How Can Small Businesses Identify Contract Opportunities in Federal Agencies?

Uncategorized Jan 31, 2021


Government contracting is not a secret, it’s just a process. In this stage of your federal contracting business development, the process is easy to follow.  


Successful small business developers focus on one agency at a time.

Once you have developed agency relationships and credibility, you will be able to grow federal revenue within that agency for many years. Don't dilute your efforts by chasing in multiple directions. 

Do your homeworkYour goal is to become familiar with their mission and their challenges and to identify the award opportunities within that agency.  

There are literally thousands of active opportunities available for businesses every single day. 

How can small businesses use previously awarded contracts to anticipate opportunities even before they take shape? How can you find the current or future opportunities that fit your capabilities?

Fortunately, the government makes this process easy by listing detailed post-solicitation and award details online for contracts valued over $3,500. You can search this public award data to find competitive information and to build your business pipelines. 

You can even discover exactly when existing contracts expire (POP-period of performance end date) and identify potential subcontracting opportunities.   


Many federal agencies post notices of proposed contracts valued at higher than $25,000 on SAM.Gov in the contract opportunities section This website officially replaced as the official government website for everyone who makes, receives and manages federal awards. (NOTE - we say but it's actually Beta.Sam.Gov. This is temporary.)

Contract Opportunities Search Tips 

Active opportunities are added to every dayTo narrow down your search, filter with keywords, agency name and even NAICS.

Sources Sought notices means the government has started their market research process and are inviting qualified small businesses to submit express their interest.  

It is important to remember that the Sources Sought phase is when opportunities can get set aside for small business competition. If you qualify, you can greatly reduce your competition by convincing the contracting officer to set the opportunity aside for small businesses. 

Sources Sought is also a way for government to request technical responses to help shape contract requirements, or for acquisition responses to get industry’s recommendation on contract vehicle, NAICS, etc.  

Contract vehicles have their own portals for firms who are prime contractors on those contract vehicles. Solicitation notices for contract vehicles are not generally listed on

To join a prime contractor team, develop relationships with primes to learn about those new opportunities and see if your can bring value to their team as a subcontractor. 


Federal agencies are encouraged to publish recurring Procurement Forecasts showing their projections of anticipated contract actions. Forecasts can be powerful research tools to find opportunities that might fit with your core competencies, however forecasts vary in quality.  Here are two positive examples.

Health and Human Services (HHS) 

HHS provides powerful forecast tool thelp businesses search active contracts by NAICS, title and operating division. As of January 20, 2021, there are 503 active opportunities. Active meanthe Request for Proposals hasn’t dropped yet. 

HHS also encourages target marketing by offering HHS Spending Trends for their 11 operating divisions (eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies). 

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 

DHS offers the best forecast tool we’ve seen in the federal government, both trustworthy and helpful. By helping firms identify procurement opportunities as early in the acquisition process as possible, they are trying to improve communication with industry and assist the small business community with its marketing efforts. 

The DHS tool specifies the contract vehicle they plan to use, the date they expect to drop the RFP and the expected award date, detailed descriptions of the work and NAICS codes 

But best of all, they list the specific points of contact for each contract, not a general gatekeeper, but the real buyer, an actual decision maker for the opportunity. 

This information means you can focus your research on the contact, as well as the organization. Review their public profile, area of expertise and read anything they have written recently.   


Fortunately, almost every previously awarded contract is listed in and can help you research previous awards in your area of competence. Unfortunately, this tool is not user friendly.   

Instead, we prefer the extensive search tools at USA Spending. Their keyword search function lets you explore award data in broad strokes

Using filters, their advanced search helps you customize your search by keywords, time period, award type, amount, agency, recipient type, location and much more. 

Find a Recipient Profile 

Businesses that have received federal money in the form of contracts, grants, loans, or other financial assistance are profiled on USA Spending. You will quickly get insights into a specific recipient, including award trends over time. 

How to Turn an Award You Wish You Won Into a Win for You

Once you have found an opportunity that looks like it would have been a good fit for your core capabilities, look for the period of performance end date. This is where you start your capture process.  

Generally, the government will start their acquisition lifecycle a year or two before the existing opportunity endsThis creates a window for you to get in there early, introduce your company and start having the conversations.   

Follow the Process 

We cannot say this too often. Government contracting is not a secret, it’s just a process. 

To identify opportunities in your primary agency, the process is easy to follow.  

  • Search active current opportunities listed in 
  • Research future opportunities in agency forecasts and past awarded contracts
  • Identify 2 or 3 opportunities that you have the best shot at winning
  • Begin your Capture Process

99% of the way there.

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