This may be the most common question asked. The answer can be complicated depending on where you are at with your business and what you are trying to sell, but every business (entity) must have an active SAM profile. This article will cover the steps and information that is needed to apply for a SAM profile. Once you have an active profile your company is eligible to sell to the federal government. Just know that having an active profile does not mean you are guaranteed any government contracts.
Before I begin I want to make it clear that you do not need to pay anyone to get registered to do business with the Federal government. There are a number of free resources if you get stuck ( list to come soon). You will have emails and people always offering to help you for a fee. If you have the money to spend feel free, but it really is not necessary.
What is a DUNS number
A DUNS number is a number that is issued by Dun & Bradstreet, and will stick with your company for the life of the entity or organization. You may be asked for this number when different organizations are attempting to look up your company.
Every business needs to have a DUNS number. Currently to apply for a DUNS number you have to go to https ://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/. After filling out the application it takes about one business day to receive your business DUNS number. Below is the information that you will need to apply.
- Legal name
- The business headquarters name and address
- If you are doing business as another name (DBA)
- Physical address
- Mailing address
- Phone number
- Business contact information
- Number of employees
- If the business is home based or not.
Once you have completed the application, and your DUNS number has been issued you will receive an email with your issued number. Once you have that number you can begin your SAM registration. Do not begin the SAM registration without it, it will cause you problems that will require lots of time on the phone to fix. Unfortunately, I am speaking from personal experience.
*Know that after applying for your DUNS number you will start to receive solicitations from Dun & Bradstreet. You do not need to pay them for any services to register, and conduct business with the federal government.
While you are waiting for your DUNS number you can decide what North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code you business falls under. To find a list of current NAICS codes you will have to visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s web page. Be sure that you are viewing the most current publication (2017). You can browse by entering key word, or by clicking on the 2017 reference file. Once you have clicked the reference file it will show a sector number, and by selecting that number it will provide you with a list of NAICS codes that are currently used. If you are not sure if a NAICS code is right for your business you can click on the provided number and a detailed description will be displayed.
I suggest that while you are browsing NAICS Codes that you have a way to keep track of the codes that you will be using. There is no limit to the number of NAICS codes that your organization can add, but keep in mind that you will have to provide a primary NAICS code.
Once you have your DUNS number and the NAICS codes that you will want associated with your business you are ready to register for System for Award Management (SAM)!
SAM is the database that is used to verify your businesses eligibility to conduct business with the government. This is a longer application and it may take you a couple attempts to complete. SAM will ask a lot of questions, but the list below are the required sections that need to be completed to start your application approval process.
The basic items that you will need to register in SAM:
- DUNS Number (See above).
- Your taxpayer identification number (TIN)- If you do not have this it can add five weeks to the applications approval time.
- Taxpayer name associated with the TIN.
- Banking information (Routing number, Bank account number, and type of account.
- Notarized letter delegating the administrator (Will need to be mailed OR scanned & uploaded)
If you are an international Company you will need other information. That information can be found on the SAM website.
Be sure that your bank information is correct, many contracts are paid by EFT to this account. If you have the wrong information it will delay payment. If you change your bank account information be sure to update your SAM account right away. The update can take time and it has to bridge to the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS).
If you are waiting on a payment for a contract I would suggest leaving the current account open (if possible) until you have received all payments. Having a payment stuck in limbo can take months, and requires lots of time to follow up on.
Once you have your SAM application completed it will take about two weeks for your application to be approved. You will receive an email when your profile has been activated. Once you know your account is active you are free to bid on contracts. (An active account does not guarantee work with the federal government.)
SAM recently (Oct. 2020) released an updated user guide that has explanations and graphics for the entire application process. This is the best user guide I have seen thus far, and wish that I would have had this when I was going through the application process.
Once your profile is active, make a note of when the profile expires because SAM registration is good for one year. I would mark your calendar one month before your registration is due to expire and complete your renewal. By doing it early, you will be sure not to cause any issues with your government contracting opportunities.