Don’t be fooled: SAM and other federal registrations are still free

Watch out for urgent “SAM Renewal” notices, preferred “vendor listings”, sole-source promises, and other marketing tactics

A growing number of for-profit firms are jostling to sign you up for their services – services that your business might not need or want. Their sophisticated marketing campaigns target small businesses with official sounding emails and texts directing you to sign-up for services – for a hefty fee, of course. PTACs regularly hear from business owners who – thinking they are responding to a government official – mistakenly commit to a sales contract they were not seeking and find themselves unable to get out of. Worst of all, many of the sales pitches are for the same services that PTACs provide at no cost.

Knowledge is the best defense. Below are details of some recent campaigns that have come to APTAC’s attention.  Be alert to any such communications you receive – or anything similar – and think carefully before responding.  If you have questions or suspicions, feel free to reach out to a PTAC to discuss. As with any business decision, thorough research into qualifications, costs, and realistic expectations and deliverables are key to determining the right solution for your business. Never let yourself be pressured into a hasty decision or enticed by an “easy fix”. Careful due diligence is always the best investment you can make.

Recent marketing campaigns that we’ve been alerted to include:

  • SAM “Renewal” notices, in which business owners are exhorted to renew their SAM registration and “Click here to continue to receive federal payments” or call a designated number to “renew over the phone“. SAM renewals are accomplished online – there is no capability to renew “over the phone” unless you are paying someone else to do it online for you.  And SAM registration allows the government to pay vendors electronically without the need for an intermediary.  This notice also incorrectly states:“Fail to renew your Registration, and the government will place your business on the federal watch list.” There is no such thing! Renewing a SAM registration is a simple task that many business owners can accomplish easily, on their own.  For those with questions, or for those who need help making changes, PTACs stand ready to help – at no cost to the business owner.
  • “Vendor Listings”: PTAC clients have been reporting contacts from “US Army Contracting officers” who request their Capability Statement and then urge them to register with a private firm (which also offers consulting services) to include their company on its vendor listing (for a substantial fee).  One client dug deeper to discover that the “contracting officer” listed in the email had no knowledge of the firm and that the email address it came from (complete with “.mil” address) was not a valid email. Consulting a private “vendor listing” for agency purchasing runs counter to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), and any claim to the contrary should be viewed with skepticism.
  • Easy sole-source promises: We’ve just become aware of a newer firm that promises “to connect qualified applicants to sole and sub source contracts with the United Nations and government agencies domestically and abroad.”   Their very personalized and targeted marketing campaign is forthright about being a company and not an agency—but the company implies that they can offer immediate, concrete and assured opportunities, including the statement “Sit back, relax, and watch the orders come to you. Be ready to fill them!”  Beware of promises like these that seem too good to be true. Success in government contracting requires a carefully-considered, long-term strategy and hard work.  There are no short cuts.
  • “Profile Processing”: Have you just registered (or renewed) with SAM?  You may receive a notice that says, “Your Profile Information has been received and is processing. . . . Call us via our helpline at (xxx) xxx-xxxx to find out your company’s eligibility and compliance requirements” or something similar.  This is NOT from the government!  It is from one of several private firms that want you to pay them big bucks (up to $3500 or more) to handle your profile. They monitor SAM registration activity closely – and then send emails like these (or even text messages) that may seem like a government confirmation or follow-up.  Offers to “review eligibility” or “find out what needs attention” come from private firms – not SAM or any other federal agency – and will include a significant price tag.

Of course there are circumstances in which it makes sense for a small business to pay a consultant for specialized legal or financial help or for intensive project development, and there are many qualified professionals to choose from. But it is important to make these decisions based upon your specific needs in the context of your long-term strategy.

Remember: There is NEVER a fee to register as a government contractor. Repeat – there is NEVER a fee to register as a government contractor. And there is free and low-cost help available to get you through the process.

For those who’d like help with registrations, renewals, certification applications, or any other government contracting issue, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) provide and free and low-cost expert assistance with all aspects of government contracting, offering classes, one-on-one counseling, bid-matching services, advice on proposal preparation, matchmaking/networking opportunities and much more. Many PTAC counselors have backgrounds in government acquisition offices or prime contractor government contracting departments, so they bring real world experience to help you.

For those companies that need more basic business assistance, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide the same kind of hands-on, personalized help for general business operation topics. Because small companies must make every dollar count, it’s smart to leverage these services that are provided through non-profit, federal-local partnerships for the specific purpose of supporting small businesses.

To receive assistance with any aspect of vendor registration with any government agency at no cost, please feel free to contact a PTAC near you.


SAM Registration is Free; Be careful what you pay for

No need to pay high fees for government contracting registration – free help is available!

The first step in pursuing government contracts is registering in the System for Award Management (SAM), the federal government’s vendor database. Some agencies – such as FEMA – have their own databases as well. Small businesses contractors may also seek special certifications, such as 8(a), Woman-owned, Veteran-owned and/or HUBZone, or want to explore the potential for a GSA Schedule contract.

A number of for-profit assistance providers target small business owners unfamiliar with – or confused by – the various government registration and certification processes. They market their services energetically, sending official-sounding emails directing small business owners to sign-up for their services to be registered/certified, etc – for a hefty fee, of course. Commercial websites (.com websites, in other words) are just that — commercial. When a commercial website advertises to help you with the process of registering to do business with the government, there’s almost always going to be a fee involved. By contrast, government websites (designated as .gov) offer free advice and registration.

Remember: There is NEVER a fee to register as a government contractor. Repeat – there is NEVER a fee to register as a government contractor. And there is free and low-cost help available to get you through the process.

Some commercial enterprises target companies as soon as they begin a government registration process.  Because SAM and other vendor databases are public, for-profit providers can  obtain contact information almost as soon as it is entered and send automated emails with messages like “Your registration is not complete.  Contact us immediately,”  which can be mistaken for a government notice.  When the small business clicks the link – or calls the number provided – they are prompted to sign-up for assistance, usually at a cost of hundreds of dollars.

One commercial website ran an aggressive advertising campaign directed at businesses, soliciting vendors to fill out a “FEMA Contract Registration Form.” Once the form was filled out and submitted on-line, applicants received the following message: “Thank you for submitting your information. We will be in contact with you shortly. Click below to make a payment of $500.00 for this service.” By clicking on the “Buy Now” button, they were directed to a site to pay $500.00 via a PayPal account for “FEMA Registration.” Other marketing campaigns by similar outfits have targeted Veteran business owners, etc.

Please know that neither SAM, FEMA or any other government agency charges money to register as a vendor.

Free help with SAM Registration

Many business owners can navigate SAM, FEMA and other registrations quite successfully on their own. For those who’d like help with registrations, certification applications or any other government contracting issue, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) provide and free and low-cost expert assistance with registrations, certifications and all other aspects of government contracting, offering classes, one-on-one counseling, bid-matching services, advice on proposal preparation, matchmaking/networking opportunities and much more. Many PTAC counselors have backgrounds in government acquisition offices or prime contractor government contracting departments, so they bring real world experience to help you.

For those companies that need more basic business assistance, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide the same kind of hands-on, personalized help for general business operation topics. Because small companies must make every dollar count, it’s smart to leverage these services that are provided through non-profit, federal-local partnerships for the specific purpose of supporting small businesses.

Of course there are circumstances in which it makes sense for a small business to pay a consultant for specialized legal or financial help or for intensive project development, and there are many qualified professionals to choose from. As with any business decision, thorough research into qualifications, costs and realistic expectations and deliverables are key to determining the right solution for your business. Never let yourself be pressured into a hasty decision or enticed by an “easy fix”. Careful due diligence is always the best investment you can make.

Success in government contracting requires a long-term strategy and ongoing commitment. The U.S. government wants the government marketplace to be accessible to all capable small businesses and has put in place resources to help you. There is NEVER a fee to register as a government vendor.

To receive assistance with any aspect of vendor registration with any government agency at no cost, please feel free to contact a PTAC near you.