Location, Location, Location
In the world of brick-and-mortar stores, location plays a significant role in the success or failure of a business. But what about government contracting, where most business transactions take place online? Is location still important? You bet your Benjamins it is! However, in government procurement, the adage "location, location, location" refers not to your business address but to where you sell your products and services online.
Many business owners don't realize that solicitations published on beta.sam.gov (soon to be sam.gov) represent only a small fraction of government purchases. Hence, if you want to get your goods and services in front of government buyers, you must understand their preferred way of shopping.
Here are a few examples of stores that government buyers frequent. We will use fictitious
names for each store, but the markets are real.
The SAM Store (beta.sam.gov - soon to be sam.gov): While this is the first market you'll likely get involved in, it's not the first place where government buyers look to shop. They often go here as a last resort when the products and services they seek to procure are not available at their go-to markets or when they solicit competition for large contract vehicles.
The GSA Store: The GSA store refers to GSA's Federal Supply Schedules. Here, the General Services Administration brings together vendors (after an intense vetting process) in one convenient location and negotiates prices on behalf of buyers across the federal government. The GSA store is like going to the "virtual mall" for government buyers. By policy, shopping at the GSA store often takes precedence over shopping at the SAM store for many products and services. The primary location of the GSA store is GSA Advantage. You can visit this shop yourself to see the assortment of products and services offered for sale in this marketplace.
The Agency Store: The agency store is the first place buyers typically look when they need a product or service to get their job done. This marketplace includes existing agency-specific contract vehicles and inventory held within agency-owned warehouses and supply departments. For example, when the DoD buys to replenish stock, the bulk of their buying activity goes through The DLA Internet Bid Board System.
These are just a few of the places where government buyers "go to market." Other markets include but are not limited to stores like Unison Global's Reverse Auction Marketplace, NASA's SEWP marketplace, and Fedconnect.net. Additionally, large e-commerce platforms like Amazon are increasingly becoming "go-to" marketplaces for virtual buying activity. More on this in the recommended reading section below.
The bottom line is this. Beta.sam.gov is just one place where government buyers go shopping. While it's the first market you should engage in, it may not be the only (or even the best) market for the types of products and services you offer. If you want to get your products and services in front of your target customers, do your homework and figure out where you should "set up shop" in the online world of government procurement to get the most traffic from government buyers.