It is widely known that federal contracts are affected by the Rule of Two, which is described in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Section 19.502-2(b). This rule can be advantageous to large and small businesses, depending on the company’s ability to effectively market the firm’s abilities, capacity and experience to decisionmakers before the proposal is released.

What stops most large and small firms dead in their tracks are two definitive problems. The first is the difficulty in scheduling a meeting with a decisionmaker well before the proposal is published. The second problem is actually getting any revenue-producing business from such a meeting.

There is another, little-known, unspoken rule which addresses these problems; it is not in the FAR, nor is it an official federal regulation. However, in-the-know companies are using this rule to their distinct advantage. It’s called the Rule of Three.

The Rule of Three incorporates elements addressing abilities, experience and decision-maker meetings. When determining how ability lines up with the upcoming contract requirements, it is wise for a contractor to always plan for at least three perfectly aligning abilities or core-competencies. These abilities, ideally, will match the exact words and phrasing the customer uses in recent awards or upcoming solicitations.

The Rule of Three second element is experience. The legal phrase in federal contracting describing this as past-performance, and the rule here is that, to win a contract, one should have at least three examples of past experience exactly matching the stated requirements. The contractor will then minimize risk and have a higher chance of winning a contract by proving it already has done that exact work, or sold that exact product, not just once — but three times.

The third element to the Rule of Three directly affects every meeting, whether it is with a government employee or another businessperson. This is to never ask for, or hold, a meeting with anyone unless three or more upcoming contract opportunities have been identified to discuss.

This means to never ask for an “introduction” meeting. Today, government and prime contractor decision-makers have no time for meetings to be introduced to a company, and will refuse them virtually all of the time. Instead, if a contractor has done the homework and identified at least three upcoming opportunities through sources sought notices, agency spending forecasts and previously awarded contracts, it will be less challenging to actually ask for (and schedule) the meeting with either a government or business decisionmaker and carry it through to actually bidding and winning a government contract.

The Rule of Three is critical to success in the government marketplace. Informed contractors who use it consistently will win more contracts in this highly competitive market.

Gloria Larkin is president of TargetGov, in Linthicum, and is a national expert in business development in the government markets. Visit or call toll-free 866-579-1346 for more information.