By: Stephanie Hagan on February 3rd, 2023
Government Contracting 101: 5 Basics You Should Know
GSA Schedule | Government Business Development | 5 Min Read
Each year, the government awards billions of dollars in federal contracts to businesses to meet the need of government agencies. But how do you get a government contract? If you are considering joining the world of government contracting, there’s a lot of information to know. Sometimes it can be confusing to figure out where to start. At Winvale, we talk a lot about the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program, but government contracting is a wide net. Here are some government contracting 101 basics you should know:
1. Learning Government Terminology
Government contracting often looks like alphabet soup. There are a ton of acronyms and abbreviations that can sometimes get confusing. However, it’s important to have a good understanding of these terms in order to better understand the world of government contracting. Here are some basic terms to know as you begin your research into getting a government contract:
- General Services Administration (GSA): An independent federal agency that manages federal contracting and government contracting. GSA runs the MAS program, or often referred to as GSA Schedules program.
- CO: Contracting Officer. An agency official entrusted by a federal organization with the authority to enter into, administer, renew or terminate contracts, along with related determinations and findings
- Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR): the set of rules regarding government procurement
- North American Industrial Classification Standard (NAICS) Codes: a standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data. These codes are used to help you identify relevant government opportunities and determine your business size.
- Special Item Number (SIN): a category of products and services that contractors offer through their GSA Schedules.
- Small Business: An independently owned for-profit firm that meets the Small Business Administration (SBA) qualifications and size requirements.
Spend some time researching these terms—it will help you in the long run!
2. What's the First Step to Getting a Government Contract?
First you need to lay the groundwork. You can’t just jump right into a federal contract—you need to do some groundwork first. In order to qualify for any federal government opportunity, you will need to be registered in the System for Award Management, or SAM, and receive a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI).
SAM is the official website of the U.S. government. There is no cost to use SAM. You can use this site for free to:
- Register to do business with the U.S. government
- Update or renew your entity registration
- Check status of an entity registration
- Search for entity registration and exclusion records
- Find relevant government opportunities
Be careful of scammers when utilizing SAM.gov. There are a lot of companies that will send out emails saying that you need to pay to update or change information in SAM.gov, but this is not the case. Be wary of scam emails.
3. What’s the Best Way to Find Government Opportunities?
There are several different ways you can find opportunities to do business with the government. We recommend becoming part of the GSA Schedules program (also referred to as MAS program). GSA works with industry partners to make sure they are compliant with basic federal regulations and policies and offer goods and services at fair and reasonable prices. This partnership allows agencies to use streamlined ordering procedures to purchase, saving all parties time and money, making it a preferred contract vehicle for federal agencies.
You can also search the Contract Opportunities Search Tool on SAM.gov find other government contracting opportunities. View procurement notices from federal contracting offices to find opportunities to bid for federal business. These include pre-solicitation notices, solicitation notices, award notices and sole source notices.
4. Which Acquisition Tool is Best?
While you can sell to the government without a GSA Contract, federal agencies prefer to use GSA Schedule contracts over the alternatives due to the guarantee that vendors are selling their products and/or services at the best rates, and the vendor offerings are compliant with federal government regulations.
The agency has to do less work if you’ve done your homework. This is a major advantage to holding a GSA Schedule contract, as it trims the length of the procurement process in comparison to vendors without a GSA Schedule contract. GSA’s MAS program aims to streamline the government procurement process for not only eligible federal, state, and local agencies, but also for MAS program contract holders. Having a GSA Schedule is a big leg up in conducting activity with the federal government.
5. So You Just Need a Contract to Start Getting Sales?
Contract acquisition is just the beginning. Many potential government contractors think they are free and clear once they get a GSA contract. However, as with most of the U.S. government, bureaucracy is a key element to factor in. In order to maintain your GSA Contract, you must remain compliant. Some of the tasks needed to stay compliant include updating your price list, reporting your GSA sales, and keeping a number of administrative documents up to date. GSA also provides a GSA Schedule Contractor Compliance Checklist which breaks down every detail of what needs to be in place to maintain your GSA contract.
As a GSA contractor, you also have several tools at your disposal to help you actively market and find opportunities. You will need to be proactive about searching for relevant opportunities and making sure your offerings are visible to government customers.
Are You Ready for the Next Step?
These are just some of the basics that you’ll need to know to enter the world of government contracting. To learn more about becoming a GSA contractor, check out our blogs:
- GSA Contractor Requirements: What You Need to Get a GSA Schedule
- How to Become a GSA Schedule Contractor
- The GSA Schedule Acquisition Process from Start to Finish
If you have questions about getting a GSA Schedule or figuring out what is the best path for your company, our consultants are here to help. Once you get a contract, we can also help with contract maintenance through hourly or monthly contracts, should the compliance measures become too much to handle in-house.
About Stephanie Hagan
Stephanie Hagan is the Content Writer and Digital Editor for Winvale where she helps the marketing department continue to develop and distribute GSA and government contracting content. Stephanie grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and earned her Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism and Rhetoric/Communications from the University of Richmond.