7 Types of Content EVERY Capability Statement MUST Have!
Your Capability Statement is like a Cake and here is the recipe for a perfect “Cake Statement” every time! Every Capability Statement must have these 7 ingredients to be successful! Just like a cake, if you forget the eggs or sugar it’s not going to be a cake when it comes out of the oven and Contracting Officers don’t want to eat biscuits, they want to eat cake!
1: An Introduction Paragraph.
This should be 2 to 5 sentences of information that communicate captivating and informative aspects about your company. It needs to be impressive and short. Have you been in business for 50 years? OK that’s a start. How about this, do you hold the patent to a product or service? Are you the only one in a geographical region who can solve an agency’s problem or provide a certain product? Do you have a unique solution that no one else can compete with? Did you create a product or service JUST to solve that agency’s problem? Here is where you tell a Contracting Officer something that will get their attention and make them want to know more!
2: Contracting Vehicle!
Do you have a GSA Schedule? If so, how many and what are they? Is your schedule listed in a noticeable place on your Capability Statement? If you’re in the IT Industry, do you have a GWACs (Government Wide Acquisition Contract)? Are you selling to the Navy? You might want to be plugged into SeaPort-e. If you participate in any of these contracting vehicles your Capability Statement needs to show this, loud and proud! I say show because remember, you need to express as much information as possible without using words. This means that if you have a GSA Schedule then you need to have the GSA Schedule Logo in a conspicuous place on your Capability Statement and your specific schedule needs to be listed directly below it. This doesn’t just tell a contracting officer that you have a GSA it SHOWS him that you do without him having to read a lengthy document. If you take part in a contracting vehicle your Capability Statement needs to communicate that in the first 7 seconds a contracting officer looks at it. You also need to link your contracting vehicle to the proper reference point so that the Contracting Officer can vet and verify you with as little research as possible! A good example of this would be linking your GSA Schedule to the GSA E-Library.
3: Core Competencies!
This section should be a somewhat detailed, a bulleted list with prime bullets and sub bullets or very short explanations of what you do. Think of this like Speed Dating! You have 30 second to explain to the contracting officer as much of what you do as possible. This section should NOT be too busy but should get a lot of information across without being overwhelming. Here you should list your primary products and services. Sometimes service based companies need to write short explanations beneath their bullet points. This is ok but you do not need to explain to a contracting officer how every product or service works, they don’t care, that’s the Project Managers Job! You just need to get the main point across that you have the services that will solve their problems or have the products that will fill their needs. Don’t get insanely technical, Contracting Officers are not Program Managers and they just don’t care to know how you make laser beams or hermetically sealed cans of tuna fish, or whatever you do. They just want to know that you make the best laser beams or have the freshest hermetically sealed cans of tuna. Rule of thumb: explain it like their five (Years Old).
4: Past Performance.
Past Performance or Contracting History can get you a LOT of brownie points in the government contracting world! If you have contracting history then your Capability Statement needs to show this. Here’s how. The Prime Agencies you have won contracts through should be proudly listed in a section dedicated to your past performance. Beneath the Prime Agency you might have a Sub Agency or several Sub Agencies which you have also won contracts through. So let’s say you have won a total of 28 contracts through the Department of Defense (The DOD). That’s great! But your past performance section should also explain that 13 of those Contracting Actions were through the Army, 8 Contracting Actions were through the Navy, and 7 Contracting Actions were through the Air Force. This shows that all your contracts weren’t from the same place, even if the Prime Agency is the DOD. It also shows that you have worked with many players within the DOD and that you play well with a variety of agencies. The Logos of each agency should be present beside the information pertaining to the contracts you have won or completed. Next you might have 5 Contracting Actions with the Department of Homeland Security, add the DHS contracts beneath the DOD contracts because you have more contracts with DOD agencies than with DHS agencies. Put your best foot forward so to speak. Lastly you might have 2 contracts with the Department of the Interior. It’s still important that you list them and provide their logo. You should also list the Top Offices for each agency you have Contracting Actions with beneath that agency. So your Capability Statement might read:
DHS LOGO HERE
Department of Homeland Security:
# of Contracts: 4 Total Contracting Actions
Top Agency: U.S. Coast Guard
Click Here For Contracting Details: USCG Contracting History on F.P.D.S.gov
Probably the biggest morsel of secret sauce here is to link your contracts to your contracting history so that a Contracting Officer doesn’t have to research you manually, he can just click the link to vet and verify.
5: Cage Code, Duns Number, NAICS Codes and PSC Codes.
I hope this goes without saying but your Cage Code, Duns, NAICS and PSC codes need to be listed on your Capability Statement in a creative way that flows with the document. This tells the Contracting officer right away what industry you are in. Two main problems usually arise when it comes to NAICS and PSC codes. Either a company doesn’t know what NAICS or PSC codes they should list or a company has 20 or more NAICS or PSC Codes. If you’re a small business, listing the wrong codes could actually disqualify you for a contract because the threshold for what the government considers a small business is sometimes different depending on your industry. You might have 20 NAICS codes and you can actually be considered a small business for 15 of them and a large business for 5 of them. Every company should have an expert evaluate their NAICS and PSC codes but in general, it can be a detractor to list too many or to list the wrong ones. Sometimes it’s better to use the overall category code than to list too many NAICS or PSC codes. Another little bit of secret sauce is that NAICS codes are very broad and PSC codes are very specific. Don’t limit yourself by not listing the overall category code, just because you might only perform one part of a job. You will miss out on Sub Contracting and even Prime Contracting opportunities if your codes are to narrow. So what have we learned here? Don’t list too many codes. Don’t list too few codes. List the right codes or the “Most Correct” codes for what you do. When in doubt, list the overall category code for your product or line of work.
Put on your critical thinking caps folks because it’s time to stand out! Somewhere on your Capability Statement you need to host a Differentiators Section! This needs to be a SHORT list of why a contracting officer should choose you over a competitor or the guy who is already doing the job! Ok, so you makes bricks, what’s exciting about that? Well tell us what makes your bricks better than the other guy! Are they made of space metal? Is your process for laying them faster, better, safer? Are you a one stop shop who can solve many problems at once? Do you have a special technology that can do the job? Do you have a notable patent? Maybe you have 24/7 customer service or a 50 year track record of success? Perhaps you have special certifications or qualifications or have won a nationally recognized award for what you do. If so, tells the contracting officer with as few words as possible in this section!
7: Branding and Contact Info!
So if we haven’t made it clear by now we’re taking one last shot at it. This is not a technical document or a resume looking document, it’s a marketing document! It’s a Bakery Menu with all the tasty things about your company that contracting officers want to gobble up! So what do we know about bakery sales or just marketing in general? People eat with their eyes! Your Capability Statement should be a clean, polished, one page document (on very rare occasions a 2 page doc) that matches your company’s branding colors and marketing style. Contracting Officers see 20 or 30 black and white, “business resume” style Capability Statements per week and your design skills and creativity is how you are going to make yours “POP” and stand out from the rest. Captivate their interest for 7 seconds and you won’t be forgotten. You might even be set aside and rewarded for your uniqueness. At the end of the day, you might have the perfect solution and you might be the best fit for the job but if your capability statement ends up at the bottom of the stack because you didn’t stand out then the contracting officer might never pick up your capability statement again. It happens all the time, someone less qualified wins the contract because government agencies are Process Orientated, not Progress Orientated. They follow a pre-established process, they meet their criteria and the make their selection.
Remember, don’t get too crazy with the design. This is not a modern art show and the document still needs structure and order to make sense. Think like a modern Michelangelo not a Jackson Pollock.
The two most determining factors going through a contracting officer’s mind on a daily basis are, “Which path is less work and which path appears less risky”. In their defense, contracting officers are over worked, under paid, and scrutinized for many of their decisions. They are often times going to choose the option that is the least amount of effort/work with the least amount of risk.
Lastly, put your company’s government point of contract in more than one place! Make it as easy as possible, without being obnoxious, for a contracting officer or a member of a contracting officer’s team to locate your information and give you a call. At the very least your direct contact information should be at the top and again at the bottom of your capability statement. Make sure to list your website address and use a hyperlink which sends the contracting officer directly to your government landing page! If you don’t have a government landing page, you should, but that’s a topic for another time.