How to Become a Vendor for the Government

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Government vendors, also called contractors, sell goods or services to all levels of government: city, county, state, and federal. Goods and services can include everything from office supplies and computer equipment to consulting services, network services, printing services, etc. The opportunities for selling to governments are many and varied. If you offer a product or service that a government agency might need, then you shouldn't ignore this lucrative marketplace. Just remember that successful selling to the government requires you to stand out from the crowd. And that requires savvy and aggressiveness. Here are some tips on getting started as a government vendor.

Things You'll Need

  • A product or service needed by local, state or federal government
  • Research abilities
  • Aggressiveness
  • Face-to-face selling abilities
  • Make sure you have a product or service needed by government agencies. If you are a beautician, a taxi driver, or a barber, chances are the government won't be actively looking for your services. But if you have a print shop or you are a computer networking expert, you could have a great opportunity for expanding your market.

  • Decide what level or levels of government you want to sell to. If your goal is to stay mostly local (i.e., town, city, county) then that should be your first target.

  • Once you've narrowed the scope of your marketing plan, visit the agency's Web site. Most have pages that tell prospective contractors how to sell goods or services to the town, city, etc. The first thing you'll have to do is tell the government about you and your business. By filling out a vendor profile, you tell the purchasing department who you are, how to contact you, the kind of business you're in, and what goods or services you are offering.

  • Be sure you inform the agency of the level of purchases they would be making. Are they recurring, low-dollar purchases, like office supplies? Would you be bidding on contracts at the lower end of the scale (under $20,000)? Or would you be bidding on contracts at the upper end of the scale (more than $20,000-$25,000)?

  • Once you've done all the preliminary paperwork that gets you into the vendor database, it's time to perform the key step in the process: Find out who does the purchasing for the agency. That means people. Remember that human beings, like you and me, are the ones who make the buying decisions in government agencies. It is extremely important to find out who the decision makers are and make an effort to contact them. Make sure they know you. Don't sit around waiting for announcements about what goods and services they need (usually called Requests for Proposals, or RFPs).

  • Once you know who the decision makers are, get in touch with them personally. Call and request a brief introductory meeting. Once you meet, follow up with a cordial letter including a company brochure. Keep your name, business, and products/services on their minds. Ask if it's all right to put them on your mailing list for product updates and other kinds of announcements. Assuming that's okay with them, make sure they get all the news. And be sure to request that they tell you promptly whenever a new opportunity crops up.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that this basic strategy applies to every level of government. That means federal, too.
  • Are you not the face-to-face salesman type? Hire someone who is and turn them loose.

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  • Photo Credit Microsoft Image Library
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