To Go or Not To Go – That is the (Burning) Question

By Gary Dunbar

Your business cannot continue or grow without effective executive decisions that produce revenue. Your future as a Government Contractor depends on your yes (GO) or no (NO GO) decisions to prepare and submit proposals, often expensive investments. In addition to decision-making factors unique to your company, here are 10 critical factors every firm should consider when determining whether to respond to a competitive RFP.

  1. Do we understand the Government agency’s challenge and do we have a concise plan for helping their project succeed? Your proposal must convince evaluators that your firm deeply understands what’s required for success and how you’ll deliver the performance that creates that favorable outcome.
  2. How does our plan reduce risk to the Government and provide value (as defined by the particular agency)? Sure, you can do the work – and so can most, if not all, of your competitors. But can you accomplish the SOW/PWS in a manner that mitigates mission or contract risk? To do that, you must frame your solution-based features as strengths, and clearly link those strengths to customer-based benefits.
  3. Does the Government agency know our firm as a leader in the SOW? We’re not talking about meeting with the prospective client with a 450-slide presentation and a three-inch thick notebook of bragging materials. We’re talking about effective capture and relationship-building – months prior to RFP release. We’re talking about writing white papers that influence the RFP. We’re talking about really knowing the agency’s pain points – beyond what is said in the RFP – so you can address them in your solution and target the most meaningful benefits to this particular customer. Submitting a proposal to an agency who doesn’t know you is NOT effective capture … it’s lots of wasted overhead money spent on preparing a losing proposal.
  4. Does the Government agency know our proposed Project Manager (PM)/Key Personnel (KP) as outstanding professionals with the skills to address this SOW’s challenges? Has this prospective customer worked with your proposed PM//KP? Did your PM/KP participate in recent sales calls to this prospective client? Or has your client attended a presentation your PM made at an industry conference or on a relevant broadcast? If the answer to these questions is no, what is your plan to persuade the prospective client that your PM/KP are best value candidates? Proposals that present multiple highly successful relevant contracts and then propose a PM/KP not involved in any of those contracts is likely to lose.
  5. Does this opportunity fit your firm’s Strategic Plan and provide long-term strategic advantages? If you want your boat to go to Hawaii, don’t steer to Antarctica. Make GO decisions on opportunities that fit your strategy. If your strategy needs to be changed, think it through and make wise decisions, not long-shots at unforeseen opportunities.
  6. Can we prepare an exceptional winning proposal within the time constraints? This isn’t gambling; you’re not shooting craps; you will not win by a “throw-something- together and throw-it-over-the-wall” approach. Commit the requisite time, money, and resources to prepare an exceptional proposal or make a NO GO decision. There is no middle ground.
  7. Can we submit a competitive price? Obviously, price matters, even in “Best Value” procurements. Do your homework and develop realistic estimates. What does the Government expect to pay for the product or service? If this is a re-compete, what price was paid before? Slightly different, but highly relevant, is the impact winning will have on your annual gross revenue. If winning the contract will result in your annual gross revenue increasing by more than double the current amount, make a NO GO decision and look for a role as a subcontractor or provide a detailed, thorough explanation of how you’ll increase capacity to perform the contract. It’s a big mistake to submit a proposal hoping no one on Source Selection Evaluation Board will notice your lack of planning.
  8. Can we manage or mitigate all the risks to our firm as we execute and perform the contract? All contracts have risks. Do you really understand the risks to your firm in this contract and do you have the plan, resources, and know-how to mitigate those risks?
  9. Are your team’s Past Performance Assessments relevant to the RFP’s objectives and the SOW? Is your performance seen as “exceptional” by your former clients and customers – and can you prove that via testimonials, CPARS, other evaluations? Collect, keep, and have readily available all performance assessment information and letters of commendation. Use this information in your proposal by quoting letters of commendation, including the name of the author and the date of the letter. Provide copies of performance assessments. In your performance of all contracts, immediately and effectively address and correct any notification of less than excellent performance, even a casual comment. If your Past Performance relative to this RFP doesn’t demonstrate excellent services and products, make a NO GO decision.
  10. Do we know our competition and have a plan to beat them? Do you know your competition? Have they won contracts that you lost? Do you know why or how they did it? What is your plan to win? How will you ghost them?

These guiding questions force your firm to take a hard, honest look at its compatibility with any given Government agency’s RFP demands. Competitive analysis, along with capture planning, is critical to your ability to prepare a winning proposal – and thus your GO/NO GO decision.

ClientView LLC provides executive-level business development consulting to companies that sell products and services to the federal government and commercial customers. Our services include strategy development; marketing, positioning and proposal training; capture planning; and proposal creation and production.

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