By Rieva Lesonsky

Do you think the federal government is a huge cash cow just waiting to be tapped? That getting your company listed on databases or certified as a small business is all it takes to open the floodgates of new business? You’re right—and wrong, cautions Mark Amtower in Selling to the Government: What It Takes to Compete and Win in the World’s Largest Market. While the government is a massive and profitable customer, it’s also its own world that requires patience, hard work and diligence to enter.

In this thoughtful and thorough how-to guide, Amtower, who has nearly 30 years of experience in helping businesses market to the government, provides a big-picture overview of what it takes for a small company to break into this challenging, but profitable, market. Aimed at both novice and experienced marketers, the book pulls no punches and offers no shortcuts. But for those who are willing to put in the time and effort, it’s an invaluable guide to the basics of selling to the government.

The government will not adapt its systems to your business, Amtower cautions, so success requires adapting to the government. Amtower explains how the government buys and how you can do market research to see whether there is truly opportunity for your company.

If you decide to go ahead, know that marketing to the government takes a whole new set of skills. Amtower lays out how both product and service businesses can use traditional marketing as well as Web 2.0 methods to reach government decision-makers, differentiate their companies and build relationships.

Once the sale is made, the work is just beginning. Amtower explains the infrastructure and compliance issues your company must be prepared to handle to successfully complete a contract, and how important post-contract follow-up is.

Throughout the book, Amtower dispels common myths—that government contracting is easy or that small-business status is all you need to get the gig. He also provides a wealth of resources, from PTACs to SBDCs to his own website and more, to help you along the difficult path, and untangles the alphabet soup of government terminology.

At the end of each chapter, a To-Do List sums up what you’ve learned and what to do next. At the end of the book, a glossary, resource guide and useful advice from several other experts in government contracting provide an extra dose of help.

Selling to the Government is not easy reading—but that’s appropriate. This isn’t a glib guide to success, but a step-by-step map to one of the most challenging, but lucrative, roads a business can travel.