Tips, techniques, and high-impact intangibles for successful RFP responses.
Now that we’re well into the new federal fiscal year, vendors have access to many new contracting opportunities — from standard federal budget programs and cycles to existing and new procurement vehicles, such as blanket purchase agreements, governmentwide acquisition contracts, and indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts.
New opportunities introduced this year address the Biden Administration’s five-year, $1.2 trillion critical infrastructure agreement and the $860 billion Inflation Reduction Act commitment.
With so many continued and new opportunities, the last thing a government contractor needs is to have their bid rejected because they did not correctly complete the government’s requests for proposals. In reality, that is a very common occurrence. With so many companies competing for federal business there are bound to be many RFPs rejected for noncomformity and/or sloppiness.
The System for Award Management (SAM) has more than 500,000 companies registered to do business with the U.S. federal government. A 2021 study from Georgia Tech found that as many as 20 percent of government contractors have missing or incorrect information in their SAM.gov registration.
Consequently, most SAM-registered contractors will see an annual gross revenue of $0 because of the complexity, cyclicality, and competitiveness of federal government procurement.
Some of the biggest problems for new government contractors pursuing awards include insufficient understanding of contracting fundamentals; procurement cycles, vehicles and channels; contract award slippages or cancellations; contract award protests; and Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and audits.
RFP responses may be paused by reviewers and never considered for formal evaluations and scored for the most seemingly trivial reasons. Causes for delays could be omission of required primary and secondary information, or even incorrect design formatting, including typeface, type size and page margins. With hundreds or even thousands of RFPs to consider, it’s common for federal government reviewers to “thin the herd” by setting aside submissions that don’t pass muster at first glance.
Five Fundamental Steps
The first step to effective federal government procurement is to ensure you follow a thorough process for every RFP. Here are a few best practices that can help you along the way:
- Always begin the RFP response assignment and process with a manageable and measurable project plan and compliance matrix.
- Always emphasize your win themes, value propositions, and differentiators that are high-impact intangibles. Some examples include:
- For on-site or virtual staffing: 24-/48-/72-hour response model
- For account/delivery/PMO directors: Project Management Institute (PMI), Project Management Professional (PMP)®, or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification
- For all delivery personnel: Government Market Master™ or comparable certification
- Superior Service Guarantee for service level quality, timetables, and budgets
- Customer Value Index (CVI) Survey, Process and Methodology for Satisfaction, Loyalty, and Advocacy
- “All work will be completed in the spirit of the U.S. Department of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) standards. All key processes will be documented, measured, and repeated.”
- “Whenever feasible, we will leverage (state/city)-based staff members for the (client) account, ensuring this contract will benefit our state residents and our local businesses.”
- Always schedule “Color Team” reviews with enough time to respond to and remediate any outstanding issues.
- Always have your best editor complete final reviews to ensure your team — including partners and subcontractors — did not omit any important points. This will also ensure the clarity and accuracy of your final document.
- It’s best to build in a final weekend for last-minute actions, so work backward from any posted deadline.
Remember that more than one federal government examiner will review, evaluate and score your RFP response — most likely by sections. Therefore, each section must be tight, with every requirement addressed and all questions answered succinctly — including the cover letter, executive summary, and key personnel resume sections. Ensure your differentiators are addressed in all sections so that your company earns its full scores per area.
Refrain from letting your eagerness to submit a proposal cause you to miss or leave out important details. To paraphrase NFL Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi: “Leave it all on the field.”
Kevin P. Young is Principal Market Intelligence Analyst for immixGroup, the public sector business of Arrow Electronics, delivering mission-driven results through innovative technology solutions for public sector IT. Visit www.immixgroup.com for more information.
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