How to Get Government Contracts? [Guide 2022–24]
If you live in any country, you may have realized that your government is one of the largest buyers of products and services.
Then the question is, if you are a business, whether it is a start-up, micro, small, midsize, or even a large business, how do you secure government contracts and grants?
So let us take a deep dive into this topic! This is a sophisticated video with a lot of important information packed together and not some fluff that you will see in many YouTube videos. So, make sure to take notes, replay the video and access the excellent resource section below including the Federal Business Accelerator Bundle program.
This program is brought to you by ScaleUP USA. We focus on producing transformative programs to ScaleUP your career, company, community, and competitiveness in the US! Check out our website — in the below section! Also, make sure to like this video, share it, and subscribe to the channel so we can keep on building valuable content for you!
So back to the topic — how to win government contracts and grants?
We will take the example of the US federal government, but this approach applies to state and local governments as well. And yes, if you live in a foreign country, you should be able to use this same approach to win business with your foreign government!
One more valuable tip, if you need more detailed step-by-step information, make sure to check out the Federal Business Accelerator program that can be accessed globally. The link is below.
So let us talk about how to go about winning government contracts in the US.
· First, understand the big federal opportunity and get involved in building a federal practice by taking the necessary steps in this video. These steps are simple and straightforward and should not take too much time.
· Second, register to work with the federal government by ensuring that you have SAM, GSA, and other federal schedules also called contract vehicles, to sell to the government. This step is mechanical, and most companies can manage it by investing time, effort, and money.
· Third, learn how to develop federal markets and sell to the government. This step is critical for success. Very few companies who have SAM registration, federal schedules, or contract vehicles with the government win federal task orders, so pay special attention to the advice in this guide.
· Fourth, ensure that you can execute immaculately on the task orders won from the federal government. This way you will win the hearts and minds of the federal government and win repeat business from them while creating a “documented history” of past performance.
In our experience, most companies take the first 2 steps and then wait for federal opportunities and contracts to come their way. This is a big mistake; the federal government is not going to come to you unless you have a very “hot” product or service in the marketplace.
You need to reach out to the government with innovative market development techniques like in the market development program or business partnerships marketplace discussed in this guide and build the expertise to execute government projects well and consistently.
Therefore, in summary, the first two steps are simple and straightforward but the last two steps are what will make the difference between a winner and a loser in building a federal practice.
NOW, LET US TALK ABOUT OUR CREDIBILITY! HERE IS A SHORT CASE STUDY.
As the former CIO of the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) and part of the Obama-Biden Administration’s first term, NITIN PRADHAN had oversight of over $3.5B in annual technology investments/acquisitions, over 3,000 IT employees, 10,000 technology contractors, and 200 major technology systems. In this unique position, NITIN met hundreds of federal suppliers and contractors each year — from the largest to the smallest who pitched to him for federal business. Some of them did very well in federal sales and growth. Others not so much.
The question was — why were some performing much better than others? Was it the company, the product, the service, the price, or the training that made the difference?
Nitin realized then that while the first four components made an impact, it was ultimately the federally focused training, the deep insights, and best practices in the federal government that made all the difference in selling more. Most entrepreneurs, businesses, and their employees especially beyond the Washington DC metro region have little understanding of the significant federal opportunities or how to sell and manage projects/programs for the federal government via GSA Advantage or other means. They learned by trial and error, making mistakes all along at the employers’ cost and muddling their way into and out of the federal opportunities. There had to be a better way.
Therefore, now let us look at the step-by-step approach in detail. For some of the steps, you will need more granular information. It’s always a great idea to join the Federal Business Accelerator that Nitin created and work through the plan step by step.
1. UNDERSTAND THE BIG GOVERNMENT OPPORTUNITY
The US federal government is the world’s largest customer obligating approximately over $10.1 trillion in FY 2021 — including grants and contracts on products and services each year via GSA Advantage and other sources/schedules. In FY 2021 alone, the US Federal Government spent $7.5 Trillion on grants and fixed charges and $1.1T on contractual services and supplies. Just to give you a comparison, all the Venture Capital funding in the US in 2021 was about $300B.
In ScaleUP USA’s experience, you can build a very successful business in the government if you strategize, train hard, learn the best practices, persist, have patience, and work systematically.
So let us get started by locating all your team members and asking them to follow this video guide and the online Federal Business Accelerator program. Remember, while you can train alone it is better to have an ecosystem of partners to win more business in the federal sector, so invite your team to work together on these government strategies!
1. GET INVOLVED IN THE GOVERNMENT BUSINESS!
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are approximately 32 million businesses in the USA. Of these, by our estimate, 98% don’t even try to work with the Federal Government. So, if you decide to attempt to work with the Federal Government you are already in the top 2%. This step is entirely in your hands! You must get mentally prepared to work with the Federal Government and on the GSA Advantage Program if you are eligible. Working with the federal government is complex, time-consuming, and very different from working in the commercial sector. In ScaleUP USA’s opinion, once you learn the best practices, tips and tricks, and time-tested formulas you should do well. Plus, the complexity of the federal government acts as a barrier to entry for other businesses. Remember, the federal government spends in good times and in bad times. Therefore, once you learn to win federal business you should be good even if the economy tanks. Remember, this is one of the best hedges you can have for your business, therefore put in the effort, and create a great federal government practice now while you can.
2. CHECK OUT THE FEDERAL OPPORTUNITIES
The Federal Government seeks products or services through multiple different mechanisms including grants and contracts. Before you dive full fledge into working with the government, which is a little complicated, ScaleUP USA recommends that you first check out what the government is buying in your areas of expertise and make sure you like the buying patterns. The Government makes this very easy. For federal grants, you can search the “Grants.Gov” website and for federal contracts, you can search the new “SAM.gov” site as well as past contracts and awards data. You can also go to GSA Advantage and see what products and services are being sold to the government and see if you can compete with any of them successfully. There are many other websites from the federal government that provide very valuable information. Too many to list here. If you need to learn more check out the appropriate section in the federal business accelerator.
3. IDENTIFY YOUR NAICS AND FCS CODES
As you may have realized during your research in the earlier step the Federal Government typically lists or identifies its procurement activities by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Federal Supply Classification (FSC) codes. You must, therefore, know the relevant codes for the products and services you are planning to sell to the government so you can seek the right buying opportunities. You can go to the two websites to figure this out or check the federal business accelerator link on how to do this.
4. OBTAIN DUNS NUMBER
Once you have your above steps planned out, it is time to register for your DUNS number. This business identification number is required if you want to work with the Federal Government. This number is provided free of charge to companies who want to do business with the Federal Government. Else, there is a small charge. To secure your number search for “DUNS government” on Google. You should find the link. This is a routine, mechanical, but required step. If you need help in this area, check the Federal business accelerator program.
5. REGISTER IN SAM dot GOV
The Federal Government requires you to have an active registration in SAM to do business with it. To register in SAM, at a minimum, you will need the following information:
Your DUNS Number, Legal Business Name, and Physical Address from your Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) record.
Your Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and Taxpayer Name associated with your TIN.
Your bank’s routing number, your bank account number, and your bank account type checking or savings, to set up Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).
The System for Award Management (SAM.gov) is an official website of the U.S. Government. There is no cost to use SAM.gov.
You can use this site to do many things — here are a few:
- Register to do business with the U.S. Government
- Update, renew, or check the status of your entity registration
- Search for entity registration and exclusion records
- Search for assistance listings (formerly CFDA.gov), wage determinations (formerly WDOL.gov), contract opportunities (formerly FBO.gov), and contract data reports (formerly part of FPDS.gov)
- Access publicly available award data via data extracts and system accounts
This again is a free, mechanical but required step. SAM registrations may have to be updated regularly to continue working with the government.
6. PLAN A FEDERAL BUSINESS STRATEGY
This is a very critical step. The Federal government is large. Very large. It has around 20 large agencies and 80+ smaller agencies, with over 2.1 million employees. Unless you have a proven strategy to pursue Federal Government opportunities, you will get lost in selling and lose valuable time, effort, and a lot of money! Without the proper business strategy, you are a “rudderless ship on a shoreless sea.” Therefore, ScaleUP USA devotes substantial time to this area in the Federal Business Accelerator Program. This is a very critical step. Get this strategy right. If you don’t, it may turn out to be very costly down the road.
7. INVESTIGATE SET-ASIDE CERTIFICATIONS
According to SBA, the current government-wide procurement goal stipulates that at least 23% of all federal government contracting dollars should be awarded to small businesses. The Biden-Harris administration is looking at increasing this percentage. There are currently four categories under which your small business can be certified:
Women-Owned Small Business — 5% set-aside
Small Disadvantaged Business — 5% set-aside
Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business — 3% set-aside
HUBZone — 3% set-aside
According to the ScaleUP USA’s past research, many times Small Businesses pursue set-aside certifications at the wrong time, in the wrong category, and as a stand-alone strategy — wasting substantial financial resources and time. ScaleUP USA suggests that these certifications should be pursued when you have a credible federal team, a quality federally focused product or service, and the ability to go after federal opportunities. If you try and get a certification earlier when some of these capabilities are not in place you will be just wasting time, effort, and money. Again, the Federal Business Accelerator program provides in-depth advice on how to build your team and win opportunities.
8. UNDERSTAND FEDERAL ACQUISITIONS
Federal Acquisitions is a beast that needs to be tamed. Once understood, the acquisitions process is standardized across the civilian and defense agencies unlike the state and local government rules and regulations — which differ.
Check out the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation (DFAR). The government is aggressively moving towards contract vehicles that focus on procuring an indefinite quantity of supplies or services during a fixed period. Therefore, ScaleUP USA recommends that your company establishes and implements a strategy to win business through GSA schedules, IDIQs, BPA’s, GSA Advantage, and other variety of mass, discount purchase programs. The GSA Advantage overview will be a separate video. Therefore, suggest you subscribe to a channel to get to know when it is published.
9. BUILDING A CAPABLE FEDERAL ECOSYSTEM
There was a time in the past when individual business owners would compete and win big in the Federal Government. This aspect is no longer true due to the priority the Federal Government places on IDIQs, BPAs, GSA Advantage, and other very large contracting vehicles for purchasing. ScaleUP USA recommends that today’s federal contractors and suppliers must build a strong federal team and “ecosystem” including internal leadership, external partners, advisors, and subcontractors. This issue requires detailed planning. To understand more about teaming strategies, check out the Business Partnerships Marketplace program and make sure to get your company videos for display in the marketplace. The link for the Business Partnership Marketplace program is listed below.
10. OFFER INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
The government is not interested in buying outdated products and services. Offering innovative and transformative products and services is important to create clear vectors of differentiation and beat competition in the federal marketplace. The question is how do you consistently innovate and transform efficiently and effectively in areas the government wants with the limited resources you have? Check out the federal market development program for some ideas!
Then, once you have such an innovative product or service, how do you effectively develop markets for it and build a sizable sales revenue? These are complex questions. Which our next two sections will address!
11. FEDERAL MARKET DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
The GSA is a very large entity, the federal government is even larger. It is impossible to adequately cover this organization for sales, especially if you are a micro, small, or mid-size organization. So how do you compete with the larger companies and the incumbents who have a large business development staff or insider information?
You can use a program ScaleUP USA developed and implemented called “Federal Market Development” which focuses on creating opportunities, internal champions, and community of interest of government employees and helping your company become a trusted advisor to the government.
This is an industry-led “master program” developed in partnership with ScaleUP USA and other partners on its, neutral, microlearning-based, purpose-built platform to inform and educate buyers in federal, state, and local, governments, corporations, and startups on YOUR new technologies, business models, and disruptive innovations happening as a result of the industry partner’s transformative products and services. The focus of this program is in three areas:
First, New Technologies: Help the government and government contractors learn about your new production techniques that offer significant improvements in terms of increased output or savings in costs over the established technology.
Second, New Business Models: Help the government and government contractors learn about your new designs or processes for the successful operation of a business for increasing revenues, customer base, and product or service offerings.
Third, Disruptive Innovations: Help the government and government contractors learn about your new transformative processes of transforming an idea or invention into goods or services that create substantially more value or for which government customers will pay more.
13. FEDERAL SALES ACCELERATION
Covid has transformed the business world. What worked in the pre-Covid world is no longer effective today. Are you continuing with the costly, traditional business development and sales techniques of yesterday or do you want to migrate to the digital business development world of the future?
1. Are you still learning to sell from the seller’s instead of the buyer’s point of view?
2. Are your sales pitch pretty much a manual activity yet or have you gone digital?
3. Have you figured out an ecosystem approach to selling or are you doing it alone?
4. Is your sales training integrated across the entire company?
5. How do your sales folks integrate with the rest of the company?
6. Is everyone in your company focused on growth or is that the job of the salesperson?
These types of questions are fundamental to your growth in the federal sector. You have three choices. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Stop the traditional outdated sales training and focus on buyer-driven sales acceleration programs designed by buyers for the sellers. Check out the Federal Sales Acceleration Program for how you can do this. This is part of the federal business accelerator bundle.
14. CREATE WINNING FEDERAL PROPOSALS
If you don’t know how to write winning government proposals and provide competitive pricing, you can forget winning Federal Government business! Price too high and you lose. Price too low and you are out of business. ScaleUP USA spent considerable time documenting some of the best practices in these areas and has built a program for what it takes to build a winning proposal with smart pricing and an impactful business capture process. Check out the federal business accelerator and the course on winning proposal writing if you need help here.
15. LEARN TO DELIVER PEAK PERFORMANCE
The way to grow business in the Federal Government is to first create and understand the opportunity, then conclude the mechanical steps to register for the business, learn to win business, and finally to masterfully implement the federal contracts and grants.
If you don’t know the last step — that is to implement successfully, then your first win will be your last win!
We at ScaleUP USA call this successful implementation “Peak Performance” and we have developed a simple formula that allows you to come under budget and on time each time. Either develop your methodology or use ours — but do make sure you master the art and science of successful implementation. Check out the accelerator for more information on Peak performance.
IN SUMMARY –
Government opportunities are big opportunities. But winning big requires a sophisticated approach. Something that you can start learning either by trial and error or joining programs like the federal business accelerator.
We want the best companies to work with the government so that the government delivers the best services to businesses and citizens.
This is a win-win for all!
So, join us in this endeavor!