Sell to Federal
Selling to the federal government

The federal government has consolidated its procurement process and now all federal agencies use a system called SAM (System for Award Management). Even though it is consolidated, going through this process is lengthy and involved.

  • First, the government expects that you have been in business for 2 years. Part of SAM process is to connect your application with your tax return, so if you don't have a tax return, you will experience extra difficulties.
  • You must have a DUNS number before you START the process. Normally, getting a DUNS number requires either 30 days or a payment (about $200). However, if you are using the number to sell to the government, you can get a number within 24/48 hours with no fee. Go to
  • Getting on the SAM site can be a challenge. Some browsers are not set up for the SAM site, and so the site is blank. If this happens to you, you need to go to your browser, Internet Options, Advanced, and then click "use TLS 1.2".
  • If you have problems with SAM, the phone number for help from SAM is difficult to find. It is 866 606-8220.
  • The application is extensive. You have to provide information on all your products, provide pricing, and send a survey to your customers to prove you can perform your services. The survey costs several hundred dollars - and assumes that you have been in business and have at least 10 customers.
  • The web address for SAM is
  • With all that said, the easiest way to sell to the federal government is to sell to its prime contractors. These companies are required to sub-contract a significant part of the contract to small businesses - so they are looking for you! The website to find sub-contract opportunities is This website contains the companies that have received federal contracts, their primary business, and a contact for small business procurement.

    If you would like to sell directly to the government, the following is an easy to understand website explaining the five steps. Although it was written for women-owned businesses, it applies to all businesses. Here is the website: Click to go to the 5 Steps..

    List of Federal Agencies and their Procurement Forecasts

    Click here to go to Acquisition Central

    The GSA (General Services Administration) recommends that businesses prepare a marketing plan for selling to government.

    Click here for a link to a sample marketing plan.

Export Centers of Excellence for industry

The US Customs and Border Patrol is creating 9 Export Centers of Excellence and Expertise, each focusing on the exporting needs of a specific industry. Currently, two centers are open: in electronics and pharmaceuticals. The next centers that will be opens will be: Automotive & Aerospace, and the Petroleum, Natural Gas & Minerals. Click here for contact information for the Centers of Excellence.

Selling to Disaster-Stricken Areas

Hurricane Harvey has devastated the country's 3rd largest county in population. So how do businesses provide products or services during and after a disaster?

Officially, small businesses and local businesses must be considered in all contracts. Unofficially, it is difficult for emergency officials to reach these businesses in a disaster. Therefore, it is best to get on the procurement list of all the local cities and counties in your area BEFORE a disaster strikes.

Selling to FEMA

First, FEMA does not buy a lot of "stuff". Instead, it provides grants to cities, counties and states. So you will need to contact the LOCAL government agencies to sell your products and services.

With that said, the local government agencies have to comply with FEMA's requirements when they purchase items. So you will also need to know a bit about FEMA. Here is information about selling to FEMA:

How to Sell to FEMA

Debris Contracting Guidelines from FEMA

FEMA Procurement Guide

Be prepared to provide cost information and your company background, and fill out lots of paperwork. The government does not want fraudulent or disreputable contractors.

Selling to the Red Cross

The Red Cross handles emergency supplies and food during the immediate disaster. Its procurement site is: Red Cross Procurement.

Selling to Government Agencies Who Will Receive FEMA Funds

The state, counties and incorporated cities receive FEMA funds. Other government districts can apply for FEMA funds as well. Businesses can sign up as vendors and can watch for bid opportunities. If a large company gets the bid, they are generally required to subcontract with smaller businesses, so be sure to contact them so that your business can be considered.

Here are the government procurement websites in the Hurricane Harvey area:

Selling to the State of Texas

Selling to Harris County

Selling to the City of Houston

Here is a list of cities in Harris County that are likely to get FEMA funds:

List of Cities in Harris County (Look for cities only)
More Information

As part of YOUR disaster preparation plan, get signed up as a vendor for your local government agencies. Click here for the websites.


FEMA provides funds to non-profit childcare centers for providing services during and after disasters.

Selling to the government requires special credit card processing

Government agencies and large businesses issue p-cards (purchasing cards) to their employees. They are basically the same as credit cards, except all the invoicing is combined and more information is gathered so that accounting is greatly simplified. This saves the government, and anyone else issuing p-cards, lots of money. However, the businesses accepting these cards must provide extra information in the credit card transaction. Businesses that provide this extra information are rewarded by having lower credit card processing rates.

Basic credit card processing is called Level I processing, and it only requires the credit card, purchaser's name, the number on the back, and the zip code.

Level II processing requires a bit more information, including the seller's information, whether they are a disadvantaged business, and sales tax.

Level III processing requires everything that you would have on an invoice, including product description, itemized costs, sales tax, shipping, and more.

If you want to accept government p-cards for purchases of $2500 or less, you must use a credit card processor that does Level III processing. Most credit card processors do not do this processing. They may do Level II, but don't do Level III. The benefit in doing this extra research is that you will be able to accept P-Cards from anyone and you will receive a lower credit card rate for each transaction.


The SBA's HUBZone program provides incentives for government agencies to purchase goods and services from historically distressed areas and Indian areas. The government's goal is to have 3% of all purchases come from HUBZones (23% of all purchases are to come from small business as a whole). Businesses must apply to be HUB-zone certified and must comply with the following:

The business' primary office must be located in a HUBZone

It must be owned and controlled by one or more US Citizen(s)

At least 35% of its employees must reside in a HUBZone.

What to do:

Go to and enter your city to see if there are any areas designated as HUBZones. It is easiest to use the Address-Town-County Search, rather than the map, because the map only shows the larger HUB areas.

HUB Zones

If you are locating in a HUBZone, go to to apply.

Avoiding the Bidding Process

Most government agencies may purchase without going through a bid process if the total purchase is under a certain amount ($5,000-$25,000 is typical). The amount varies by agency so be sure to ask each agency that you work with and try to structure the sale under this amount.

Most agencies will purchase using a P-Card, which is similar to a credit card. To take advantage of these non-bid sales, you will need to be able to accept credit cards.

Once You Get a Aontract: Paperwork and Certified Payroll

Once you get a government contract (especially a federal one), expect more paperwork.

Some contracts will require you to provide certified payroll. Here is a certified payroll form.-Here are the instructions.

Federal prime contractors with more than 50 employees must also file an annual EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) report. Click here for the instructions and form.

Federal contractors must also post additional employee posters. Click here for the posters.