By: Tom Linnertz
Business Opportunity Specialist
North Dakota District Office
Searching the web for contracts can be extremely frustrating. If you are not familiar with the process, a simple search can present a list of contracts that can take days to review. How can you simplify the effort while still keeping it effective?
Tip 1: Make sure you are listed on the System for Award Management (SAM) at www.sam.gov. You cannot bid on solicitations unless you are listed on this website.
Tip 2: Check out government agencies “Wish List”. The “Wish List” is just that, a list of project/contracts that, if the money is available, they would like to purchase. The wish list is also known as a Presolicitation List. The items on the wish list may or may not ever be let for bid, but by watching this list you can maintain an awareness of planned projects or potential contracts.
There are many helpful web sites available. Acquisition Central lets you search forecasts by agency: https://www.acquisition.gov/comp/procurement_forecasts/index.html.
Tip 3: Use www.FedBizOpps.gov. This site lists almost all contracts over $25,000 being solicited by the federal government. There are three or more ways to search on this site. The first method is to search “ALL”. You may do this once just to get a feel, but it can easily cause information overload - too much information to be useful.
With experience you will find the best method is to search FedBizOpps by keyword and enter your product/service or zip code. Using this method you can find all solicitations for “cheese”, or “computers” or “socks” or “food services” or whatever you may wish to sell to the government. You can most easily limit the listing of interested contracts by using the keyword search.
If you are interested in working with a particular agency, you can also Search by Agency. You can then check the site for contracts with the agency that best fits your product or service.
Tip 4: Once you find a solicitation you are interested in … Print it out! Print the page and save all the information you find as a hardcopy. You may find a contract on the internet and then lose the site or bookmark “favorite”. When you go back to the site you can’t find it again. If you didn’t print it out it could be gone forever.
TIP 5: You can set FedBizOps up to do searches or you can subscribe to BIDMATCH. In North Dakota the Impact Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (Impact PTAC) will assist with the Bidmatch process. Visit their website at www.impactpac.com. Many other states offer Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) including Minnesota which has an office in Moorhead. Most PTACs provide Bidmatch services for a very reasonable fee. This service will save you countless hours.
Tip 6: Keep the name of the Contact person. Call and/or write to them when you have questions. Manage this effort prudently. Read the entire solicitation, write your questions down and submit them all in one letter or email. Before you do this, check the solicitation website to see if these questions have been addressed by other parties. There are times when a phone call can work best, but a written request with a written reply is much more reliable. Do not call them continually with one question at a time.
Tip 7: Check State Agency websites. To do business with state governments, make sure you are registered with the appropriate agency. North Dakota has a website similar to SAM specifically for the purpose of providing access to state solicitations - www.nd.gov/spo. This is the site which, after proper registration, pushes information to you rather than requiring you to search each day. If you want to bid on state solicitations, you must be registered on this site.
You can check out state procurement agency sites by clicking on the following links: North Dakota, Minnesota, and the National Association of State Procurement Officials. As you do this, you will quickly learn that not all websites are created equal. Practice, persistence, and patience pay off.
Tip 8: Check the sites often for updates and amendments. You must make sure your bid reflects all amendments.
Tip 9: SAM.gov must be updated to stay active. I recommend you do so at least every 6 months. If you don’t update your profile it becomes inactive and is no longer listed.
Becoming proficient in finding and bidding on contracts is a long journey. Hopefully these items will help shorten the trip.
Tom Linnertz has been a Loan Officer and Business Development Specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration since 1989, and the 8(a) Program manager for the North Dakota District Office since 2002. Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.