How to Score a Government Contract
By Jeff Nachtigal

(Business 2.0) – The federal budget is stacked up for a chop--but, so far, IT spending is escaping the ax. Selling tech to the feds remains a growth industry, but it's trickier than ever for small businesses. Government CIOs are pushing bigger, departmentwide contracts that are tough for the small guys to field. Ten percent of the companies bidding for contracts get 75 percent of government tech dollars.

But don't despair. Contracts often have work to be doled out to small businesses, so it pays to know the right people.

You also have to know what to sell. Luckily, government procurement has gone online in a serious way, making it easy to look up contract details and specifications. So relax, we've got you covered: Everything you need to get started is laid out here.

A WHAT TO SELL

THE BIGGEST SPENDERS

Fiscal 2007 information technology budget (in billions)

Defense: $30.5 Health and Human Services: $5.5 Homeland Security: $4.4 Transportation: $2.6 Justice: $2.5 Treasury: $2.4 NASA: $2.2 Agriculture: $2.2 Department of Energy: $2.1

Source: U.S. Government Printing Office

HOT TOPICS

Systems running applications that cross agency lines are in big demand as the government tries to standardize operations. Here are some of the needs, according to Fed-Sources, a government tech-budget research company.

YOUR NEW BEST FRIENDS

B HOW TO SELL

Almost every step of the contracting process is electronic now, so you can do a lot of the paperwork online.

STEP 1

Register as a contractor. • Central Contractor Registration www.ccr.gov

STEP 2

Get your products and services listed on a General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule--your hunting license for government contracts. The GSA, Small Business Administration, and nonprofit agencies all offer advice on navigating the process.

• GSA Schedules www.gsa.gov/schedules • Small Business Administration www.sba.gov • Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers www.aptac-us.org • Score www.score.org

STEP 3

Scout out opportunities online, network to find subcontracts, and sign up for e-mail alerts of new contracts on the GSA's e-Buy site.

• Federal Business Opportunities www.fedbizopps.gov • SBA Business Matchmaking Program www.businessmatchmaking.com • GSA e-Buy www.ebuy.gsa.gov

C WHO CAN HELP

Bigger contracts are leading large contractors to look for small business partners with specific skills. Some even have mentorship programs that help companies new to the sector learn the ropes. Here are contacts at a few of the most successful companies.

Sources: Washington Technology magazine; listed companies

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.