Many of the small businesses writing proposals to the Government, often tell us that responding to the requirements of Federal Government solicitations (RFPs) seems daunting. While there are many rules and regulations you need to adhere to, the job of responding isn’t difficult if you break the job down into bite size pieces and work diligently to respond to what is asked in the solicitation.
When researching why their proposals did not win, clients often hear that they were not responsive to the requirements as set out in the solicitation. Sometimes, we notice that respondents say the specifications were unclear or the Government doesn’t understand what they are asking for. While, both may sometimes be true, most often what the Government is asking for is relatively simple and straightforward, but people interpret their own desires into what the Government is asking. This causes them to guess on how to respond.
While you may not be the best technically, you may simply win by making it easy for the Contracting Officer to find the information they are looking for. What may oftentimes carry the day, is a responsive and easy-to-read proposal that makes the Contracting Officer’s job easier. You want this person to find your proposal easy to follow and a product that gives all the answers where they expect to find them. If you’ve made the Contracting Officer’s job easier, you’ve gone a long way towards letting them know that you’ll be easy to work with once the contract is awarded to you.
How to Respond to Make the Job of a Contracting Officer Easier
Perform Careful Bid/No Bid Evaluations.
When you decide to bid on a Government contract, the results of your decision last many years to come. That is why it’s vital to come to the right decision that will move your company forward. Many companies think that a decision to not bid means they will be giving up an opportunity to increase revenues (and hopefully profits), gain significant experience, and enhance their reputation. However, oftentimes submitting a proposal necessitates a significant and expensive commitment. You must ask yourself, is this the right opportunity for you and our company?
When you consider your bid/no bid position, it would not be unheard of for you to consider this question many times during the proposal process. Oftentimes what looks like a great opportunity at the beginning turns into a nightmare to perform as the information you obtain unfolds or changes during the process. Let the bid/no bid evaluation, tell you whether to move forward or not.
Read the Solicitation
When we say you need to read the solicitation, what we mean is that you need to tear apart, dissect, and parse all the solicitation requirements into the meaningful components of what you need to respond to. Reading the solicitation really involves grasping what is being asked, recording the key essential elements of what is needed, and quantifying the fundamentals that need to be addressed. Many people who read a solicitation only focus on the main subject areas (past performance, resumes, technical approach, etc.) and begin writing immediately.
Critical to an adequate response, is to dive down into the minutiae and find out the details of what will really make your responses not only credible but will also highlight why your answers are distinctive – and why the Government should choose you. When you really read the solicitation for the subtleties, you will usually find the simplicity of what is being asked. Read and simply define what the Government is asking. Then answer only the questions asked.
Give Them All The Information They Need And Document Your Supporting Information
This applies to technical, management, performance or costing information. While you may be restricted to a certain page count, make those pages really count! Condense what you have to say to the most important concepts and give the evaluators pictures, graphs and charts to help them understand what you are conveying quickly and easily – even in the cost volume. Most respondents typically present textbook writing and don’t give illustrations that demonstrate what they really mean.
Information presented in tables is almost always much easier to evaluate than straight text. Often, we hear that costing information should be presented just in the detail required and nothing more. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless you are specifically requested not to send in supporting information, presume the reader/evaluator/pricing analyst wants to know what you meant by the numbers on the page. Give them documentation that will substantiate your numbers and make it easy for them to find that support. The proposal that documents the numbers will usually win the pricing analyst and Contracting Officer over. More importantly, give it to them in both written and electronic formats even if they don’t require both.
Give Them A Compliance Matrix
Some solicitations require you to submit a compliance matrix as part of your proposal. In most instances, you should include one even if it’s not required. A compliance matrix is a cross-reference table that tells the evaluators where they can find your responses to specific solicitation requirements. You restate the solicitation requirements in detail, give the Government a road map of where they can find your response, and let them know you have considered the instructions and the evaluation criteria. In addition to showing evaluators where to find items they are looking for, compliance matrices demonstrate you have paid careful attention to the solicitation and have taken the time to identify the requirements. They are also useful as internal checklists, which you can use to make sure that you have addressed everything that the solicitation asks.
Make It Neat, Technically Understandable, and Portray A Good Business Approach
It may sound like a logical suggestion. Too many times though, we see proposals that are not neat, are not technically understandable, and do not portray a good business approach. The compliance matrix we talked about earlier, theoretically ought to present an organized picture. In this point, making it neat means you simply make your written and cost presentation visually pleasing. It ought to include charts, graphs and pictures that are incorporated into the text; and the numbers you present must be easily read, interpreted and visually agreeable.
It seems that saying the proposal should be technically clear should go without saying, but too often the technical approach is only understandable by the people who wrote it. Get your review teams to see it with fresh eyes and let them tell you it is technically comprehensible. Presenting a good business approach is not simply presenting the numbers and expecting the reader/evaluator to uncover what you mean. It should not require an internal understanding of your organization and the inner workings of how you do business for the evaluator to know how you intend to run this business you are proposing. Give the reader explicit written narrative of how you intend to manage the project and give the client the best technical solution and customer service.
Preparing a good sound proposal, in every volume, requires that you use good common sense and give the evaluators the meaty, understandable, and easy to read solution that is uniquely yours. When you make the Contracting Officer’s job easier (or all the evaluators’ jobs easier) you have made points that maybe cannot be scored; however, make a significant impression. Be sure you make their job easier too with a sound and detailed approach to your solution – not just a textbook approach. Top it off with an easy-to-evaluate cost proposal with electronic means that guide them to your logic and you’ll likely have a winning proposal.
ProPricer Small Business Edition Can Help Simplify the Cost Volume Portion of Your Bid
This single-user version of ProPricer supplies the pricing power companies need to win more federal government business. The product provides contractors with a practical user interface and a powerful database where professional cost proposals are created as an alternative to complex, unstable spreadsheets.
With ProPricer Small Business Edition, you get:
- A flexible and fast software tool that uses a database design to host both direct and indirect costs.
- Easy-to-use data input screens.
- The ability to organize estimates and apply rates, escalations, and what-if analysis in minutes.
- A reporting engine that can handle unlimited data and generate accurate cost information for primes and agencies.
- DFAR and FAR compliant standard reports, including cost detail and time-phased reports and much more.
These are just a few examples of how ProPricer can help your company. To learn more or see it live, request a demo today.