So, You Want to Sell to the Government

The government is a great customer for anyone in the firearms industry, but procuring their business can be complicated.

So, You Want to Sell to the Government

Many small businesses want to offer their products and services to government customers but don’t know of the numerous opportunities available to them. 

This month’s Last Round starts a series that will concentrate on federal opportunities for selling to the military and federal agencies. Local and state governments and their various agencies often use similar systems, but it’s best to contact your local Chamber of Commerce or state small business ombudsman for guidance. 

The federal budget for 2022 was over $6 trillion, and the government buys everything from satellites to staples and virtually anything in between. The opportunities to capture some of that business are numerous, but right now, we’ll concentrate on the two that are the simplest and the most complicated. 

We’ll start out with the “easy” button. You may have already done business with the government and don’t even realize it, particularly if you sell via the internet. 

The Government Purchase Card (GPC) is a Visa credit card used to buy goods and services (and in limited instances, construction) on the spot and eliminate the time and cost-consuming use of the federal acquisition system. As far as you are concerned, there are no contracts and no paperwork involved. 

The General Services Administration (GSA; manages the GPC program. Users are generally not members of the acquisition system, but rather representatives of small units and offices who need to make routine purchases. The government uses the system for convenience. 

You don’t need to do anything special when a GPC is used to purchase from you aside from ensuring you provide what was purchased, the same as you would with any other customer. However, purchases made with a GPC are not subject to state and local sales taxes. Your point-of-sale system should alert you to this. 

The GPC has purchase limits of $10,000 for supplies/equipment and $2,500 for services per transaction for what are called micro purchases. It’s also important to note that GPCs can’t be used to purchase many items, including ammunition. GPC holders receive training on how to properly use their cards, but if they attempt to buy something that is prohibited, the point-of-sale systems should prohibit the purchase. 

Like the GPC program, the System for Award Management ( is run by the GSA and replaced the Federal Business Opportunities website a few years ago. Unlike the GPC system, this one requires lots of paperwork and deadlines. SAM not only publishes procurement opportunities but also awards as well as historical data, along with information about companies who do business with the government. This last one can come in handy if you need to check on another company who wants to collaborate with you on a project. 

The best thing to do is visit SAM and start poking around. You’ll quickly be overwhelmed by the amount of information, but you can set up alerts that will send you emails when opportunities meeting the criteria you set are posted to the site. Even if you set up an alert, I suggest you visit the site regularly and conduct searches using various keywords. I’ve found both opportunity and award announcements under some very odd titles. It’s also fun to look at some of the crazy stuff the government buys.

But tracking down the solicitations that are a good fit is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ve got to submit a winning proposal to the government to capture the business. People author books and hold classes on how to write a winning proposal. Others work as independent contractors, moving from company to company, helping to produce a winning package. But that is generally associated with contracts worth millions. This is by no means meant to discourage you, but rather to acknowledge that it is an arduous task.

Many small businesses consisting of as few as one employee win solicitation after solicitation once they have a successful proposal template they can tailor for each contract opportunity. In fact, such small businesses operating with next to no overhead can pass the savings on in the pricing they submit, and those low bid proposals win. Then comes the demanding work of fulfilling the contract and getting paid. 

To participate in many of these opportunities, you’re going to have to do some paperwork just to get started. You’ll need to establish a CAGE Code and Unique Entity ID which, until just recently, was known as the DUNS Number or Dun & Bradstreet D‑U‑N‑S Number, a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses. Historically, this has been used to establish the legitimacy of a business. Understandably, businesses weren’t happy that they had to establish themselves with a third party to do business with the government. The new Unique Entity ID is a 12-character alphanumeric ID assigned to an entity by SAM that streamlines registration. The Commercial And Government Entity (CAGE) Code is a five-character ID number used by the federal government to identify vendors. It helps with facilitating payments, among other functions. You can get assistance with SAM by visiting the Federal Service Desk (

Unfortunately, the information contained on SAM is not exhaustive, and many procurement opportunity and award notices are not hosted there. If you provide specialized goods or services or have a particular government customer you often work with, it is best to develop a rapport with their procurement team to find out about upcoming opportunities and how to submit your bid.

For those interested in learning more, the GSA website has a great deal of information on these programs as well as others. You may also want to contact your local Small Business Administration office regarding opportunities to sell to the government. 

Future installments in this series will discuss other federal opportunities, including set-aside purchases and working as a sub-contractor to prime contractor holders. 


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