If you're hoping to seal the deal on some subcontracting work, there are things you can do to improve your chances.
Here is a review of the actions that will help prepare you to select the primes that match your capabilities and make the best first impression on your potential customer. This list does not include every possible action, nor will every action on the list be appropriate for your situation. But you can use it as a guide as you move through the process. Good luck!
- Identify what your company does best and what you are most competitive at. If you don't have one, make a list of your company's features and benefits. Think not only in terms of the products or services you provide, but also in terms of what you are capable of providing. Think in terms of possibilities!
- Check out the products the prime manufactures and the components and services they require to fulfill their mission. Determine which primes match your capabilities-not by guessing or assuming but by thoroughly researching. Select your target primes.
- Do your research and gather as much information as you can about your target primes. Check out their web sites, search the Internet, and check out the Business Reference Section of your local library for articles about the company in the Wall Street Journal, local newspapers, or trade magazines. You will make a better professional impression if you know the basics about these companies when you walk into your first meeting with them.
- Contact each of your target primes. Ask to speak to their small business liaison or representative or the purchasing office.
- In your initial contact, focus on getting the right information--i.e., information that will help you decide whether a particular prime offers some real opportunity. Ask about their needs, the type of subcontractor they are looking for, the procedure required to become one of their subs, and the average size of an order. Also ask about any required forms or documents that they may want you to fill out, including their Approved/Preferred Vendor application.
- Find out what your competition is doing. Your goal is to gather as much intelligence about how they're working with a particular prime as you can. In your initial contact with the prime, try asking about the type of work your competition is doing, how much work they are getting, the kind of relationship that exists, etc. If the prime is not forthcoming with information, drop it and do some detective work on your own.
- After contacting each target prime, weed out the primes that offer no real opportunity, and fill out any forms of those that seem promising. Make sure that all the information is complete and correct, and that you make a copy of the forms for your files.
- Preplan the sales call and presentation, and then practice, practice, practice. Never just read the presentation and never present completely off the cuff. Keep your presentation short, simple, and to the point--perhaps four or five slides with three or four bullets per slide. Hit only those points that address the prime's needs, such as the quality of your product or service, timeliness of delivery, related experience, and ability to be a team player. Include any unique ability or quality that singles you out from your competition and imply the competitiveness of your pricing.
- After the forms are complete and your presentation is ready, make an appointment to meet with the prime's small business liaison or representative. Be professional, friendly, and enthusiastic. Your goal is to convince the prime that working with you will be a good business arrangement for them. What is it that you do best? Emphasize that point again.
- No matter how the presentation ends--in a quote, in a request for more information, or up in the air--contact the prime again within 7-10 days to continue the relationship. Try to get a definite response if you didn't get one after your presentation.
- Create your own "good old boy" network. Try to establish some rapport with other personnel of the target prime company, including shop, technical, etc. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with primes and other vendors (yes, even your competition), particularly those vendors that augment your capabilities--you may be able to capitalize on that relationship to get work by partnering. Stay away from gifts and other gratuities. This may damage any relationship, even if offered out of kindness.
- If nothing happens, "pick up your tent" and move on to the next prospect.