3 Tricks for Small Businesses Selling to the Public Sector

Most business owners know that the government market in the United States — covering the federal government as well as state and local agencies — represents a wealth of opportunity for selling their products or services. But many of them are part of small or midsize businesses (SMBs), and feel they can’t compete with the large, national brands.

As someone who has extensively studied the state, local and education (SLED) government market, I’ve seen small businesses successfully find a way into government contracting, and I am familiar with a few successful strategies other companies can use to do just that.

Onvia’s Lyndon Dacuan outlined five some of the common roadblocks that businesses feel exist on the road to winning more government bids and RFPs. One of the biggest fears small businesses have is that government only “buys from the big guys.” In fact, he writes that federal agencies have a goal of reserving 23% of contracts for small businesses, and many state and local agencies set similar benchmarks.

Some contracts aren’t a good fit for a small company to take on alone. To clear this hurdle, many SMBs are seeking teaming opportunities. Looking for partnerships with smaller cities and counties — public-private partnerships, or P3s — is another increasingly popular method of collaboration, and as SPI’s Mary Scott Nabers wrote here, smaller cities like Missoula, MT and Burlington, VT are pursuing these more frequently.

By boiling this all down, we can identify three simple steps that small and midsize businesses in all industries can take to maximize their government contracting sales.

Find Set-Asides

By identifying which agencies make a point of setting aside contracts for small and midsize businesses, you can more effectively target government bids and RFPs that you will have a better chance of winning.

Look to Partner

Being willing to go the extra mile to develop a partnership with a government agency, or with other private companies, can expand your public sector opportunity.

Leverage Big Data

Using tools and products that give you the widest view of the government contracting market, especially state, local and education agencies, will give you the information you need to pursue the right kind of government business for your company.

These strategies aren’t foolproof, but if you follow them, they will give you a better chance of competing in the government contracting marketplace — and of growing your overall sales.

Nick Schiffler is a Social Media and Content Marketing Specialist. He works at Onvia, a provider of business intelligence, analytics and tools that help companies grow their public sector sales. You can find him on LinkedIn and follow his company on Twitter.