Government Contract Awards – Where To Find Government Contract Data
USASpending and FPDS
One of the great things about selling to the government is that it is fairly easy to research government contract awards and who buys what you sell. My favorite two tools for researching government contract awards are USASpending.gov and the Federal Procurement Data System or FPDS.
USASpending.gov data primarily comes from FPDS. USASpending is MUCH easier to use than FPDS. However, FPDS has more fields of data for highly detailed searches.
You can search these tools by NAICS code (product or service you sell), agency, department, place of performance, keywords, and just over 320 other fields of data. However, none of these tools will provide what you need if you don’t know how to use Microsoft Excel and pivot tables.
The Federal Access Platform, RSM Federal’s flagship platform, includes hundreds of resources, templates, and step-by-step sales strategies. (It’s NOT a bid-matching system.) We don’t normally provide access to these resources outside of paid membership but over the last couple years, more than a dozen Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and several of our partners said this was one of their greatest challenges in helping their clients. They asked that we make this video public.
This is a short video on basic FPDS searches, downloading data from FPDS, and step-by-step how to create and edit pivot tables. If you prefer to use USASpending, the same concepts apply and you have to know how to create pivot tables.
For advanced techniques and strategies, including advanced pivot tables and exactly what fields to search, learn more about the Federal Access Program.
Now that you’ve researched past government contract awards and you’ve crunched the government contract data, you now know who buys what you sell, how much they buy, and how often they buy it. You can then start searching FedBizOpps (FBO) or whichever bid-matching or contract management system you use.
You’re now searching specifically for current acquisitions with the the agencies / organizations that you found in FPDS (or USASpending). You are not necessarily looking to bid on an opportunity at this stage. You are looking for intelligence on the organizations you want to sell to.
USASpending.gov and FPDS help you identify who buys what you sell, how much they buy, and how often they buy it.
What types of solicitations are your target agencies releasing? What is the average value of their solicitations? How many solicitations do they have open at a given time? What else can you learn from reviewing the opportunities in FBO? Hint: Multiple solicitations for products / services you sell means they are serious about buying those. So pay close attention to those organizations.
Calls You Should Make
Once you’ve researched government contract awards zero in on an organization you want to work with, I suggest calling the Small Business Office (OSBP /OSDBU). Every organization has an office whose job is to help YOU learn how to sell to that particular organization. In some cases, this office influences acquisitions for that organization. But remember, small business offices are a microcosm of society. Some are very good at what they do and others are not. You’ll know when you start talking to one.
For example, if a small business office is aware of an SDVOSB that can do the work they will tell the contracting officer that the solicitation should be SDVOSB instead of full and open. But this only happens if they know about your company. Here is a list of the several small business offices and their contact information. Be aware that the government is consistently changing their websites. If the link does not work, simply Google the agency you want to target with the phrase “small business office.”
The Procurement Center Representatives (PCR) and Area Directors for your geographic region can be a source of great information. PCR’s can answer specific contracting questions in their area and help you make connections to other PCR’s.
You will also want to call the contracting officers specific to the organization you want to do business with. One of the easiest ways to get this contact information is to ask the agency’s small business office or do a quick search on FBO for that organization. Solicitations on FBO will have at least one if not multiple contracting officers listed at the bottom of each solicitation.
Questions You Should Ask
This list of questions applies to discussions with the small business offices, PCR’s, and contracting officers. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it should give you a good start and help guide your discussions.
NOTE: Don’t expect everyone you call to be willing to answer all or any of these questions. It may help to just ask a few, thank the person, and then call back with additional questions.
Here’s a little trick that I’ve found to getting help from just about any government representative. When you call, say the following: “Hi there, I’m [your name] with [your company]. I was wondering if you could help me with something? [Pause – they will say yes] I’m new to government contracting. We’ve done a bit of research and it looks like your organization buys what we sell, but I have no clue where to start. Can you help me with a couple questions?” They will most likely say yes and start providing the information you need to be more competitive.
Here are several questions you can start with:
- How does your agency procure the products / services I sell?
- Do all acquisitions get posted to FBO?
- For what I sell, does your agency use federal supply schedules (GSA Schedules)? If so, to what extent?
- Do you have an approved vendor list? If so, how do I get on it?
- Do you utilize simplified acquisitions? (Simplified Acquisition Procedures are under FAR Part 13 – up to $250,000)
- Are there any important conferences or industry days that we should plan on attending?
- What projects or procurements do you have on your radar for the next 6-12 months?
- What contract vehicles do you use most often?
- If you were me, who else should I be talking to?
Michael LeJeune is a Partner and Federal Access Program Manager at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that helps businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to winning government contracts. For more information, videos, and contact information, please visit www.rsmfederal.com