Imagine you receive a brief communication from your Government Contracts Team informing your firm to stop work due to the shutdown. Some of you may not need to imagine this … given that we are now deep into the longest shutdown in history.
Even though you have a valid contract, and even if you have been receiving positive feedback from the contracts team about your performance, you may be instructed to stand down due to a Government shutdown. Now you must take a pause in performance. This may mean telling your employees they cannot report to work if their duty station is within a Government facility.
It is unlikely that your contract’s Terms and Conditions provide any guidance on what to do during a stop in performance during a Government shutdown.
We’ve all been here before … your firm has been tracking a planned Request for Proposal (RFP) that meets your business development objectives and growth plans. The Government recently hosted an Industry Day and then released a Draft RFP (DRFP) for industry review and comment.
As Capture / Proposal Manager, after your final analysis, you made a pitch to your leadership to make a pre-release “GO” decision and they agreed for you to convene your proposal team early and start your proposal now to get ahead. Believing that the final RFP is imminent, your team begins its prep work and is actively working against the DRFP. Then, anywhere from weeks, to immediately prior to the anticipated release date, the Government issues a delay pushing back the final RFP more than 90 days.
At a very young age we’re taught simple life rules like Share, Play Fair, Put Things Back, Flush, Follow Directions.
Easy enough, right?
In the proposal world, “Follow Directions” is synonymous with “Be Compliant.” Good writers start with an outline (preferably an annotated one) that follows RFP Section L and incorporates Section M, and good managers enforce adherence to that outline throughout draft development. But … along the way, teams may be tempted to stray, and if not committed to holding each other accountable to that outline, a slight change here, another there, can put all your good work in jeopardy.
Why is it so hard to follow the Government’s proposal requirements? Here are three theories:
Sometimes the RFP looks like a Kindergartener’s collage – either written by several different people or by one person who cut and pasted from several other RFPs. “Their organization just doesn’t make sense,” laments the CEO/BD Director/other senior company leader. “We’ll ‘fix’ it for them.”
The page limitations are too strict. I once had a client who tried to skirt a 15-page page limit by including a 45-page Executive Summary (the Executive Summary was excluded from the page count, and the Government didn’t assign a page limit to it).
Companies often want to include “facts” they believe are “must haves” for a win, but RFP Sections L&M don’t allow for those facts. “We need to include them anyway,” asserts the CEO/BD Director/other senior company leader.
All three theories, based on real proposal experiences, have one theme: A company’s tendency to think they know what the Government wants better than the Government. If acted upon, this tendency can be a fatal proposal mistake. After all, who wants to work with a company that can’t do something as simple as follow directions?
Always resist the temptation to deviate from Sections L&M
If the RFP is a jumbled mess, ask the Government a clarifying question, but don’t re-organize your proposal so it “makes sense.”
If you’re page constrained, write concisely (or get an editor who can!). Never attempt to sneak in text in areas not included in a page count. That information won’t be scored, so it’s not worth your effort – or the risk in irritating evaluators. Remember that evaluators have a score sheet that mirrors the RFP. Make it easy – not hard – for them to score you.
Don’t add extraneous technical details, marketing language, or non-relevant experience blurbs just to tout greatness. Focus on your strengths relative to the current procurement. Put the customer’s needs first and respond only to those needs in a way that matters to the customer.
When you’re tempted to stray from what the Government wants, think like a Kindergartener – always Follow Directions.
The Government routinely conducts Market Research (MR) on their industrial base; it’s good business for the Government to understand its suppliers and their capabilities for current and future needs. However, did you know that MR is required by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) prior to conducting a procurement? Government MR approaches range from passive (no industry involvement) to active (high industry involvement). Passive methods include government personnel conducting keyword searches on the internet or seeking potential vendors using the System for Award Management. Active methods involve sending surveys to their known vendor base, making pre-solicitation announcements via FedBizOps, holding Industry Days, or directly contacting and visiting potential vendors. Continue reading “Sources Sought Notices: Don’t Just Answer the Mail…treat them like a proposal, or you just might close the door on a business opportunity.” »
When preparing for an RFP, why should you be concerned about the makeup of the Source Selection (SS) Team? Simply because two key SS team members, the Source Selection Authority (SSA) and the Technical Lead (TL) will, in most cases, represent your customers or the primary user of your solution. Especially in large scale procurements.
Starting 01 July 2018 there are two important changes to your SAM.GOV registration – you need to:
Create a Login.gov account and use that for accessing your SAM record (see the yellow banner at the top of SAM.GOV)
Submit a notarized letter to SAM.GOV designating an “authorized Entity Administrator” who can make changes to your account (see the red ‘Alert’ text just below the blue menu banner on SAM.GOV)
According to SAM.GOV, until you set up your Login.gov account, your current SAM.GOV credentials will not work.
Upon your next registration anniversary, your renewal may be held up until you submit your notarized letter; any new registrants must submit the letter to open a SAM.GOV account.
You can read all about these changes on SAM.GOV; however, note that these two issues are dealt with separately on the website. It’s wise to get ahead of this and prevent an avoidable renewal delay – which could impact future contract awards.
Please note there are many companies offering to handle this on your behalf … for a FEE. There is no need to pay anyone to do this – the process is relatively simple and FREE.
Not just your win/loss record, but how well does your process support proposal creation and production? Proposal best practices and lessons learned are important enterprise assets that you should be capturing – and leveraging. After all, proposals offer hard and sometimes expensive lessons – and you should benefit from them every time.
Reviewing your internal proposal performance is one step to increasing your win probability. Ask yourself: how well did you handle team mobilization, task assignment, color team output, completion, and submission, etc.?
These are among the key focus areas for what did, and did not, go well.
Last May I wrote about the importance of understanding your customer’s organization in a potential service relationship, i.e., how will your customer interface with your organization as you perform work? It’s not only important to get this right to be an effective contractor, it’s essential to winning the work initially. Continue reading “Be a Student of Your Customer” »
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has an ongoing requirement for software development and integration professional IT services.
Software Development and Integration – Next Generation 2 (SDI-NG2) is the USPTO’s $1.7B follow-on contract for software development and integration services for Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) products with customized software applications, database applications, and other solutions. Continue reading “SDI-NG2 Draft RFP Coming Soon” »