How to spot and position yourself for hot opportunities

Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of a three-part series on identifying cold, warm and hot contract opportunities. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Cold and warm bid opportunities have win probabilities less than 10 percent.  So to increase its probability of winning a given bid, a company must position itself to bid “hot” opportunities.  What are the attributes of a hot opportunity?  They are:

  • The company has been aware of and tracking this bid opportunity well in advance of the procurement release date.
  • The company submitted meaningful input during the government’s market research phase, provided a thoughtful RFI response or gave the government an informal unsolicited proposal. 
  • There have been face-to-face meetings with the customer(s) to demonstrate your company’s expertise and a possible technical approach(s).
  • Business development and operations have worked together and shared knowledge to help best position the company to win this opportunity.
  • The company has developed and executed a marketing strategy long in advance of the expected procurement that entails pertinent web site content, white papers, success stories, technical blogs, speeches by SMEs, abbreviated technical presentations and/or select PR activities.
  • The company has retained the services of a knowledgeable and respected consultant that knows this agency’s operating environment and management priorities.
  • Your company’s senior SMEs are engaged with the business development function to ensure the company’s knowledge/expertise is visible and accessible to the customer.
  • Your company’s senior management has met with the agency’s senior management (at the right level in the agency) to determine the agency’s receptivity to bringing in a new contractor.  [Beware: During my meetings with the government, I have heard them say (1) yes, we want new blood for this project, (2) yes, we would like to see a bid from your company or (3) we do not expect to receive too many bids.  These statements are almost clichés.  Management, of course, must read between the lines to understand what is being said or unsaid.]
  • The company has established a ‘balanced’ bid team.  This means the proposed bid team includes neither too many nor too few companies for the value of this bid opportunity.  A meaningful small business approach is important even when not explicitly called for.  And the physical locations of bid partners may be a consideration for some bids.

These tactics and more are the attributes of hot bid opportunities.  Successful execution of these tactics can increase the company’s probability of winning into the 50 percent plus range.  These are deals that the company can bid and win with a higher level of assurance.

But wait. You might be saying, This list is unfair! My company is not large; I do not have all of these resources.  Smaller businesses should perform some these tactics or you will continue to bid opportunities with a low probability of winning or, if lucky, might receive a couple of FTEs from the prime contractor. 

Small businesses should do what they can all while focusing on quality in all that they do.

Make your company’s expertise evident to customers early on and demonstrate that you are fully capable of performing the work and administering the contract.  This means employing various mechanisms mentioned above plus having a high-performance, digital marketing web site.  Your company’s web site can no longer simply be an electronic billboard.

Companies have finite resources especially in terms of their proposal generation staff.  They must apply these valuable resources wisely i.e. where the company has a much greater than 10 percent probability of winning.

About the Author

Bob Davis has over 35-years’ experience in the federal information technology industry. He has held senior positions with products- and services-oriented, high-tech IT companies during his career. Bob has successfully worked for large- and medium–sized companies, and small businesses. Leadership positions have been held in business development, marketing, and program management. Bob has a doctor of management from the University of Maryland University College. He works for a medium-size company in our industry.

Reader Comments

Wed, Nov 23, 2016

To November 22 comment: Why should government employees, specifically contracting officers and lawyers, "be disciplined". They operate under ethics regulations that carry very severe penalties. I have heard contractors ask questions during those visits that would get me thrown into jail if I answered them. "How many bidders are there on this current opportunity?" "What should I emphasize in my proposal so I'll win?" "Who are the evaluators?" The COs and lawyers should be commended for not falling for fishing expeditions like that, not disciplined. Also, sometimes meetings are held in rooms that necessitate walking past active acquisition areas. The visitors have to be carefully and closely escorted to avoid accidental disclosure of information. Be grateful that they are even meeting with you. Many are not due to bad contractor behavior.

Tue, Nov 22, 2016

Yes to November 18 commente. Even longstanding clients and prospective clients who know us treat us as if we were miscreants. The contracting officers and lawyers, themselves not impressive in knowledge or ethics, actually treat us during visits as if we were being conducted to the visitors gallery in a prison. These government employees should be disciplined.

Fri, Nov 18, 2016 John Big Gov't Agency

It's increasingly difficult to get industry senior management in to meet with senior agency officials. The protest-heavy environment is affecting officials' willingness to meet with industry and gov't legal counsel often advises against such meetings. This sentiment is also trickling down to mid-level officials.

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