As the saying goes, “Winning is the science of being totally prepared.” Winning defense contracts is no different.
According to the Small Business Administration’s guide to proposal writing for government contracts, the best way to prepare to win is by “understanding the process, aligning skills with needs and following through. In other words, prepare, align and execute – that will help you beat the odds.” Your first step is registering your business on the government contracts website, SAM.gov.
A quick refresher on SAM
What is SAM? The System for Award Management (referred to as SAM or SAM.gov) is the federal government’s database of potential vendors. All federal agencies, civilian or military, use the SAM database as their primary source of information about suppliers they might work with. State agencies, local governments, and prime contractors also use SAM to find vendors, suppliers, and subcontractors.
How does SAM work? To sell products or services to or receive payments from the federal government, your business must first register on SAM.gov. Creating a solid SAM profile is a foundational step to participating in any bid process with the Department of Defense or other agencies.
Why is SAM important? As a potential supplier, the SAM database serves as federal contract officers’ first impression of your business – almost like your firm’s resume. That’s why it’s important to follow best practices when creating and maintaining your SAM profile. Experts estimate that at least 20% of all company profiles currently listed in the SAM database contain mistakes, ranging from spelling errors, miscoded entries, and missing information. Such errors can cause businesses to be passed over for DoD contracts because their incomplete SAM record makes them difficult to find in a database search, or because contract officers recognize a lack of attention to detail.
5 best practices for using SAM.gov
- Get organized. Before registering in the SAM database, make sure you have the following items on hand:
- The TIN/EIN for your business; even if you’re a sole proprietor, it’s wise to register using one of these numbers instead of your Social Security Number to protect your identity
- The appropriate PSC/FSC and NAICS codes for your business, which the government uses to classify every product and service
- Your firm’s DUNS number, which can be obtained for free from Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B)
You’ll also want to determine whether your business qualifies as an 8(a), HUBZone, woman-owned, or service-disabled veteran-owned small business. Federal contracts of less than $150,000 are frequently awarded to small businesses, and DoD contract officers often give preference to the types of businesses above.
- Know your competition. To understand what you’re up against, put yourself in the mindset of a contract officer who might need your product or service. Search the SAM database as if you were looking for a vendor, and take note of the results. What keywords brought up companies similar to yours? What information do your potential competitors include in their SAM profiles? Keep this competitive intelligence in mind as you create and edit your own profile.
- Complete your SAM registration. Your SAM profile is your first impression with the DoD and other federal contract officers. As you register, keep in mind what potential buyers are looking for in a vendor. Make sure all relevant fields are completed. If your firm is a woman-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, HUBZone or 8(a) small business, make sure to fill out the proper registration information to include this fact in your profile. You can also add supplemental information to the Small Business Administration database, which can be searched from SAM.
In addition, use the insights you gathered about your competition, and consider which keywords a searcher might use – and the fact that they might be different than the words you use to describe your company or your products.
- Keep your SAM registration updated. You’re required to update your SAM profile at least once a year. For this annual update, seek feedback from your peers on how they would improve your profile. If you’ve won DoD contracts in the past year, find out if any of the contract officers you worked with have suggestions for improving your SAM registration. Defense contract officers value working with vendors that have prior experience with the DoD.
- Rely on a defense commerce solution for the next steps of the process. Getting found through the SAM.gov website is just the beginning. As a DoD supplier, you’ll face constantly changing requirements and redundant processes across unrelated government websites and systems, which can lead to inefficiencies and lost profits. Using a software solution to automate and integrate these processes will provide better efficiency, visibility and flexibility.
Putting thought and effort into creating and maintaining your SAM profile will help you get found and considered by DoD contract officers. Odyssey’s software automates the process of interacting with the DoD’s purchasing, receiving and payment agencies, streamlining your workflow and giving you more transparency. Learn more about how our cloud-based software can help you work your DoD contracts more efficiently – get in touch with us today.