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Marketing your business to a government prime contractor is much like selling to any other entity: You have to find customers who can use your goods or services and convince them that your company is a capable vendor.

When preparing to pursue government subcontracts, a company must examine its strengths and weaknesses and determine its competitive advantage. A quick way to evaluate your potential strengths for subcontracts is to find similar companies already doing government work for prime contractors. Compare their operations to your capabilities. Make sure you have the necessary credentials required of government contractors: licenses, proof of insurance, worker's compensation certificates and reference contacts. Also, acquire any necessary professional certificates and accreditations that can establish your credibility.

Questions to Ask When Preparing to Subcontract for Government Prime Contractors

  • What are your company's strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where is your company most efficient and cost-conscious?
  • How well known are you within your industry and with government prime contractors?
  • How highly do you prioritize customer service and support?
  • Can you demonstrate to government prime contractors that your products or services are of the highest quality?
  • Can you meet prime contractors' deadlines?
  • Can you handle unusual rules and regulatory red tape?
  • Will subcontracting for government prime contractors take away resources and support from your existing customers?
  • Can someone within the company be the lead contact for prime contractors?

How to Find Government Prime Contractors For Subcontracting

Once you have a clear idea of your company's infrastructure and goals, it's time to start hunting for prime contractors.

Contact government agencies that may benefit from your product. Try to locate a small-business liaison who can answer your questions on government subcontracting. Agencies often maintain lists of their prime contractors, sometimes even posting them on the Internet.

Business-development organizations and small-business agencies will offer valuable advice and contact information. The Small Business Administration (SBA) publishes a Small Business Subcontracting Directory that lists large federal government prime contractors along with contact information. The SBA also has commercial-market representatives who help small businesses find subcontracting opportunities.

Don't forget your own industry's resources. Often government prime contractors are obligated by their contract to actively recruit small businesses for subcontracts. To locate potential partners, prime contractors often contact trade associations and business-development organizations and attend industry conferences and trade shows.

Talk to the major players. A handful of massive government prime contractors control a significant percentage of the government contracting market. Often they have their own small-business liaisons and provide materials explaining how to do business with them. If a government prime contractor has a liaison, make sure you talk to that person before you attempt to contact a contracting manager.

Surf the Net. Often contractors, agencies, and other entities post details about government subcontracts online, including current contract awards, sample contracts, subcontracting plans, contact information and other valuable data. A time-efficient way to find comprehensive subcontracting data is to subscribe to Onvia’s government business intelligence data. With tools like Onvia's, you can quickly access information on government contracts that fit your business.

Network. Do you have friends or colleagues who have worked as government prime contractors or government subcontractors? Use them as resources for leads and insight on government subcontracting.

Onvia Vendor CenterOnvia Vendor Center was created to help identify teaming and partnering opportunities for government vendors.  Vendor Center allows you to search by industry or geography to identify the key government vendors in the market, then deep dive into vendor intelligence for that company to find out which key agencies they work with, what geographic markets they operate in and which projects and term contracts they are actively participating in.