Bidding on government contracts: Best practices for small businesses
The federal government spends roughly $600 billion in consumer goods and services, making it one of the largest buyers in the country. The Biden Administration has set out to increase and expand federal contracting opportunities for small businesses, and is setting new records through legislation such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In fact, a total of $154.2 billion or 27.2% of all federal contracts went to small businesses in fiscal year 2021, including those located in underserved communities.
To increase your chances of winning a government contract, we’ve compiled a list of best practices to help you bid on these opportunities to secure and establish relationships with the federal government.
1. Have a targeted approach
For new and seasoned contractors, having a targeted approach for bidding on government contracts will pay in the end. Be practical and selective in the contracts you bid on instead of bidding on every single option available, and make sure to stay on top of requirements and guidelines.
2. Get familiar with specific sections in the Request for Proposals
Requests for Proposals (RFP) can be long and seem complicated. To figure out if your small business should pursue the contract and/or can fulfill the established requirements, start by getting familiar with the sections on the scope of work, instructions to offerors, and evaluation factors. This will help you discern quickly what you’ll need to do to work on the contract to get your bid quickly submitted.
3. Market your small business to the government
Learn what government agencies and other prime contractors are looking for, and show how your small business can fulfill their goods or services needs. When you create your marketing plans with a specific audience and buyer in mind, you are able to maximize your market reach.
4. Always take advantage of the Q&A phase in federal contracts
When you’re bidding for a federal contract, agencies will often host Q&A sessions in order to ensure that businesses understand what’s at stake. Asking questions or clarifications will help you stand out from the crowd, build a working relationship with the procurement officer and help you avoid mistakes that can cost you a contract.
5. If you bid on a contract and your business is not selected, ask for a debrief
You put time and effort into bidding on a federal contract. The time comes, and the agency decides to go in a different direction. What can you do?
Ask for a debrief! The procurement officer is required, by law, to provide a debrief explaining why you didn’t get the award. This is a crucial opportunity for you to get constructive feedback on your pitch, which can help you optimize and prepare for your next opportunity.
6. Know where to look for contracts!
To find government contracts, you can search a number of databases. While the following databases are not an exhaustive list, be sure to check with federal agencies and their respective small business offices to find their current needs and bid on contracts.
- You can find government contracts of over $25,000 at SAM.gov.
- Government agencies use the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) database to find small business contractors for upcoming contracts. Small businesses can also use DSBS to find other small businesses to partner with and pursue larger contracting opportunities.
- The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) connects government buyers with contractors. Securing a contract with GSA or “getting onto the GSA schedule” means your business has been approved to do business with the government. Make sure to register your small business with GSA to get started.
- Learn about subcontracting opportunities to get your foot in the door of government contracting.
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers counseling and training resources to help small businesses win federal contracts. Visit their federal contracting portal to learn about these resources.