Doing Business with SAIC and other Large Primes

April 15, 2008

Carla Undurraga from the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) Corporate Small Business Development program addressed the AFCEA Small Business Committee in January. She shared her extensive knowledge in helping small businesses to be successful in marketing their company’s services, products and solutions to SAIC. Although Undurraga represented SAIC specifically, she explained that much of her commentary applies to other large primes as well.

Undurraga began her presentation with an overview of SAIC, including its organizational structure, core competencies and major customers. This overall knowledge is important, she stressed, because familiarity with the potential partner organization can provide a stronger understanding of where the small business would be a good fit and contribute to the partnership. This information is crucial for a small firm that is marketing to the prime.

According to Undurraga, to be considered a strong candidate for a partnership, the company should possess a clear business focus and a unique capability, and must clearly articulate potential benefits of the prospective partnership. All major primes receive a large number company marketing offers, she said; it is important to stand out from the crowd and communicate that exclusive aspect. One means of doing this is by focusing on a niche that is not widely available.

Undurraga also highlighted the significance of existing relationships and past performances with a customer. She said that in her position, the first two questions she likely will ask are, “Do you know the customer?” and, “Do you have any past performance with this customer?” She stressed the importance of using the Small Business Development program office at SAIC as a starting point before approaching the business unit and to help direct clients to the proper business unit for their specific capabilities and primes. She added that most large primes have this type of office within their organization.

SAIC teams up front, assembling a group well before the request for proposal is issued, which could be up to three months for a new contract and up to a year for a recompete. Undurraga said small businesses should visit the prospective company’s Web site and register in its database, even if a working relationship already exists. She added that it is important to be specific with all information and relevant qualities of the small business, ensuring all input is meaningful and additive—rather than simply copying and pasting a statement of work—and include searchable keywords. If contacted, Undurraga emphasized, make sure to show up with the “A” game, bringing all key people including leadership and technical staff. She noted that it is essential to demonstrate priority, focus and patience, and to treat each encounter as a fresh, new relationship.


The presentation materials and podcast of this meeting are available online.