How to Win Government Contracts

Three Parts:Brainstorming About Your Product and ServicesNetworking for SuccessPreparing and Submitting Your Contract Bid

Business people have long used government contracts as a means to expand their business. The government of the United States consumes more products and services than anyone else in the world. Therefore, understanding how to win government contracts in the United States can provide a valuable resource for a business wishing to grow. Since not all government agencies operate exactly the same way, it is important—especially as a small business—to put together a game plan.

Part 1
Brainstorming About Your Product and Services

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    Evaluate your products and services. When deciding to compete for government contracts, you must first evaluate all of your products and services and decide what you want to sell to the government. To be successful in winning a contract, your product must satisfy a government agency’s need.[1] Companies that have secured significant government contracts provide the following goods and/or services:
    • Pharmaceuticals and healthcare information technology.
    • Defense vehicle design and manufacture.
    • Combat assault and tactical vehicles.
    • Maintenance, repair and accessories for aircrafts.
    • Communication and technology.
    • Gas turbines and jet engines.
    • Guided missiles, bombs and ammunition.
    • Manufacture of naval vessels.
    • Manufacture of aircrafts.[2]
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    Register yourself on the System for Award Management (SAM). Previously known as the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database, SAM not only registers you to do work for government agencies, but it also allows you to create a business profile so that government procurement officers can locate your services and products.[3] You can register for SAM here:
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    Register with the Dynamic Small Business Search. When you are completing your SAM registration, you will have the opportunity to create a small business profile that becomes part of the Dynamic Small Business Search maintained by the Small Business Administration. This provides another way for procurement agents to locate your goods and services needed for a government contract.[4]
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    Become an approved vendor for the General Services Administration (GSA) schedule. The government’s purchasing agent is the GSA and becoming an approved vendor on the GSA schedule may improve your credibility and visibility. Determine whether your business would benefit from being on a GSA schedule by using the GSA’s “Vendor Toolbox” located here:
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    Apply for a D-U-N-S Number. Before you can bid on any government proposal, you must acquire a D-U-N-S Number. The number is a 9-digit identification number for the location of your business. You can register for a free D-U-N-S Number here: In order to register for a D-U-N-S Number, you need the following information:
    • Your legal name.
    • Your business headquarters name and address.
    • Any other business names that your company uses. Physical address, city, state and ZIP Code.
    • Business mailing address if different from your headquarters’ office.
    • Business telephone number.
    • Business contact name and title.
    • Number of employees at your company’s physical location.[5]
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    Research government agencies and contract opportunities. When researching government agencies, it is important to think about how your unique services can benefit them. Once you are registered with SAM, the next step is to locate potential government contract opportunities in line with your products and services. You can search through all of the Federal Business Opportunities on the website.[6]

Part 2
Networking for Success

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    Attend small business training workshops. Many government agencies provide free or low cost workshops for small business. These workshops can better prepare you for understanding the government procurement process and provide an opportunity to network with specific government agencies with whom you are interested in working. Locate these workshops by calling agencies you are interested in or by visiting the Small Business Development Office’s website located at[7]
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    Find a mentor. One reason to attending training programs and information sessions held for contractors by government agencies is to locate a mentor. A mentor can help you more easily navigate the government procurement process and offer guidance on how best to construct your bid.[8]
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    Contact the government for information on their current needs. Each federal agency has a small business specialist that can work to assist you. Also make sure to visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) website to find out which agencies are purchasing and how they are procuring those goods and services. The SBA has Procurement Center Representatives (PCR) to assist small businesspersons in pursuing federal contracts. You can locate procurement centers here:
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    Pursue business relationships. Once you have established a relationship with a procurement officer, you should continue and expand that relationship. These individuals may be able to introduce you to other government officers or connect you with other government organizations, such as the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), that can help you in the contract bidding process.[9]

Part 3
Preparing and Submitting Your Contract Bid

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    Prepare a capability statement. This one-page statement should outline your businesses’ skills and capabilities, detail past performance, and provide short background information on key employees. You should upload this document to your SAM profile so that procurement officers can get a sense of what your business offers.[10] You can view a sample capability statement here: A capability statement should specifically include the following items:
    • Company name, contact information, website and logo, if applicable.
    • Brief narrative of you and your company that describes the business’ history and the products or services that you company can provide. This is referred to as a “core capabilities” section.
    • Key personnel section that gives names and a short biography of the company’s key employees.
    • Section that includes any government identification numbers such as your D-U-N-S Number, awards and industry recognition, and information that sets forth whether your business is a small business owned by a veteran, disabled service veteran, women, or a minority-owned small business.
    • List of your business distributors, dealers and suppliers.
    • List of up to three years of past performance. If a you are a new company, set forth any certifications that are relevant to your company’s products or services.
    • List of clients.[11]
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    Pursue only relevant contract opportunities. Your best chance to win a government contract is by targeting contracts that suit your business capabilities. You can search for contract opportunities on the Federal Business Opportunities website located at This website also allows you to view who won past contracts, which may help you in preparing your own bid.[12]
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    Consider subcontracting opportunities. If you are pursuing a government contract for the first time, you may have a better chance of winning a contract as a subcontractor. Contract winners often subcontract for certain parts of their bid. By becoming a subcontractor, you gain experience working within the realm of government contracts and this may help you get your own contract in the future. You can search for small business government subcontractor opportunities at
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    Understand the government’s bid request process. When seeking services, the government puts together a bid package to which bidders respond through a proposal. It is important that you understand the types of government solicitations so that you can best prepare your responsive bid. The four types are:
    • Request for Quote (RFQ). A RFQ requests information and quotes, and responses are not considered actual offers. RFQs are used when the value of the contract is less than $150,000.
    • Request for Proposal (RFP). A RFP outlines the specific needs of a government contract and specifies the information that prospective contractors should include in their proposal response. RFPs ultimately end in a contract for goods or services.
    • Invitation for Bid (IFB). An IFB, sometimes known as a sealed bid solicitation, means that there is no negotiation as to price or the bid package. You must specifically respond to all of the terms in the solicitation and the cost of the proposed services weighs heavily in the decision about who will be awarded the contract.[13]
    • Request for Information (RFI). A RFI is when the government reaches out directly to potential bidders because the government is interested in the work being done by the bidder. A RFI may be used to determine whether a bidder is interested in a particular contract.
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    Carefully read and research the solicitation. Once you have identified a solicitation (government contract opportunity), you should carefully read the solicitation and think about the best way to demonstrate how your business meets the government’s needs. You should also create a checklist of all of the forms, schedules and elements that the solicitation requires that you include in your proposal.[14]
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    Answer all questions. When responding to a solicitation you must clearly answer all of the questions posed in the solicitation. Your proposal should respond to each question in the order specified in the solicitation. If you fail to respond to all of the questions in the correct order, your proposal may be dismissed as non-responsive.[15]
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    Explain how your proposal meets the needs of the government. It is very important that you clearly and convincingly set forth in your proposal the ways that your business meets the government’s needs. Your proposal should offer concrete ways that your business will proceed under a government contract.[16]
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    Include reasonable and well-researched pricing estimates. Solicitations may require that you outline the pricing and costs associated with your bid. You will need to identify the cost of labor, goods, and services and put forth a bid that is competitive but also leaves you room to make a profit.[17]
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    Submit your bid. Once you have completed your proposal, you must submit your bid before the solicitation period ends and in the manner indicated in the bid package. If you fail to secure your first contact, continue to seek government contracts and refine your bid proposals.


  • To be successful, you should be able to adapt your business services to meet the needs of a government contract.
  • Don’t overextend yourself. Bid on smaller contracts to start so that you can build up a successful record of performance. Your performance record will be an important factor in winning larger contracts.[18]
  • Don’t give up easily. It is unlikely that you will win the first contract for which you submit a bid. There are reports that indicate that it can take almost two years for a business to win its first bid. Keep refining your proposals and eventually you will be successful in obtaining a government contract.[19]
  • Remember that there are over 200,000 government employees authorized to make smaller purchases and getting to know some of them may result in a steady flow of work.


  • Be realistic about your capacity to perform on a potential contract. If you are unable to fully perform on your 1st contract, then you put your ability to obtain future contracts in jeopardy.

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Categories: Contracts and Legal Agreements | Finance and Business