How to Register as a Government Contractor

Small Business Owner
Manager of a Candy and Baking Supplies Small Business in California. Mardis Coers/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

For thousands of small businesses, contracting for the sale of their goods and services to the federal government agencies opens the doors of growth, opportunity and, of course, prosperity.

But before you can bid on and be awarded government contracts, you or your business must be registered as government contractor. Getting registered as a government contractor is a four-step process.

1. Obtain a D-U-N-S Number

You will first need to obtain a Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number, a unique nine-digit identification number for each physical location of your business.

D-U-N-S Number assignment is free for all businesses required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants. Visit the D-U-N-S Request Service to register and learn more about the D-U-N-S system.

2. Register Your Business in the SAM Database

The System Award Management (SAM) resource is the database of vendors of goods and services doing business with the federal government. Sometimes called “self-certifying,” SAM registration is required by the Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR) for all prospective vendors. SAM registration must be completed before your business can be awarded any government contract, basic agreement, basic ordering agreement, or blanket purchase agreement. SAM registration is free and can be done completely online.

As part of SAM registration process you will be able to record your business’ size and socio-economic status, as well as all FAR-required solicitation clauses and certifications.

These certifications are explained in the Offeror’s Representations and Certifications - Commercial Items section of the FAR.

SAM registration also serves as a valuable marketing tool for government contracting businesses. The federal agencies routinely search the SAM database to find prospective vendors based on goods and services provided, size, location, experience, ownership and more.

In addition, SAM informs the agencies of firms that are certified under the SBA’s 8(a) Development and HUBZone programs.

3. Find Your Company’s NAICS Code

While it’s not absolutely necessary, chances are you will need to find your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. NAICS codes classify businesses according to their economic sector, industry, and location. Depending on the products and services they offer, many businesses may fit udner multiple NAICS industry codes. When you register your business in the SAM database, be sure to list all of its applicable NAICS codes.

4. Obtain Past Performance Evaluations

If you want to get in on the lucrative General Services Administration (GSA) contracts -- and you should want to -- you need to get a Past Performance Evaluation report from Open Ratings, Inc. Open Ratings conducts an independent audit of customer references and calculates a rating based upon a statistical analysis of various performance data and survey responses. While some GSA solicitations for bids do contain the form to request an Open Ratings Past Performance Evaluation, vendors may submit an online request directly to Open Ratings, Inc.

Items You Will Need for Registration

Here are some of the things you will need when registering your business.

Obviously, all of these codes and certifications are geared toward making it easier for the federal government purchasing and contracting agents to find your business and match it to their specific needs.