Government Contract Proposals, Part 1: Be Prepared – Pre-proposal Tasks

Government Contract Proposals, Part 1: Be Prepared – Pre-proposal Tasks

If you are new to government contracting, lengthy, complex Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with tight deadlines can be overwhelming. This three part series of articles hopes to offer some basic principles and definitions particularly with regard to negotiated acquisitions which may help be helpful. Each article will address issues specific to a different stage of the Proposal process.

Negotiated Acquisitions are contracts awarded using other than sealed bidding procedures. Source selection is made based on “best value”, involving an evaluation of price and other non-price factors (“trade-offs”) with award going to the proposal judged to be the best overall value to agency. Award decisions are made by the Source Selection Authority (SSA), which in most cases is the Contracting Officer. Proposals are evaluated solely on the factors and sub-factors in the RFP. A competitive proposal must demonstrate a thorough understanding the RFP and present a clear, compelling narrative as to how your company can provide the best possible solution to the customer’s (agency’s) needs, rising above mere compliance to provide better value than any competing proposals.

Ideally, you will accomplish some important background tasks before you are faced with specific RFPs. Take these tasks up early in your government contracting efforts so you are ready when the right opportunity comes along. Some examples include:

  • Assessment of Business Capabilities: A hard-nosed, realistic evaluation of the company’s core-competencies is essential. You will not be served by exaggerating or misrepresenting your capability. Doing so can undermine the credibility of your proposals and/or result in an award that you cannot perform successfully, with potentially damaging consequences for your business, not to mention your ability to secure government contracts in the future.
  • Establish Pricing Practices: Make sure you understand the accounting standards you must meet (whether the government’s Cost Accounting Standards or Generally Accepted Accounting Practices), and have a sufficient accounting system to be able to calculate Indirect Cost rates. If necessary, work with a Small Business Development Center for general business assistance.
  • You – or your accountant – should understand the principles of allowable, allocable, and reasonable, as well as avoidable or unallowable costs, and in some cases, an Economic Price Adjustment.
  • Know Your Target Customer(s): If you can target an agency which represents the most promising market early on, it allows you to thoroughly research the potential customer’s mission, priorities and past procurement history with regard to similar products/services. Your PTAC Counselor can help you with this research.
  • Evaluation of Competition: Negotiated contracts are seeking the best value from among the offerors, so it is critical that you know your likely competitors and their strengths and weaknesses relative to your business. This understanding will be invaluable in crafting a proposal narrative which demonstrates the ability to provide better value than the competition. Your PTAC Counselor can also help you to find this information utilizing online government database search tools.
  • Identification of Potential Teaming Partners: Small businesses that have established relationships with large businesses and/or HUBZone, 8(a), SDVOSB and WOSB firms have greater flexibility to put together a team when they identify an RFP that would make more sense to pursue as a sub.Your PTAC Counselor can elaborate on this topic and provide you with additional advice at no cost. Click here to Find your PTAC today!

Watch this space for the rest of the series: Reviewing the Solicitation and Reaching a “Go/No Go” Decision and Preparing the Proposal.

More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.

PTACs provide a wide range of government contracting help – most free of charge!


Government Contract Proposals, Part 3: Preparing Your Proposal

Government Contract Proposals, Part 3: Preparing Your Proposal

If you are new to government contracting, lengthy, complex Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with tight deadlines, can be overwhelming. A competitive proposal must demonstrate a thorough understanding the RFP and present a clear, compelling narrative as to how your company can provide the best possible solution to the customer’s (agency’s) needs, rising above mere compliance to provide better value than any competing proposals.

This article outlines a process by which to prepare your proposal. By this point, you should already have done your homework with regard to assessing your company’s capabilities, your customers’ needs and your competition and evaluated the specific RFP to determine if the opportunity is a good fit for your company. See our previous articles, Government Contract Proposals, Part 1: Be Prepared – Pre-Proposal Tasks and Part 2: Reviewing the Solicitation and Reaching a Go/No Go Decision

Part 3: Preparing the Proposal

When a “Go” decision is made and actual proposal preparation begins, the following recommendations can guide your process:

  • Starting with the proposal delivery date and working backward, develop a schedule that will support the timely completion of all components, including packaging the proposal, preparing the proposal volumes, proposal reviews, writing, pricing, subcontractor quotes, etc.
  • Follow the format dictated by the RFP, making sure to comply with all page, font, binding pagination and printing requirements. Issues raised in the SOW should be addressed ¬within the framework of the evaluation criteria, with an insistence on complete compliance.
  • Proposal sections should be easy to separate into sections for distribution to evaluators (e.g. finance, technical, management) and each should be able to stand on its own, so if information from one section is needed to understand another, it should be included in both.
  • The quality of the proposal is directly related to the ability to provide a strategic response that conveys not only that your client will comply, but how the company will comply and how its approach sets it apart from the competition.
  • The writing style should be clear and concise, and every phrase should be directly related to how the company will meet the agency’s needs. Avoid claims or language that is unsubstantiated, lacks relevance to the specific project, or does not fully address the requirements.
  • Beware of negative proposal factors, which can eliminate the proposal from consideration, such as:o Unproven understanding of agency’s requirements
    o Incomplete response: critical sections left out
    o Non-compliant
    o Insufficient resources (time, personnel, etc.) to accomplish tasks
    o Insufficient information about the company
    o Poor proposal organization: difficult to correlate proposal content to RFP/SOW
    o Failure to show relevance of past experience to proposed project
    o Unsubstantiated or unconvincing rationale for proposed approaches or solutions
    o Repeating requirements without discussing method of performance

Reviewing the Proposal
Once the proposal is drafted, it is critical that it be reviewed before delivery, whether by a formal “Red Team” or by your PTAC counselor. Whoever conducts the review should do so from the perspective of the evaluator, ensuring that the proposal follows the format of the RFP and meets the formatting criteria as well as flagging any questions or problems.
Practice Makes Perfect
Proposal preparation definitely improves with practice. Continue to respond to appropriate RFPs and solicitations even if the first several do not result in an award. Request a debriefing regardless of the outcome to get feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal, which can help you to make future proposals stronger.

Your PTAC Counselor can elaborate on this topic and provide you with additional advice at no cost. Click here to Find your PTAC today!

Read the first two articles in this series: Preproposal Tasks and Reaching a Go/No Go Decision.

More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.