Small businesses looking to increase their revenues might want to consider taking on a new type of customer, the federal government.
The federal government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services. However, in working with small-business owners, I find many who think government contracts are mostly about military and construction related products and services.
But the federal government purchases pretty much any product or service you could imagine and spends more than $425 billion a year, so don’t count yourself out until you have done some research. And small businesses are particularly encouraged to bid on contracts, with federal agencies having contracting goals concerning selling to smaller companies.
One step you will need to take as you seek to sell to the government is to register your business in the government’s Central Contractor Registration at www.bpn.gov/ccr. But you can’t just list your business there and sit back and watch the money roll in.
Just as you should be working hard to develop profitable relationships with your other customers, you will have to actively pursue a profitable relationship with your new customer, the federal government.
Before you start bidding on contracts, you need to be sure that your business has the ability to fulfill the government’s needs and can financially support the performance of the contract.
You must learn and follow the rules concerning federal purchasing. You will have to research procurement opportunities and be willing to spend time to prepare and present bids.
The Small Business Administration lists the following tips on their Web site concerning selling to the federal government:
— Get to know the agency and understand the context in which your product or service could be used.
— Obtain available information on past awards, quantities, costs and awarders.
— Think about your company’s products and services and what makes your company unique. Consider what the government will look for when considering you for a contract award, such as financial status, staff capabilities and track record.
— Make yourself known to potential purchasers and, most importantly, to the people in the agency who will be using your product or service.
— Make personal contact. Set up a face-to-face meeting with agency personnel – and don’t forget to call to set up an appointment first.
— Be smart when you’re talking to agency people – focus on selling the merits of your products/services rather than on the agency’s ability to use your company to meet their small business contracting goals.
I find that many small-business owners don’t even try selling to the government because they just assume it will be too complicated and difficult. While it does take some effort, a lot of help is available to guide you through the process and make things go more smoothly.
So consider taking some time to investigate the process and what opportunities may be there for your business.
A great way to get started with investigating opportunities to sell to the federal government is the SBA’s free online training course “Recovery Act Opportunities: How to Win Federal Contracts.”
The course will help you understand and get involved in the federal government’s contracting process. It is free and available 24 hours a day. It may be accessed at http://www.sba.gov/content/online-courses-government-contracting.
You may also get further information and assistance about selling to federal, state or local government agencies by contacting Larry Blige, a government contracting counselor with the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center here in Savannah. He may be reached at 912-963-2524.
Connie Edwards is a business consultant with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.