If you want to successfully pursue a government contract, it is essential that you register your business in the federal government’s vendor database. The database is called SAM – System for Award Management – and it’s important for you to know that SAM registration is free and is something you can do yourself.
You may have received an advertisement from someone who is offering to register your business – for a fee – in a vendor database. But before you rush to register – and certainly before you pay someone to register for you – you should learn what the registration process is all about, and how you can do it yourself – at no cost.
The federal government’s vendor database used to be known as CCR – Central Contractor Registration. But on July 30, 2012, CCR went away. It was replaced by SAM. If you were registered in CCR, your company’s information migrated over to SAM. This migration covers even firms whose CCR registration information wasn’t kept up to date. But the information that migrated into the SAM database must be checked and updated by vendors – at least annually.
You can access SAM at https://www.sam.gov. Note that this is a “.gov” website, not a “.com” site. Be wary of “.com” sites which are not government-operated websites and which will charge you a fee for registration services. Again, SAM registration is free – and something you can do yourself. Assistance with the SAM registration process is free, too. For details, read on.
Before you start the SAM registration process (or update your existing record), it is very important to “get ready” by thoroughly acquainting yourself with SAM’s purpose and the information you’re expected to know in order to register properly.
We don’t want you to learn the hard way that registering in SAM with incorrect or incomplete information is worse than not registering at all.
Help Is Available To You
The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) provides advice to Georgia businesses – literally every day – on the subject of proper vendor registration. In the course of providing this assistance, our Procurement Counselors review many existing registrations and registrations in progress. Based on our reviews, GTPAC estimates that at least 20 percent of the 600,000 firms presently registered in SAM have errors in their records. The mistakes range from misspelled words to empty data fields, to incomplete entries, to selection of incorrect procurement codes, and other flaws. As a result, these vendors can miss-out on government contract opportunities either because they are screened-out for not exhibiting proper attention-to-detail or – because of incomplete information – they cannot be identified by government buyers.
(Incidentally, if your business is located outside the state of Georgia, no-cost help with SAM is available to you, too. For details, see the last paragraph of this article.)
What Is SAM?
SAM is the federal government’s primary source for identifying potential vendors. Every federal agency, both civilian and military, utilizes the SAM database. Many federal contract officers initially determine whether a contract should be set-aside exclusively for 8(a), HUBZone, woman-owned, or service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses based on firms identifying themselves with these designations in SAM. Prime contractors also use SAM to identify potential subcontractors and suppliers, with emphasis on the various small business socio-economic categories like those just mentioned. Even state and local governments sometimes consult the federal database to find potential vendors who are interested in the broader governmental marketplace. In addition, all businesses, non-profits, and units of state and local government must be registered in SAM in order to receive federal payments and disbursements against contracts and grants.
Are you beginning to see proper registration in SAM in a new light, including what an important tool SAM is to effectively market yourself to the government? Truly, SAM is much more than a mere task to quickly get out of the way!
SAM Preparation Steps
In preparation for registration in SAM, there are several steps you should take. Among these steps are:
- Obtain a TIN/EIN for your business from the IRS. (Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, it’s important — because of identity-theft considerations — that you do not operate your business using your Social Security number.)
- Research and identify the PSC/FSC and NAICS codes most appropriate to your business. (Every product and service is classified by these federal numbering systems, and it’s essential that you accurately identify the codes that are applicable to your business.)
- Obtain a DUNS number for your business. (Don’t pay anyone for this; a DUNS number can be obtained from Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B) at no cost via the web within a day or two. Go to: https://fedgov.dnb.com/webform.)
- Determine whether your business meets the SBA’s small business size standard. (Most federal contracts valued at less than $150,000 are awarded to small businesses, so you need to know if you qualify.)
- Write a brief capabilities statement. (You must have a grammatically-correct, short description of what your company does.)
- Identify “key words” associated with the nature of your business. (These words should be crafted from a government buyer’s perspective; in other words, think about what the government might ”call” what it is you do or sell.)
- Make a list of business references. (Be prepared to provide company name, contact person, dollar value, and date range of work.)
These are not all of the preparatory steps, but they are the most important ones. Plan ahead! It can take five days or more for your SAM registration to take effect because the SAM database must synchronize with D&B and IRS databases before activating your registration.
On the “back end” of the SAM registration system there’s a link that enables you to register in the Small Business Administration’s database. It’s referred to as DSBS – Dynamic Small Business Search. If you are a small business, it’s very important that you register here, too. (This is free, too.) DSBS is used by government agencies to identify small businesses. Prime contractors also use it to identify potential subcontractors. Don’t overlook the link in SAM to DSBS, and make sure you populate all of the fields in DSBS. Below is a screenshot that shows the button to click in SAM to be linked to the DSBS database.
Once You’re Registered
Remember, SAM and DSBS are public databases. Anyone can access portions of the information you provided. (Some information, such as your banking information, is not publicly available.) Therefore, once you are registered in SAM and/or DSBS, you can expect to receive phone calls, faxes, and emails from other companies. Some of these contacts may be completely legitimate – for example, other companies may be looking for potential subcontractors or teaming partners. But in other instances, scam artists may try to sell you services that are completely unnecessary. (Some of these operators are out-and-out frauds – click here for details.) Always explore no-cost alternatives to anything that is being offered to you at a fee. A great source of free government contracting services can be tapped into through your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).
If you have questions or need help with any aspect of SAM, please consider taking advantage of GTPAC’s services in a comprehensive way. GTPAC is a PTAC that provides assistance to help Georgia firms get ready as well as find and pursue contracting opportunities in federal, state, and local government markets. All of our assistance is provided free of charge. Complete details on how to access GTPAC’s services can be found on our ABOUT US page.
And a great way to learn about how you can develop each of the 7 items listed above is by attending GTPAC’s “Introduction to Government Contracting” class or “Fundamentals of Working with the Government” briefing. Click here to see the dates and locations of these no-cost training opportunities. More and more of GTPAC’s training seminars are live webinars, so you can attend without having to travel to one of our office locations.
What if your business is outside the state of Georgia? Take heart! Expert, no-cost assistance with SAM and every other aspect of government contacting is available to companies – small and large – all across the United States (plus Guam and Puerto Rico) through the network of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs). To find the PTAC nearest you, simply click here: http://www.aptac-us.org/new/Govt_Contracting/find.php.
For the latest news involving SAM, please visit: http://gtpac.org/tag/sam
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