government solicitation and rfp response tipsThe government seeks appealing competition when it rates your response to RFP’s.  Many small businesses find it difficult to keep up a competitive edge. However, this hurdle can be eliminated by doing some basic things. This article will give you some rfp response tips.

Reading the Solicitation from beginning to end gives you some idea about your customer. The best approach to responding to government solicitations is getting to know your customer. After all, sometimes you are competing for multi-million dollar contracts. It is worth the effort.

Government Solicitation & Response Tips:

Develop a Checklist

Responding to a government solicitation takes meticulous and careful consideration. Many commercial businesses simply rush to the statement of work (SOW or PWS) and begin pricing. One of the key mistakes in proposal writing is not reading any introductory language. Introductory language can help for a few reasons:

  • The government usually explains their needs or problems for you to solve
  • Now that you know the problem, you are in a better place to be creative and give value in solving the problem
  • The type of contract (IDIQ or Fixed Price) can give you an idea of how to approach the response

Developing a checklist is one of the most important rfp response tips. It will help you to stay on track and hopefully not miss any critical elements.

Relevant Past Performance is Critical in a Government RFP; You Must Be Intuitive

Federal contract solicitations are often graded on the offer’s price and past performance. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) provides this as the minimum threshold for the contracting to decide ‘best value’ to the government.

  • Your past performance can be commercial or previous work with the government
  • Performance can be as a prime contractor or subcontractor
  • Must be within the past 3 years
  • You should articulate why the previous work is relevant to the solicitation

Pricing is Critical to a Successful Government Bid

New contractors often make the mistake thinking they can get substantial profits from each government contract. The government will usually have an estimate of what the work actually cost. Don’t make the mistake of believing that you can ‘pull a fast one’ on the agency. Although the agency does look for lower pricing, the can be a trade off between little past performance if you can show a high technical ability. The Solicitation will usually discuss this. It is important to keep the following rfp response tips in mind:

  • Never underbid yourself
  • Keep pricing reasonable and fair
  • Keep pricing as low as possible, but realistic
  • Consider giving the government incentives during the option years

You can still stand a good chance of winning the award even if you have no past performance

Contractors shy away from bidding on government RFPs because of no prior relevant past performance. The rules state that the agency must give you at least a neutral rating. However, if you have a subcontractor or teaming partner that has excellent past performance, you might want to consider using them in the project.

  • Consider adding more valued items and cut your pricing
  • The government sometimes uses a trade-off approach. It might consider balancing the better price for lack of past performance

If you hire a consultant to help you with a government RFP response, consider the following:

  • Does the consultant or firm have any actual experience in federal procurement?
  • Does the consulting firm include your technical staff into the RFP completion?
  • Can they explain any of the above-mentioned points?
  • If templates are used, stay away from this offer of services. The government knows genuineness when it sees it.
  • A skilled government RFP consultant should not equate past projects to sell you on this project. Each solicitation is unique. Don’t compare apples to oranges.

Learn your Rights Early to Possibly Challenge an Award Decision

Many RFP and solicitation writing services merely help write the response. However, hiring someone that also can write to prevent a bid protest can be value added to your cost. When you decide to hire a solicitation writing consulting firm, you should ask about their process of challenging the award decision. Although not required, one can argue that a writer that understands the protest rules can write with an eye towards litigation.

What is a “Full and Open” Solicitation?

When the government issues an RFP under full and open, this means that both small and large businesses can respond to the solicitation.

  • When competing with large businesses, consider utilizing a strong subcontractor or teaming partner in your RFP response.

Can the agency simply throw out an 8a firm because it thinks that the small business cannot perform the work? The 8a program is managed by the Small Business Administration. Although the Contracting Officer has substantial latitude to make decisions on behalf of the government, the correct approach in handling issues of this nature would be to:

  • Follow the rules for challenging a offerors’ competency with the SBA
  • Keep in mind that GAO usually will not hear a bid protest in this situation unless there is a substantiated allegation of bad faith on the government’s part
  • A good proposal writer should be able to reduce this effect by clearly demonstrating to the government how you will perform the work

A performance-based RFP must be handled very differently. The government is directed to issue performance-based solicitations to the maximum extent possible. There are significant problems on the agency’s side because many RFP’s have the title “performance based contract.” However, when reading through the statement of work, the government clearly tells the contractor how to perform every detail of the contract. Here are the basics of performance-based contracts:

  • The government should only state the end result in the RFP, not how to get the result
  • The agency should inform the bidder of the critical areas and any measurements or allowable errors
  • The work statement should be written in a fashion that is easy to understand; the contractor should be able to respond in a simple and easy-to-understand document

Clues that a government solicitation may not meet the performance-based requirement include:

  • The government tells you what experience and education your employees must have
  • The agency tells you the year, make and model of your business vehicles (they should describe the vehicle capability, not the specific type
  • The government tells you how many times to perform certain tasks
  • Agencies that state that only contractors from certain states can submit a bid

Summary on RFP Response Tips

Government RFPs and solicitations have short deadlines. You must read them carefully and develop a checklist to follow. If you are considering hiring a proposal writing consultant, make sure that they not only understand how to write with glossy grammar, but that they understand the rules of the game.

We have writers that have worked for the government and understand all the RFP response tips. This gives you a unique advantage and adds value to your cost.

Contact a government contracts attorney.

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