What Is The Bare Minimum I Need To Get A Government Contract?

June 8, 2020 | Business Development, Government

Photo by carnagenyc on Flickr

As someone who specializes in helping companies do business with the government, I get asked a lot of questions about the quickest path to getting a contract. While not often phrased this way, one of the most questions I hear amounts to this: “What is the least amount of work my company needs to do to get a government contract?”

The good news is that there is a simple answer: Register your company in the government’s System for Award Management (SAM) system, and you’re eligible to be awarded a contract. The bad news is that there’s almost no chance of getting a contract from just doing only this.

So, let’s focus on a more productive question: how much work needs to be done to get your first government contract? The answer depends on a few things:

  • Supply and demand/urgency. If the government needs what I’m selling and can’t get it elsewhere, not as much work will need to be done to establish and develop the relationship. 
  • Price. If the government needs something specific and the most important evaluation criteria is price, and if I’m selling it at the lowest price, I won’t likely have to wait as long to claim my first win. 
  • Relationships. As with other aspects of our professional lives, relationships matter. If I’m already connected to a government employee, personally or professionally, who influences buying, I am less likely to have to wait as long for a government contract.
  • Geography may also be a factor. If I’m the only person in the area that provides a given service, and if it is not cost-effective for another contractor to travel to provide this service, I may have a better chance of getting a contract quickly.

As you might imagine, these circumstances only arise occasionally. For most prospective contractors, getting work from the government is going to demand that you put at least some work into the effort. With that in mind, where should you focus your attention in order to make the most of your time and improve your chances? There are five key strategies that can position you for success:

  • Have a marketing plan. Crafting a marketing plan forces you to think through strategies and tactics, audience evaluation, and pricing. Undoubtedly, being intentional in your approach instead of passively just hoping for the phone to ring will help you get better results.
  • Set up opportunity searches. Beta.SAM is the hub for all things government procurement, and it includes tools to help contractors understand what’s up for bid. By setting up opportunity searches on, you can determine the opportunities that are the best match for your products and services.
  • Research applicable multiple award schedules. Publicly-available information about long-term government contracts reveals which opportunities may be upcoming. 
  • Research who buys what you sell. It’s critical to know your buyer. Who will you be selling to? What’s their background? Who do you know who knows them? And, most importantly, how can you begin building a relationship with them?
  • Research competitive pricing in the space. With price being such a high-priority consideration, it’s critical to know what your competitors charge. In addition, consider what they’re doing well–and not so well–so you can carve out a niche.

Efficiency is critical to the success of any business, but there is a degree of truth to the old saying, “you only get out as much as you put in.” Be smart about how you spend your time and focus on the efforts with the highest ROI, and you’ll be well-positioned to win your first contract.



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MYTH: Since the amount of goods and services the government buys is not affected by a economic downturn as private industry, the best time to begin selling to the government is during a recession.

FACT: Developing an effective government business development strategy usually takes years. Waiting until the economy is in recession to pull the trigger on a plan can doom it from the start as this strategy takes time and resources to develop….items that seem to be more scarce when the economy is in a downturn.