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Securing Government Contracts

How Small Businesses Can Sell to the Federal Government

While many of us may associate large corporate conglomerates with high-paying government contracts, the truth is that small businesses can land financially-lucrative federal contracts as well.

In fact, according to 2011 figures from the Small Business Administration, a total of $91.5 billion in government contracts was awarded specifically to companies that qualify as small businesses.

Government contracts can indeed be financially rewarding. But unless you know exactly what you're doing, successful bidding can be a challenge in this highly competitive arena. Here are a few important strategies to help you bid for – and win – government contracts for your business.

1. Get the Help You Need

A wealth of government agencies offers services on how to negotiate the tricky waters of government contract bidding. Here are some of your best resources:

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Small Business Administration's Office of Government Contracting acts as an advocate in helping small businesses procure service contracts from the federal government. Its services include technical assistance, seminars, and one-on-one consultations, as well as a variety of up-to-date online tools.

General Services Administration

The General Services Administration (GSA) offers a registration system where businesses can seek subcontracting opportunities with various government agencies. The GSA also runs a Vendor Support Page that offers webinars, training videos, and other valuable tools to business contractors. In addition, the GSA runs the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, which oversees and negotiates contract disputes.

Federal Business Opportunities

Known in the industry as FedBizOpps, this agency posts government contract opportunities, much in the same way that a job site posts job postings. Listings are constantly updated, and each contains a comprehensive synopsis of the contract description. In addition, FedBizOpps offers helpful training videos for small businesses and prospective vendors.

2. Get Registered

It's crucial to register your business with the right data bases so your services can be marketed to the appropriate government agencies. Operated by the federal government, the System for Award Management (SAM) is an updated, consolidated portal that takes the place of the formerly-used Central Contractor Registration System. Registration is free, and the site also offers helpful webinars.

3. Prioritize Your Contacts

Pursuing government contracts is virtually the same as job hunting, especially when it comes to networking and marketing yourself and your business. It's important to get in touch with the right people -- and to stay in touch with them. Every government agency has a private business representative, and this is the person you'll want to contact first to help you get your foot in the door. To help you prioritize your contacts, check out Leadership® Federal Insight, which provides a valuable lead generation tool that showcases available contracts, as well as relevant purchasing contacts for each award. Featuring more than 10,000 key purchasing contacts, Leadership® Federal Insight provides instant access to the most up-to-date profile and contact information, and also features the latest opportunities and current awards from FedBizOpps. With its data base filled with phone numbers, emails, addresses, and profiles for more than 170,000 key decision makers in the contract process, Leadership® Federal Insight can help you secure more GSA contracts and improve your ROI on your lead generation investments.

4. Get as Much Certification as You Can

In the world of subcontracting, certifications are like diplomas -- they're a testament to your professionalism. Organizations such as the Small Business Administration can help you identify which certifications might best enhance your business credentials.

5. Find Your Target Agency

One of the worst things you can do is market your business to the wrong agency. It not only wastes time, it also makes you look unprofessional. Federal agencies have specific needs, and your business offers specific services -- but be sure to match them up properly. Every federal agency posts a "procurement forecast" on its site, so you'll want to read it thoroughly before offering your services.

6. Be Prepared for Paperwork

Once you've passed the biggest hurdle and gotten the contract, you'll have to face the second-biggest hurdle: dealing with the paperwork. It's insurmountable, but the good news is that you can get help from agencies such as the Small Business Administration.

7. Sell Your Services for All Their Worth

When detailing your services, don't ever assume that something is a "given." The contractor has to be fully aware of everything you have to offer. Spell it out clearly and positively so you can trump the competition.

8. Take Advantage of Every Networking Opportunity

Realize the importance of first impressions. This means taking advantage of every opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with agency representatives. It also means availing yourself of the many webinars offered by federal agencies and government-sponsored third-party facilitators, as these can provide great networking opportunities. While you're networking, be sure to make a good first impression by dressing professionally -- casual Fridays aren't really a government thing -- and conducting yourself in a serious, businesslike manner.

9. Plan on Spending Some Money

Some companies invest as much as several hundred thousand dollars on marketing strategies to help them win government contracts. While this might not be financially viable for most small businesses, it's always a good idea to consider investing in management strategies or marketing tools that can help your company hone its skills and edge out your competitors.

Finally, don't ever assume that the job is going to be yours, even if you've been virtually promised the contract. In the highly competitive field of government contracting, things can change on a dime, so stay on top of your game and don't ever relax your strategies for one moment.


Leadership® Federal Insight is a comprehensive business development and lead generation tool that provides accurate biographical and contact data for over 17,000 key federal officials and employees. This unique resource offers direct access to the administrators and officials who are responsible for the decisions regarding which products and services are put out for bid, and which companies will be awarded the specific contracts.

Leadership® Federal Insight allows customers to search hard-to-find purchasing and contract data such as:

  • Current federal contract opportunities valued over $25K based on product or service required
  • Purchasing contacts based on recent purchase history
  • Indication of federal pay scale levels
  • Information on government credit card holders

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