Selling Products and Services to The Federal Government
Knowing the Customer
Your first step in selling products and services to the government is to become educated on their way of doing business. Each agency has different budgets and limits on how much can be spent for the types of contracts it uses for a particular procurement. But for the most part government purchases fall in one of the following three categories:
- Large purchases and acquisitions: These products are usually solicited through competitive bids and are for contracts in excess of $100,000. Notices for these types of purchases can be found in the Commerce Business Daily (CBD) published by the Government Printing Office. It lists proposed federal civilian and military procurement and awards in excess of $25,000. https://www.fbo.gov/ (Site includes a database of current and past issues searchable by classification, type of contract, agency, keyword or the institution receiving a contract. The database is accessible only by subscription.)
- Simplified acquisitions: This type of purchase, normally for amounts up to $100,000, can take the form of a contract or purchase order. They are often used to target purchases from small businesses or organizations. Notices for these types of purchases can also be found in the CBD, even though a CBD announcement is not required for procurement under $25,000.
- Micro purchases: This type of purchase is normally used for amounts under $ 2,500 and is often made using a government purchase card. Federal consumers need not obtain competitive quotations if the contracting officer determines that the price is reasonable. Contact agencies directly to find out what types of products and services they are planning to purchase.
Knowing how agencies conduct business and familiarizing yourself with their needs and buying practices can go a long way towards helping you succeed. As a supplier to the government, you will make choices, negotiate, and fulfill contracts. Familiarizing yourself with the procurement terminology, procedures and staff will be an asset.
You can find out what agencies are planning to spend by studying their Procurement Forecasts, a projection of purchases and contracts over $100,000 for the next year. These forecasts and other useful information can be found at the FedBizOpps web site at https://www.fbo.gov/. The booklet Selling Environmental Products to the Government on the web at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/epp/ has additional contact information.
There are two agencies that play a major purchasing role in the federal marketplace: the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
- GSA is the government's chief acquisition agency and they have published a booklet entitled Doing Business with GSA, which is available at: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/103249. Geared toward small businesses, the booklet "explains in plain language how to find contracting opportunities with GSA, how to take advantage of them, and how to make the most of the services offered by ... Regional Small Business Centers..."
- DLA deals with Department of Defense contracts and has also published a booklet for small businesses (especially those who have never had government contracts) entitled Selling to the Military. It is available at: http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps57820/www.acq.osd.mil/sadbu/publications/ selling/ . Another DLA resource is the Green Procurement Report (GPR) Quick-Start Guide (http://www.dlis.dla.mil/PDFs/GPR_Userguide.pdf).