Q: How do I sell my products to the federal government?

A: The U.S. federal government purchases billions of dollars of goods and services each year, hundreds of millions of that is from small businesses in rural areas. That's a lot of purchasing power and definitely a market for any business to consider. To effectively sell to the federal government it's important to learn how the contracting process works, determine if government contracting is the right fit for your business and make sure your business qualifies as a contractor.

When a federal agency wants to buy goods or services, it must follow procedures that conform to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, or FAR, http://www.acquisition.gov/far/. Most small business owners find these procedures daunting. In Oregon, The Government Contract Assistance Program, or GCAP, www.gcap.org, has assisted thousands of businesses to reach their government contracting goals through education, marketing assistance and in-depth procurement advising since 1986.

All federal government purchasing opportunities in excess of $25,000 are available at www.FedBizOpps.gov. Unfortunately, that directory has more than 20,000 listings at any given time and a thorough search could require many hours, not just once, but on a regular basis. One of the services provided by GCAP is the bid match program, a daily computer matching service that informs you about opportunities that fit your business, saving you time and money.

Contracting with the federal government is not the only option available. State and local governments also purchase billions of dollars worth of goods and services. Knowing how to find those opportunities also requires a great deal of time. GCAP advisors are available to assist with selling to any level of government.

To proceed in selling to the government, several initial steps are necessary including defining your North America Industry Classification and size standard, registering your business as a contractor, learning the procedures for selling to the government, knowing the reporting processes to get paid and establishing a relationship with the agencies you wish to sell to. The Small Business Administration, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/contractingopportunities/owners/start/contractingchecklist/index.html, provides a contracting checklist to help small businesses to get started in selling to the federal government.

Using the valuable resources available to small businesses can shorten the learning curve significantly and provide insights into the best contracting opportunities to pursue. Those resources can also ensure procedures have been followed so payment on a government contract will be received in a timely manner.

Arlene M. Soto is the director of the SWOCC Small Business Development Center, www.BizCenter.org. She can be reached at 541-756-6445, asoto@socc.edu, or at 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459.

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