smb-tech-trendsDoes the federal government factor into your new small business prospect list? If it doesn’t, it should. In fact the federal government is encouraging small business owners to knock on its door. During the recent National Small Business Week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) included a training session on government contracting.

While the definition of what a small business is these days has gone through recent changes, enabling larger firms to qualify for contracts that previously were reserved for small businesses, the fact is opportunities to sell to the federal government are significant.  Right now, there are more than 30,000 active federal opportunities. Furthermore, the government sets formal statutory goals established by federal executive agencies to ensure that small businesses get their fair share of the pie. As it applies to small businesses, the goal is 23 percent of prime contracts.

Getting started

The SBA provides advice on how to register for government contracts before you can begin bidding. They include three basic steps:

Obtain a DUNS number: The DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identification number that is maintained by Dun and Bradstreet (D&B). D&B assigns for free DUNS numbers for each physical location of a business. A DUNS number is required for all businesses to register with the federal government for contracts or grants.

business  dealRegister your small business with SAM: In order to work with the federal government, your small business must register with the System for Award Management (SAM), which is a database of all the vendors that do business with the federal government. The database enables government agencies and contractors to search for companies based on capabilities, size, location, experience, ownership, and more. By registering with SAM, your small business profile is easily available to government agencies seeking products and services.

Find your NAICS code: As part of your SAM profile, you will need your North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) code. The code, which is used for administrative, contracting and tax purposes, classifies your business by economic sector, industry and country.

In addition to checking with SBA, there are many other online resources, such as American Express Open Forum, that provide tips on how to contract with the federal government. Among them, Dun & Bradstreet emphasizes even before you get started, you need to improve your pitch. D&B says that it’s critical to summarize your small business capabilities clearly and succinctly and be sure to include: company overview, core competencies, past performance, differentiators, and company data.

That’s good advice for pitching the government or any company!