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Business Opportunities with the Federal Government
From the Congressional Research Service

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Getting Started

Learning how to sell successfully to the U.S. government, the world's largest buyer of goods and services, can be a daunting task. Most of the process is conducted online: using a computer is essential.

Here are some suggested approaches:

  • Update your company's business plan, highlighting special skills and expertise that would be of interest to government agencies.
  • Review your company's marketing strategy and goals.
  • Learn federal procurement processes and terms.
    • Small Business Administration (SBA) – Provides a step-by-step guide for selling to the government, with tips on bidding, marketing and competing for government contracts, as well as links to free online courses.
    • General Services Administration (GSA) – As the government's chief acquisitions agency, GSA spends billions of dollars annually on products and services offered to all federal agencies.
    • Doing Business with GSA (scroll down, click to view or print out publication) – Covers government procedures, marketing strategies and bidding procedures for contracts. Also lists important contacts, such as the 11 GSA regional centers and technical advisors for small businesses.
    • Office of Small Business Utilization – Through outreach activities in regional offices, promotes increased access to GSAs nationwide procurement opportunities for small, minority, veteran, HUBZone, and women business owners.
    • Acquisition Solutions: How to Sell to the Government – Describes how GSA buys from small and large businesses, including an explanation of how GSA advertises business opportunities locally and nationally, and lists a calendar of local workshops for businesses wanting to sell to the government.
    • GSA Training Programs – Online and onsite courses, including: How to be a contractor.
  • Contact offices in your state or region
    • Speak with a procurement specialist or contracting officer about federal government buying procedures.
    • Ask questions about application procedures, technical requirements and marketing suggestions.
    • Attend procurement programs, which provide opportunities for business people to meet directly with government officials and to learn from other companies involved in federal contracting.
    • Small Business Development Centers – Located in every state, these centers advise and train businesses in financial matters, including certification procedures for small and minority businesses. They are an excellent first stop for any business, especially those with little or no previous experience in dealing with federal procurement.
    • Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) – Although the main focus is providing technical assistance on selling to the military, the centers cover marketing to all government agencies through counseling, training and procurement programs.
    • GSA Regions OverviewThe contracting officers are familiar with the procurement needs of the federal facilities located in their region.
  • Register your business online with Central Contractor Registration (CCR)
    • A company must have a CCR number to get government contracts.
    • Also review the Criteria for Small Business Classification. If your business is classified as a small or disadvantaged business, this certification may lead to more business opportunities.
  • Additional statistical information for business registrations, required for many government forms:

Federal Business Opportunities

FedBizOpps (Federal Business Opportunities) – Single point of entry for announcements of federal contract opportunities over $25,000, both civilian and military.

  • Serves both federal agencies as buyers and businesses as vendors to the government.
  • Since the FedBizOpps site is not an easy site to navigate, do not hesitate to call their toll-free helpline: +1.877.472.3779.
  • For vendors:
  • Search here for agency announcements, awards of contracts and requests for proposals.
  • Review the Vendors Guide for tips on searching by agency, classification codes, or award categories.
  • Sign up for email notification of announcements of particular agencies or for activities concerning particular products or services.
  • For continuing business, apply to be a GSA Schedule Contractor.
  • Under the GSA Schedules Program, also referred to as Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) and Federal Supply Schedules (FSS), GSA establishes long-term government-wide contracts with commercial firms. The GSA application and approval process “to get on the Schedule” may take considerable time, but may be worth it for future business with government agencies.
  • Getting on Schedule – As part of the GSA Schedules Program, the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) gives many businesses, small and large, further opportunities for multiple awards.
  • GSA Training Programs – The FSS Center for Acquisition Excellence offers online training and classroom instruction on the GSA Schedules Program. Check for GSA course listings on how to sell to the government and get contract awards, including the course: How to be a contractor.
  • Checking individual federal agency websites may be a valuable step for businesses who believe that they have a specialized service or product to offer to a specific agency. The government's official web portal, FirstGov, provides links to the websites of federal agencies, through an A-Z Index.

Subcontracting opportunities

A federal contract may be so large that a single company might have difficulty in providing the products or services required to meet the terms of the contract. A prime contractor may need to use subcontractors to complete contractual obligations.

  • SUB-Net (SBA Subcontracting Network) – Identifies subcontracting opportunities by reviewing the postings of prime contractors.
  • Subcontracting Opportunities Directory (SBA) – Identifies prime contractors through a listing of contractors, with addresses and phone numbers, by state.

Selling to the Military and DOD

Many of the DOD contract announcements and registration requirements for businesses have been incorporated into Doing Business With DoD (Federal Business Opportunities), with registration at Central Contractor Registration (CCR). However, there are often special requirements for selling to the military. The vast majority of DOD contracts are awarded by DOD field organizations, or specific mission-oriented agencies within an organization.

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Popular terms (Glossary)

Contract Award: Occurs when the contracting officer has signed and distributed the contract to, or notified the contractor.

Commerce Business Daily: A Department of Commerce publication used by federal agencies to publish a summary or synopsis of their upcoming procurements to notify interested businesses. Now largely replaced by the Fedbizopps internet site.

RFP - Request for Proposal: A process where an agency or government can seek a specific proposal from vendors. Follows a specifications process and formalized set of standards and procedures. Generally seeks less vendor input than an RFI but more than an RFQ.

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