You can increase your chance of winning a government contract by researching the federal marketplace and taking advantage of SBA resources.
- Find contracts
- Marketing to the government
- Handling protests
There are a number of databases you can use to find federal contracts to bid on. Similarly, there are multiple databases that government agencies use to find contractors.
Dynamic Small Business Search
The Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) is a database that government agencies use to find small business contractors for upcoming contracts. Small businesses can also use DSBS to find other small businesses to work with.
The SBA maintains the DSBS database. The information you provide when you register your business in the System for Award Management (SAM) is used to populate DSBS, so you should create a comprehensive business profile.
Federal Business Opportunities
Federal business opportunities for contractors are listed at FedBizOpps.gov. Government agencies are required to use FedBizOpps to advertise all contracts over $25,000.
If you want to sell to the government, securing a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) — the government agency that connects government buyers with contractors — is a great way to start. Securing a contract with the GSA is also called “getting onto the GSA Schedule,” which means you’ve been approved to do business with the government.
If you’re interested in getting on the GSA Schedule, you may want to pay for a Past Performance Evaluation report from Open Ratings. The report assesses your performance relative to businesses in the same industry, and is often requested as part of a vendor bid process. Your company must register and provide the names and email addresses of six to 20 of your customers.
SubNet is a database of subcontracting opportunities posted by large contractors looking for small businesses to serve as subcontractors.
The SBA maintains a directory of federal government prime contractors with subcontracting plans.
The GSA publishes a subcontracting directory for small businesses that are looking for subcontracting opportunities with prime contractors. The directory lists large business prime contractors that are required to establish plans and goals for subcontracting with small businesses.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) maintains a similar directory of large prime contractors that small businesses can use to find subcontracting opportunities.
Marketing to the government
You may want to market your small business directly to a government agency or prime contractor. You can do that by learning what agencies or prime contractors need, and then showing them how your business can fulfill that need.
Federal Procurement Data System
Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation is the repository of all federal contracting data for contracts over $25,000. With this system, you can see which agencies have contracts and with whom they have contracts, what agencies buy, and which contractors have contracts.
USASpending.gov tracks government spending through contracts awarded. This searchable database contains information for each federal contract. You can use this information to help identify procurement trends within the government and potential opportunities.
Small business offices
Many federal agencies have what’s called an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) or an Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP). These offices work to identify opportunities to contract with small businesses.
Each agency releases a procurement forecast that includes contracting opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses. Once you’ve reviewed an agency forecast and used systems like the Federal Procurement Data System and USASpending.gov to identify opportunities at a specific agency, you can contact that agency’s small business office. Also, each office hosts training and networking events to help small businesses identify contract opportunities.
When the government awards a contract, someone may allege that a winning business misrepresented itself, causing the contract to be awarded unfairly.
Size and status protests
A losing bidder, contracting officer, the SBA, or another interested party or government official can file a protest, questioning a winning business’ size or socio-economic status.
In the event of a protest, the SBA will determine the size or status of the winning small business. If the SBA determines that the business did not qualify for the set-aside, the business is no longer eligible for that contract.
Any of the interested parties can appeal the SBA’s size determination to the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, which issues a final decision.
Certificate of Competency
If a federal contracting officer rejects a low bid from a small business because of questions about the business’ ability to fulfill the contract, the case is referred to the SBA.
The SBA will then offer the small business a chance to apply for a Certificate of Competency (COC). If the small business applies for a COC, the SBA will review the business’ ability to fulfill the contract. If the business demonstrates the ability to fulfill the contract, the SBA will issue a COC to the contracting officer, requiring the award of that contract to the small business.
A COC is valid only for the specific contract for which it is issued. A small business that’s capable of handling one contract may not be qualified to handle another.
Bundling and consolidation
If you think a federal agency has engaged in bundling or consolidation practices that keep a small business from competing for a contract, contact your local Procurement Center Representative (PCR).
Bundling and consolidation are defined in Title 13 Part 125.1 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).