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Top Tips for Finding Federal Contracts
By: Sherri Komrosky
Business Opportunity Specialist
North Dakota District Office
Government contracting can be great for small business, and researching these opportunities online can be a great place to start. However, searching the internet for government opportunities can also be extremely frustrating. If you are not familiar with the process, a simple search can present a list of solicitations that can take days to review. How can you simplify the effort while still keeping it effective? We have a few tips:
Tip 1: Make sure you are registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) at: https://www.sam.gov. You cannot bid on federal solicitations unless you are registered in this database. This mandatory registration is FREE of charge, so make sure you are on the official site as there are many commercial website designs that appear similar to the official government site and they charge fees!
Tip 2: Complete registration in the Dynamic Small Business Search database. The Small Business Administration maintains the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) database. It is tied to your SAM registration, so once you have completed your SAM registration you will be asked to update your small business profile. The information provided in SAM populates the DSBS. It is another tool contracting officers use to identify small businesses.
You can also use DSBS to view information about your competitors, therefore make sure your profile corresponds with the profile of your competition.
Tip 3: Check out government agencies “Wish Lists”. The “Wish List,” or forecast, is just that, a list of projects/contracts that, if the money is available, government agencies would like to purchase. 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 when researching forecasts. Acquisition Central lets you search forecasts by agency.
Tip 4: Search FedBizOpps. Though federal agencies are required to post available procurement opportunities to the public for all contracts valued over $25,000, many agencies post projects below this threshold.
There are three or more ways to search on this site. The first method is to search “ALL”. While you may do this once just to get a feel, it can easily cause information overload.
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. This method will limit the listing of interested contracts most effectively.
If you are interested in working with a particular agency, you can also Search by Agency. From there you can check the site for contracts with the agency that best fits your product or service.
You can also use this database to search past contract awards for more data around market size and competition.
Tip 5: 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 lost forever. You can also use this as a scribble copy!
Tip 6: You can set FedBizOps up to do searches or you can subscribe to a BID MATCHING Service. In North Dakota, the Impact Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) can help you set up a search profile in their bid matching system. Your matches are delivered to you via email every afternoon. It is free and will save you countless hours of searching, so register on their website for a meeting!
Impact PTAC provides this service and one-on-one procurement assistance free of charge. All states have a PTAC and most provide this service free or for a very reasonable fee. You can find PTAC’s in other states at http://www.aptac-us.org.
Tip 7: Keep the name of the contact person. Call and/or write to them with your questions. 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 and make sure you check to see if there is a timeframe for asking for clarifications.
Tip 8: Check State Agency websites. Consider state agencies! North Dakota has a website similar to SAM specifically for the purpose of providing access to state solicitations – http://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.
Tip 9: Check the sites often for updates and amendments. You must make sure your bid reflects all amendments. If the opportunity was on FedBizOpps be sure to register as an “Interested Vendor” and “Watch Me” so you are notified if there are any changes.
Tip 10: Your SAM.gov registration must be updated to stay active. I recommend you do so at least every 6 months. You will receive emails from “sam.gov” to remind you your password expires (180 days) and automated emails at 60, 30 and 10 days before your SAM profile expires. If you don’t update your profile it becomes inactive and is no longer listed.
Finding and bidding on contracts is a long journey. These 10 tips will help you to become proficient, so keep trying, and don’t get discouraged!
Sherri Komrosky is a Business Opportunity Specialist for the North Dakota District Office. In this position, she is responsible for assisting North Dakota small businesses gain access to government contracting opportunities and utilize the federal 8(a) and HUBZone programs. Prior to joining SBA, Sherri served was the Minnesota Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Program Director for 10 years; Northern Minnesota Area Manager for 15 years; and with the North Dakota PTAC for 2 years. Her government experience began with the VA Medical Center in Fargo where she held various positions during her 8 years there, many in the procurement area. Sherri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.