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Powerful Capability Statements
How to Create a Powerful Capability Statement for Government Contractors
Gloria Berthold Larkin is president of TargetGov and an expert in business development in the government and corporate business markets. She is a dynamic speaker and book author and very adept at negotiating the government contracting maze on behalf of clients.

Government contracting has developed into a very competitive marketplace. Companies of all sizes, from small firms with one employee to large firms with thousands of employees have been successful in selling products and services to government agencies at the federal, state, city, county and municipal levels. However, competition has heightened as more companies try to break into, be competitive in, and stay successful in this market.

A complicating factor to success in this market is that fewer people are employed by the government to handle outreach and acquisitions. This means that contractors must know how to distill the information that is most important to a particular decision-maker, state it in a clear, concise manner, and reinforce its importance to the prospect, now even more so than in the past.

Five years ago, no one knew what a Capability Statement was, and now, it is required by many government agencies and has developed into a mandatory tool that, if well done, can also help you open doors and target new opportunities, no matter what size company you represent.

Successful firms use a Capability Statement for a number of purposes:

• Required in many government registration processes

• A door-opener to new agencies and prime contractors

• Proof of qualification

• Proof of past performance

• To set your company apart from competitors

Types of Capability Statements

There are essentially three types of Capability Statements. The first is a one page document (can be two sides) that is used to open doors and make introductions with targeted agencies, primes and teaming partners. The second is a capability statement that is part of a Request For Proposal response. The third is the document used during a meeting called a Capability Briefing.


We are going to discuss the first type in this article: The Capability Statement as a door-opener document.


Capability Statement Format


A Capability Statement should be very brief (only 1 or 2 pages), to the point and specifically related to the individual agency's needs. Ideally, it is a living document that will change depending on the targeted agency. Why is this? Because savvy contractors know that each agency has its own mission and focus, and they speak directly to those in their capability statement.


It is important that the document be visually interesting and have similar graphic elements to your company's brand and logo. It must also be a searchable document that can easily be sent as a PDF file.

Therefore, it is recommended that Capability Statements are created in Word or Publisher using a template that reflects a firm's brand with its own logo, colors and graphic identity. It is important to fit all critical information on one side of one page. The second side, if absolutely necessary, may contain additional supporting data important to the targeted agency such as case studies of past successful projects.

Capability Statement Contents

The five key elements included in a successful capability statement are:

1. Core competencies

2. Past performance

3. Differentiators

4. Corporate data

5. Contact information

As you begin to create your firm's Capability Statement, begin by labeling the document as a Capability Statement.  This should be stated at the top of the document.  This is a term used by government contracting decision-makers, and indicates that you have knowledge of the contracting process.  This title sets your document apart from all other flyers, brochures and line cards that are filling your prospect's mailbox.  A Capability Statement should also show the firm's logo and related colors and other branding elements to improve name and brand recognition.  It should be free of long paragraphs, instead, using short sentences and bulleted lists for quick visual scanning. 

When composing a Capability Statement, use the following section labels: Core Competencies, Past Performance, and Differentiators. These are the key elements that government buyers are looking for so that they can make a speedy decision.

Tips: Create a new version of the document for each agency, prime or teaming opportunity. This way each individual Capability Statement has all the specific information needed for that opportunity, and only the needed information. It is recommended that you save and distribute the document through email as a PDF, not a Word, PowerPoint or other format. To help create recognition for your firm, make sure to save the document with your company's name in the file name. Many federal agencies block Word and Publisher documents because they may harbor viruses, however, a PDF file is much safer, usually smaller and stays visually consistent when mailed.

Core Competencies

Begin this section with a short introduction statement relating the company's basic capabilities to the agency's specific needs followed by key-word heavy bullet points. This is NOT everything a firm is able to do, but rather the core expertise of a firm, specifically related to the agency or prime contractor this Capability Statement is written for, its mission and identified opportunities.

Past Performance

This is not a list of your firm’s experience, but rather, only the experience that relates specifically to what that agency or prime needs from you.

Begin by listing past customers for whom your business has done similar work. Prioritize starting with experience at a related agency, to all federal experience, to other state or local government experience, to commercial contracts. If a past project does not relate to the targeted agency's needs, do not list it.

Each listed reference should include: the organization name, location, project name or contract, month/year completed, a brief sentence describing work performed and the value of the contract.

Tips: Ideally, include specific contact information for immediate references. Include name, title, email and phone for the people who remember your firm and can give you a strong, positive reference. Use this level of information when meeting with decision-makers. However, leave this information off the Capability Statement when you are sending the PDF as an initial outreach effort or leaving as a handout at conferences.


Doing business with the government is highly competitive. Contractors have the burden of dealing with this competition and rising above the other contractors. Many companies who are trying to increase sales to the government market do not have a clear value statement detailing what makes them different from their competitors. A succinct, clear statement that relates to the specific needs of the agency is what will help the procurement and purchasing decision-makers, the program managers and end users understand why they should pick your firm over other competitors.

This is usually the toughest section to write. If you can do this successfully, you will give decision-makers clear reasons to hire you over your competitors. One of the best sources for this information are your past clients. Ask them why they hired you. You may be surprised at some of the responses! Also, use these Sample Differentiator Questions to help you get started:

How is your company best suited for the needs of this agency? What is it about your services that make you stand out from the rest? What is it about your people that give you the advantage over your competitors? Why are your products better solutions than the others that are available? Is your business located near the targeted agency?

Think about all of the things that really make your business different from your competitors. If these benefits cannot be clearly communicated, it is impossible for a decision-maker to make a clear recommendation for your company over one of your competitors. Many companies fail to take this critical step. And they wonder why they are missing out on contracts.

Company Data

Include one or two short sentences with a company description detailing pertinent company information. Include: the size of your firm, your revenue, the number of employees, and the typical geographic area you serve.

This is the section where you will also include pertinent codes such as:

  • DUNS
  • Socio-economic certifications: 8(a), HUB Zone, SDVOB, etc.
  • NAICS (all) Do not include code descriptions, just use the numbers
  • CAGE Code
  • Accept Credit and Purchase Cards
  • GSA Schedule Contract Number(s)
  • Other federal contract vehicles
  • BPAs and other federal contract numbers
  • State Contract Numbers

Readers will visit your web site for additional information. Make sure your web site is constantly updated and government-focused.

Contact Information

You will set your firm apart from your competitors if you use a personal approach by listing a contact person’s name, title, email and office and cell phone numbers. This is a relationship-based market and giving personal contact information will set you apart from the firms that have generic information listed.

  • Name (a specific person)
  • Address (physical location as listed in CCR, not a PO Box)
  • Phone (main and cell)
  • Email of the person named
  • Company web site

Tips: Always list a specific person, not a generic title. Also, never use generic emails such as aol.com, verizon.net or gmail.com. Instead, always use your web site domain with a specific person’s name in the email. Ex: johnsmith@yourcompany.com.

Use this information to help you create a Powerful Capability Statement and open doors to contracting opportunities in the federal government. This document is the key to building relationship with important decision-makers in government contracting, providing them with a concise description of the goods and services your business can provide, and a consistent reminder of your firm. When properly written, a Capability Statement is the tool that sets your company head and shoulders above your competition.

Gloria Berthold Larkin is president of TargetGov and an expert in business development in the government and corporate business markets. She is a dynamic speaker and book author and very adept at negotiating the government contracting maze on behalf of clients. Visit www.targetgov.com or call toll-free 1-866-579-1346 for more information.