How to Do Business with the U.S. Federal Government: A Step-by-Step Approach

May 18, 2016 | By | Reply More

capitolDoing business with federal government agencies can be very lucrative for the people who learn how to maneuver through the maze of registrations, certifications and regulations. But if you are ready to start, these are the first steps you need to take to open the door to federal business opportunities.

RELATED: Selling to the Government through Online Procurement Marketplaces

Step 1: Identify your product or service.

It is necessary to know the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code and the Federal Supply Classification (FSC) code for your product or service. Most federal government product/service listings and procurements are identified by their NAICS code and/or Federal Supply Code. You can find the codes relating to your business at these web sites: NAICS codes: and FSC codes at

Step 2. Check with the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Check with SBA to determine that your business falls within the established table of small business size standards based on NAICS. You may be very surprised just how big a company can be and still be considered small in the eyes of the federal government.

Step 3: Obtain a DUNS Number from Dunn & Bradstreet.

This is a business identification number that is used much like a person uses a social security number. If you do not have a DUNS Number, contact Dun and Bradstreet to obtain one.  There is no charge for assigning a DUNS number and you must have one to proceed.

Step 4: Register in the System for Award Management (SAM) System.

You must be registered in System for Award Management (SAM) to be awarded a contract from any federal civilian or military agencies. SAM is a database designed to hold information relevant to procurement and financial transactions. If you signed up for earlier government systems used — e.g. CCR/FedReg, ORCA, and EPLS — your record should have been imported into SAM. There is no fee to register in the SAM system.

RELATED: Doing Business with the Government

Step 5: Determine if your firm qualifies for 8(a), SDB or HUBZone certification.

These certifications are detailed at They are essentially for companies that are owned by individuals who have experienced some sort of disadvantage in the business environment. This may be based on economic factors, race or geographic location. Firms with these certifications may compete for set-aside contracts those contracts specifically designated for certified companies.

Step 6: Begin to search for current federal government procurement opportunities.

Identify current procurement opportunities in your product or service area by checking at the FedBizOpps web site, the federal civilian and military government single point of entry for many opportunities over $25,000. Once you start to search for current open bids you will get a good feel for the market for your products and services.

RELATED: Finding Business Opportunities in Government Auction Sales

Step 7: Familiarize yourself with both the federal Civilian and Department of Defense (DoD) contracting legal procedures.

Check out the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS). These are the legal regulations for federal acquisitions. While they are not light reading if you are serious about federal procurements, you need to know and understand the legal requirements and regulations pertaining to federal contracts. This is a good time to look for an attorney who is experienced in federal procurement policies.

Step 8: Investigate if getting on the GSA Schedule is right for you.

Federal agencies can use General Services Administration s (GSA) Federal Supply Service (FSS) Schedule Contracts and Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) to make purchases. These pre-approved contracts are used to buy commonly used products, services, and solutions needed to fulfill their missions and day-to-day operations. These opportunities are rarely announced on the FedBizOpps site in Step 7 above, but are normally competed amongst pre-qualified vendors already under contract.

Step 9: Seek additional assistance, as needed, in the federal civilian and/or DoD marketplaces.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) are federally-funded organizations that offer free help. PTACs can be found at

Step 11: Familiarize yourself with the budget forecasts for your targeted agencies. Each federal agency typically produces an Annual Procurement Forecast, as required by the Small Business Act, which is maintained by their Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) or equivalent. You may contact each agency OSDBU for specifics. Use this budget to determine if they are good prospects for you.

Step 10: Explore subcontracting opportunities.

Regardless of your product or service, it is important that you do not neglect a very large secondary market – subcontracting opportunities through prime contractors. Although there is no single point of entry for subcontracting opportunities in the federal civilian procurement marketplace, SBA’ s SUB-Net is a valuable source for obtaining information on subcontracting opportunities. Prime contractors, government, commercial, and educational entities, may post solicitations or notices here.

For DoD -The SADBU Website lists all major DoD prime contractors by state and provides a point of contact (Small Business Liaison Officer) within each firm. Investigate potential opportunities with these firms. Many of these firms also have websites that may be useful. Partnering with a prime contractor as their subcontractor can be an excellent entry platform to the federal marketplace.

Step 11: Investigate government programs.

There are several SBA programs that may be of interest to you, such as the 8(a) Business Development Mentor-Protege Program, the Small Business Innovation Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Research Program and the Technology Resources Network.

There are several DoD programs, some derived from the aforementioned programs, that may also be of interest to you, such as the Mentor-Protege Program, the Small Business Innovation Research Program, and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions Program. Information on these and other programs is available on the DoD Office of Small Business Programs website.

Step 12: Market your firm to the right contacts.

Identify your prospective government customers, research their requirements, and familiarize yourself with procurement regulations and strategies require determination, direction, discipline and resources. There are many procuring organizations to consider, and educating yourself about their roles and missions will be no small task, but essential nonetheless.

When it is time to market your product or service, present your capabilities directly to the people who buy it. Wherever possible, arrange marketing visits to agency project and program personnel. Provide catalogues and brochures to key personnel within the agencies. Many Federal agencies hold small business fairs that emphasize how to do business with the government and provide information regarding their program activities. Realize that, like your own, their time is valuable/limited. If the match is a good one, you may be able to provide them with a cost-effective, quality solution to their requirements.

RELATED: Finding the Real Decision-Makers in Federal Contracting

About the Author:

Gloria Berthold is CEO of She teaches federal government marketing strategies through national audio conferences and in-person speaking engagements. Check for more information.

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