Many companies need to reach their federal end users through teaming. Those large primes need experienced, well-financed partners who can do three things: lower risk, lower time, and lower cost.
Yes, federal primes need small business subcontracting plans for proposals worth more than $650,000. Even if your company is veteran-owned or in a HUBZone, that’s rarely the deciding factor when they choose partners.
Supplier diversity teams within those prime contractors meet with thousands of small businesses each year, often in lightning-fast meetings where you only have one minute, or maybe five, to stand out from the other nine companies in the group.
How can you make that first meeting count?
These tips can help you avoid the classic pitfalls and ensure that your first meetings – even very short ones – get you invited back.
1. Research your prospective partner
- Know the prime’s line of business…
A Director of the Small Business Program Office at Bearing Point says her top pet peeve is meeting with prospective partners "...who don't know what we do."
- …and explain how you fit in
"Read our case studies online," suggests a Senior Manager for Unisys' Supplier Diversity Program. "Find out who our customers are and get to know them before you call us. How can you help us to better serve the needs of specific clients?"
- Bring in the business
What leads and client relationships can you bring the prime that they haven't heard about yet?
2. Register on the supplier diversity portal
Does your prospective partner have a supplier portal? Take the time to prepare and submit your profile before that first meeting. A carefully crafted profile helps the prime get to know you, and is ready and waiting with details for your contact after that the initial conversation.
TIMESAVER TIP! Draft content offline to create modules you can cut, paste, and edit to perfectly suit specific primes' questions. The time you take to do one will give you significant content you can edit for others.
- “Use your industry’s current keywords to describe your unique qualifications," advises a Manager of KBR's Small Business Program Office in Arlington VA.
- "It's an ideal place to present your track record," explains a small business liaison at Unisys, whose firm asks about past performance, size, and qualifications. "Make your entries as strong and specific as you can."
3. Know what primes want to see and focus on their priorities
Ludmilla Parnell, Marketing Director for Small Business Partnerships with General Dynamics IT, offers these pointers to prospective subcontractors – excellent suggestions to consider when you prepare your materials. Remember that primes care about:
- Core capabilities
Nobody does everything superbly. What's your undisputed sweet spot, the reason why customers gravitate to you?
Why do you attract those clients so well? What's your unique value proposition, to both the prime and to the prime's client?
- Past performance and reputation as team player
Primes or government buyers want to see that your solution works flawlessly. If you have got a track record, be sure you have written up the client, problem, solution and results. If you have case studies or media coverage, get those ready.
Once you’ve established differentiation, focus and past performance, price matters very much. Remember that what the government pays the prime is more than what the prime will pay you.
- Personnel experience and low turnover
Will key team members be around for the life of the contract? How will you support the project over time?
You're not just selling, you're building relationships with people – partners and clients – who really want reassurance that you are there for them, close at hand. An office close to the prime and the client project could be the winning edge.
- Financial strength
Prepare corporate financial highlights for your partner to review.
Follow these three tips to increase your chance at a successful teaming partnership.