The U.S. Government is the world’s largest buyer of products and services. The U.S. Government will spend over $500 billion this year on goods and services and state and local government spending is projected to hit $5 trillion. Are you finding these government opportunities? The government buys commercial and consumer items, professional services as well as highly specialized technologies and everything in between.
Government contracting is a great way to grow your business. Many companies begin by getting involved with smaller contracts and work their way into larger contract awards. To begin preparing your company today for long term growth in the expanding government marketplace you must understand the types of solicitations and contracts used by the government and learn how to respond appropriately with proposals to win contracts.
A powerful tool to become acquainted with is called Federal Business Opportunities (FBO), also referred to as FedBizOpps. The online database identifies contract government opportunities over $25,000. The website also has the ability to query past awarded contracts, which can help you with preparing for future proposals or bids. FBO contains thousands of opportunities/solicitations to respond to. There are four formats of government opportunities: Request for Quote (RFQ), Request for Proposal (RFP), Invitation for Bid (IFB), and Source Sought or Request for Information (RFI). Each type has its own purpose and required response.
Types of Government Opportunities
- An RFQ is used to obtain information and quotations on pricing. This solicitation type is used when the estimated value of the government’s need is less than $150,000.
- An RFP is used to communicate government requirements to prospective contractors and solicit proposals. The RFP will describe the government’s requirements, anticipated terms and conditions, information required and factors that will be used to evaluate the proposal.
- An IFB is often referred to as a sealed bid solicitation. Typically there will not be any discussions or negotiations following the IFB response. Price is the key consideration during this bid process.
- Sources Sought or Request for Information (RFI) is an advance notice to communicate potential bidders of the government’s interest in specific research and development projects. The market research obtained is utilized by contracting officers.
The key in responding to government opportunities is the responsiveness and the ability to abide by the instructions. If you are not sure about something in the solicitation then don’t be afraid to ask questions. Questions should be addressed to the contracting officer listed on the solicitation. Prepare your response appropriately with diligence and professionalism. Your main goal is to articulate what makes you the best solution provider. These elements are critical to successful proposal writing:
Do Your Homework
Writing a successful proposal is about doing your homework, preparing and responding clearly and appropriately, aligning your proposal with the government’s needs and articulating what makes you the best solution provider. If you are not prepared then you will simply be wasting your time. The reality is, if you do not comply with all requirements in the solicitation, your proposal will be deemed “non-responsive”.
Respond to Government Opportunities Appropriately
Responding appropriately is an important factor. To do this you must read and understand the government’s request. You should accurately respond as you are asked – answering all questions, providing all information and following all schedules in the order, time-frame and structure requested. Eliminate any guesswork by ensuring that each response is appropriately identified so the reviewer can recognize the section of the RFP which is being addressed. Also, this may sound like common sense, but pay close attention to the due dates and be sure your response is delivered on time.
Understand the Government’s Needs
A good proposal will articulate how you can solve the problem and respond the government’s needs. Your firm must articulate the plan to execute or deliver an appropriate solution. The response must have the ability to convince a government’s review panel that your proposal and solution is the best fit. Keep in mind the proposal may look great and read well, but if it is not clearly aligned with fulfilling the government’s needs, it will fall behind other proposals that may be more substantive or solution focused. The best advice to you is not to get caught up in telling a great story about your company or focusing on “we can do the work”.
What to Avoid…..
- Not fully understanding the solicitation and governing regulations
- Submitting an incomplete or late submission
- Not providing specificity or focus
- Highlighting too much fluff and not enough substance
- Not understanding best value considerations
- Unrealistic pricing
- Failure to address evaluation factors
- Errors in submission
In summary, the key is to ensure your proposal package clearly describes why your company offers the best solution and is the best fit to perform the work. It is about understanding government contract solicitation and responding appropriately.
If you are not chosen for award ALWAYS request a debriefing and look to build rapport with the contracting officers and end-users, this loss may be your future success. Remember contracting officers are people too and have the same inherent bias we all have. They must substantiate their awardees, but they can also limit who receives government opportunities based on competitive requirements, company capabilities, size standards, etc.
If you are interested in responding to a government solicitation and you don’t have the time or resources to do so, contact us. Our experts have more than 30 years’ experience of proposal development with State, Local and Federal agencies. No job is too big or too small. Coley takes pride in our proven track record of assisting our clients win over a billion dollars in government contracts. Whether you are new to the government market place or want to increase your existing government sales performance, Coley will help you plan and execute a strategic plan that leads to your long term success as a government contractor.
Vice President for Coley Government Contracting Services, Dan leads the day-to-day Consulting Practice. He has more than a decade of experience with the acquisition, management, and marketing of Federal, State, and Local government contracts. Daniel specializes in all aspects of GSA Schedules management and marketing and has helped hundreds of Coley clients remain compliant with the terms of their GSA contract while helping them expand their business.