-to-date pipeline of government contracting opportunities at the federal level is through the comprehensive data offered in the GovWin IQ platform. Users can quickly and easily access intelligence on opportunities from the early stage all the way through the contract award.
“GovWin IQ’s intuitive search and alerts gets us the detailed opportunity information we need quickly.”
Frank Muller, President, Business Development, Smith Federal Solutions
6. Research Your Market
It’s good practice to take time to read federal analysis and research from trusted sources. By doing the research, vendors can stay informed on what is going on in the federal market, follow proposed rules or legislation changes and identify areas of improvement.
Fortunately, GovWin IQ makes this research simple. It offers a variety of government contracting market research reports, plus a wealth of timely webinars and other data-driven insights, in its Market Analysis section.
7. Build Relationships and Follow Up
To be successful at all levels of government, vendors must be knowledgeable, resourceful, timely and sincere. Vendors currently winning contracts in other markets already know that the strongest relationships are built on trust and service. By following the tips discussed in this article, vendors can start building relationships with federal agencies with confidence and stay in contact with key players such as the contract officer, program manager and the small business office representative.
Looking for more information on how new federal government contractors can build their success in the federal market? Download GovWin’s Federal Government Contracting 101 Guide to get the essentials that your business needs to start successfully capturing federal sales opportunities.
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