There is nothing worse than attending an event where a speaker will whet your appetite for a new market, then leave you hanging. At many small business conferences around the country, inevitably one of the speakers will bring up doing business with the government, and perhaps they will offer accurate advice, but not always.
There are many myths about doing business with the government, some perpetuated by those seeking to take advantage of novices, others simply out-dated, others still kept alive by those unwilling to understand how the market is changing. Many of those who write or speak are not B2G (business to government) experts and inadvertently include inaccurate information.
The federal government is the largest buyer of goods and services, buying virtually anything used in a business setting and more. They spend hundreds of billions annually. So on the surface, it is an attractive market.
However, there are hundreds of nuances and thousands of regulations, so before you get too excited, let’s do a reality check. Before entering the government contracting arena, a little research is in order. But where to start?
How To Do Government Contracting Research Before Market Entry
The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Does the government buy what I sell?”
While the answer is usually yes, it is best to get a definitive answer. One place to start is the General Services Administration (GSA) website. Once there, look at the “Most Requested Links” and click on the “GSA eLibrary.”
This takes you into the eLibrary, where you can find not only whether or not the government buys what you sell, but who else is selling the same or similar products.
Next, type your query into the search box and then select one of the three options:
- “all of the words”
- “any of the words”
- “exact phrase”
As an example, let’s say you sell office furniture. Type in “office furniture” and select “exact phrase” and click the “enter” key.
The page that comes up matches your phrase. For you, you are interested in the numbers of the left side of the page. These numbers are in red and they are under the word “Source.” Each number represents a GSA Schedule contract. The matches include:
- Schedule 48 (Transportation, Delivery and Relocation)
- Schedule 71 (Furniture)
- Schedule 71 II K (Comprehensive Furniture Management Services)
You are looking for Schedule 71. So mouse over the red “71” and you will find the full range of products and services the government purchases through Schedule 71, and it is extensive.
After scrolling through, go back to the top of the page and look for the red arrow next to “Download Contractors (Excel).” Click on this and it will take you to the “Download” page where you are then prompted to click the “Download” button.
This will download an Excel file that includes full company contact info, phone, email, company URL, DUNS, business status (various small business categories) and whether or not the company participates in a few state and local government programs.
This file tells you that there are 2,739 companies currently participating on GSA Schedule 71, trying to leverage this contract to sell to Uncle Sam. (I don’t show you this to scare you off, but to let you know that every niche in the federal market is highly competed.)
You’ve now done some government contracting research prior to market entry, and you now know what/who you’re up against. There are ways to enter this market and to win business – but as you can see, you cannot expect it to happen quickly.
Research Photo via Shutterstock