So, you think you’re ready to pursue your first big prime government service contract?

Prime service contracts require a significant investment of time and money but are well worth it if you can get some wins. Preparation is paramount. One misstep and you could hurt your chances in the present and for the future. Follow these four rules for pursuing prime service contracts taken from top experts in the field to set your business up for success.

Prime pursuit strategy #1: Make sure the shoe fits.

If you’re a small-to-medium-sized business (SMB) make sure you’ve had experience pursuing small set-aside and or/subcontracting jobs before you go after those big prime service contracts. It’s a long and expensive process to position, shape, steer, and then go through the bid process, which most SMBs just can’t sustain. Even after you’ve delivered the product or service, it can take anywhere from six months to a year to get paid. If you’ve started out as a subcontractor on several contracts, you’ve built up the capital, resources and skills to make it as a larger prime.

Relationships with prime contractors are lucrative for the referrals. Experienced prime contractors often hear about smaller opportunities they don’t have time to pursue. If you have built trusted relationships with primes through strong performance, they will not only pass work on to you, but will also support you because you’ve supported their efforts in the past.

You can also look for smaller jobs with various government agencies that have certain spending thresholds for their goals. These agencies set aside dollars specifically for SMBs. It’s better to compete with similar businesses for these more manageable contracts until you’re ready to bite off bigger chunks.

Prime pursuit strategy #2: Mind your B’s.

Be Ready
You can’t take action on a Request for Proposal (RFP) without the three Ps: planning, preparation and performance. Remember the adage: “The KO will never give you enough time to write the ideal proposal, so start early!” Responding to an RFP is a process that requires significant attention to detail, so have everything you need ready to go—your trusted subcontractors, dedicated resources for monitoring requirements, and your compliances throughout the various review dates.

Be Knowledgeable
Know your customer’s mission, requirements, history, technology, and past relationships with other contractors. Have regular and frequent engagements with them throughout the entire process, so that they’re comfortable with you and what your company offers.

Be Watchful
Watch for Requests for Information (RFI). Whether they arise through Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contracts (IDIQs) or some other vehicle, be vigilant so you can quickly act to influence the customer in your favor. Also, attend DoD Industry Days if they are offered in your area.

Prime pursuit strategy #3: Swim in your own pond.

Compete where you can compete fairly. If a contract does show the potential to grow or lead to lucrative follow-up work, then anticipate the possibility and team with a big fish as your sub to formulate a plan. It’s guaranteed that the big fish will be talking with the program office about this potential evolution, so you should be too! This never happens on hunch….it happens with knowledge and intent.

Prime pursuit strategy #4: Mind your Q’s.

If this is your first prime contract and you aren’t sure which subcontractors to partner with, this might not be the right contract for you. Ensure your past performance is relevant to a significant part of the work being done. Hopefully, you are familiar with more than fifty percent of the requirements in the RFP. If not, you shouldn’t pursue it.

Questions are expected and normal. The project might require some R&D investment on your team’s part to reach your solution. Look for people with direct experience with the program office or branch of the government who can give firsthand insight into the customer.

If you’ve followed all these strategies and are ready to move forward, you’ll need to form a winning team based on top performance and excellent communication skills. Look out for our next post on how to assemble your team of contractors.

Happy Hunting!

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