Learn How To Sell Yourself
Selling yourself as a potential subcontractor to large companies with government contracts is no different than selling to them in the commercial arena. Here are a few tips that may help you:
- Be courteous and considerate. Make an appointment and be on time.
- Be professional. Don't demand!
- Prepare your presentation. The research you have done earlier on the prime will pay off in creating your presentation. It should focus on one main point: How you can meet the prime's needs and fulfill all their requirements.
- Keep your presentation short, on point, and clear, and be sure to practice, practice, practice. Keep necessary supporting materials or documents out of the presentation in order to keep it short and focused; you can hand them out at the end. Don't just memorize the presentation (if someone asks a question in the middle of it, you may get lost.) Memorize just the important points you want to cover. Talk it; don't just read it and don't just wing it.
- Be ready to offer a 30-second summary/outline about your company. When you get to the point where you can tell your storyline in 30 seconds, you will find more people wanting to talk to you about what you do. Unfortunately, many companies adopt the opposite strategy, telling everything about the company: what they can do; how good they are; "just look at this;" how they can change the federal government if it would "just listen;" etc. If you don't talk about your core capabilities, you have lost their interest.
- Be yourself. Don't put on airs and don't try to make yourself something that you're not. Expressions like "I can do anything" or "I can do whatever you want me to do" are usually a turn-off. They make you sound desperate, not impressive. Be honest and realistic about your capabilities.
- Say it well and say it once. In other words, present the capabilities of your company in the best light possible and, when you have done that, stop speaking. If you continue, redundancy tends to set in and you start telling them again what you just told them. If you are uncomfortable with the silence after you have finished, you can throw it back to them and ask if they have any questions.
- An important fact that you have to deal with in today's market is that the moment that you stop being the best deal or best value for your customer, you are in trouble. But, like we explain in the next chapter, best value is not only price. You have to address a variety of other factors as well, including quality and performance. The best deal for one prime could be price; for another it could be something else. You stand a good chance of figuring out what that is for a particular prime if you have done your homework.
These are five things you should never say during a presentation to a prime contractor. Never just say:
- "We do good work." Instead prove to them that quality and delivery are central to your business. Explain your quality assurance procedures or, even better, show them your quality assurance manual.
- "You can't go wrong with us." Instead refer them to other customers that will attest to the quality and reliability of your work.
- "You'll really like us." In reality, the prime will "like" you only if you make him/her look good to the boss and to the government. Instead, emphasize that you always come through, as promised, on quality, delivery, and any other project requirements that you sign up for.
- "I know my trade. I've been in business for twenty years!" On its own, this statement probably won't impress the prime. But explaining how you have made your business more efficient over the years and producing a long list of satisfied customers over the 20-year span will. It will show your ability and willingness to keep up with new developments in your field as well as new ways of doing business.
- "We'll do anything and everything for you." Very unrealistic. Instead, let the prime know that you are ready and willing to abide by their protocols and procedures, and fulfill on their requirements.