Insights from Ms. Williams on How to Win DoD Contracts

Ms. Alice Williams, a former Contracting Officer, has more than 38 years of acquisition experience with the federal government.

Did you know that the Department of Defense (DoD) spends more than 60 percent of the federal procurement budget eligible for small businesses? In fact, in fiscal year 2016, DoD awarded more than $57 billion in prime contracts to small businesses.

In a webinar sponsored by the Give Me 5 Program, Ms. Ann Sullivan, President of Madison Services Group, interviewed Ms. Alice Williams, Acting Deputy Director of the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP). Ms. Williams, a former Contracting Officer, shared valuable insights about marketing products and services to DoD. You can watch the webinar here.

Ms. Williams’s top-10 tips for winning DoD contracts are summarized below.

  1. Follow the money. Review the administration’s budget request and appropriations bills signed into law. Understand your target customer’s spending priorities. Understand how your target customer procures products and services, e.g., do they use a multiple-award contract (MAC)? Go to to identify an existing contract’s procurement history, including the contract value.
  2. Arm yourself with information and facts, not emotion. Be patient. It takes, on average, 18–24 months to award a federal government contract.
  3. Find your niche. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. If you have never done business with the federal government, start with simplified acquisitions and get advice from your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
  4. Understand your prospective customer’s mission, environment, challenges and hot buttons. Do your homework. When you meet with a potential customer, spend more time listening than talking.
  5. Meet with Small Business Professionals. They are located at every agency that exercises contracting authority. Small Business Professionals can help you identify prime contracting and subcontracting opportunities. They also help Contracting Officers decide whether a procurement should be solicited as a small business set-aside.
  6. Don’t provide a standard, canned presentation to potential customers. Instead of promoting your generic capabilities, match your specific capability to a specific requirement and a specific customer. Focus on how your capabilities match your target customer’s mission. Lead with your specific capabilities, not your company history, organization chart or socioeconomic status.
  7. Explain how your service or product has a positive impact on a project’s cost, schedule and performance. Demonstrate to your potential customer that you understand their priorities and pain points.
  8. Identify your differentiators. What separates you from other great performers? What makes you unique and better than the competition? Articulate how your target customer will benefit from doing business with you.
  9. Translate the relevancy of your past performance; don’t expect a prospective customer to do it for you.
  10. When you meet with Program Managers and Contracting Officers, be prepared to discuss a real requirement, not your generic capabilities. Small Business Professionals can help you prepare for these meetings.


We implement and oversee policies that help generate new procurement suppliers for DoD, resulting in a stronger industrial base, greater competition and higher-quality goods and services provided at lower costs for taxpayers.

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