L-3 Stratis’ Wayne Pizer explains how to market to prime contractors.
Speaking to a crowd of small business owners at the govConNet 2011 Congressional Procurement Conference in Rockville, Maryland yesterday, Pizer listed out exactly what large businesses look for in a small business partner:
- Customer intimacy: “Let’s say we’re the best in the world at providing a certain service that a customer wants or needs,” Pizer says. “The fact of the matter is, we won’t go after it unless we understand the customer and what they’re looking for. If you know the customer and can tell us what they need, that’s vitally important.”
- Ability to shape or influence the Request For Proposal (RFP): If your relationship with a customer is close enough that you can advise them on developing the RFP, Pizer says, large businesses will bend over backwards to work with you.
- Demonstrated past performance: Past performance with the customer is ideal. Past performance on a similar project for another government client is almost as good.
- A proven track record, with good references
- Competitive pricing
- Niche capabilities that give you an obvious place on a team
- Quality processes
- The bandwidth to market aggressively
That last point, Pizer said, is particularly important when discussing capabilities. “Don’t tell us you can do everything,” he advised, “because we know that, even as large businesses, we can’t do everything.”
Because customer intimacy is so important, Pizer recommended that small businesses spend more time marketing themselves to government agencies than to large businesses. “If you come to a large business first to discuss an opportunity at the FAA,” he said, “keep in mind that another small business is using that time to talk directly to the FAA – and we’d rather work with that one.”
He recommended that small businesses select two or three federal agencies to target, and work on building relationships there.
Pizer closed with an unusual piece of advice. “If you’re doing great work at an agency, keep in mind that agencies give small business of the year awards,” he noted. “Ask a government contact to nominate you.” Keeping in mind that nomination forms can be long and difficult to write, he said “go so far as to write the application for them and just ask them to review it and sign it. You might not have much competition for the award, because it takes a long time to fill out those applications, so few people do it. And if you can come to us as the DHS small business of the year, we’re going to want you on our team.”
Additional Coverage from the 2011 Congressional Procurement Conference: