How Past Contract Performance Evaluations Affect Your Current Success

    Think your current proposal is all that matters in winning a bid? Think again. Although you may make an excellent case in your proposal, your past contract performance evaluations may tell a different story. If an agency sees that your historical performance has been inconsistent, they may opt to go with a safer choice—especially if your performance during current federal, state, local, and private contracts isn’t up to their standards. (1)

    To put it another way, agencies aren’t just asking, “What have you done for me lately?” They want to know what you’ve done in the past, how consistently you’ve done it, and how likely you are to do it again on their job.

    Here’s what agencies look for as they conduct contract performance evaluations:

    What agencies really want.

    As government agencies research your firm, they’ll focus on gathering past performance information (PPI) and references from three sources:


    1. An official government database. Agencies have long kept centralized records of their experiences with firms. Until 2019, agencies used the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS). Today, they use the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS). CPARS contains performance evaluations of contractors and incorporates comments from both agencies and contractors to provide a balanced view of project results.
    2. Your firm. Some agencies will ask you questions directly about your firm’s past contract performance evaluations. You’ll be able to provide perspective beyond what you may already have provided in CPARS.
    3. Your clients from previous projects. An agency may call or email stakeholders in agencies for which you’ve completed projects. Keep in mind that agencies may contact people even if you don’t list them as references in a current proposal. (2)

     When agencies contact your previous clients, they may ask about your firm’s:


    • Quality. Agencies will want to know if your firm met performance requirements and improved its performance when an agency asked you to.
    • Timeliness. They’ll investigate your firm’s history of meeting or exceeding deadlines and your track record of addressing challenges proactively to prevent delays.
    • Costs. Agencies will want to see proof you can think outside the box—or even invent a new box—to contain costs while still meeting contract requirements. They’ll be especially interested in how you changed course based on metrics.
    • Professionalism. Was your firm prompt in addressing issues raised by agencies? Did you limit change orders? In the end, did you do whatever it took to please the agency?      

    As you can see, agencies will consider much more than your price when they’re evaluating your proposal. In fact, if your PPI is positive enough to augment an already strong proposal, you won’t need to be the low bidder to win the contract. (2)

    Learn How Historical Data Can Prepare You for Your Next Performance Evaluation

    Five ways to strengthen your case in contract performance evaluations.

    Most contracting firms have had at least one or two past contracts that involved serious difficulties. It’s entirely possible that an agency researching your firm based on the criteria outlined above will run into what they consider to be red flags. What can you do to ease their concerns and win the contract? Here are five ways you can overcome any apparent weaknesses and convince the agency to choose your firm:


    1. Explain issues from prior contracts. While evaluating your firm, an agency may ask you to present your side of the story. This is your chance to describe the corrective actions you took on problematic contracts.
    2. Defend the skill sets of your key people and subs. Be ready to describe how your team members’ experience applies to the contract and why your subcontractors are qualified to perform major portions of the work. Keep in mind that exaggerating your team’s background or credentials will only hurt your firm in the long run. If you’ve done so to win previous contracts and the agency asks you about it, be honest and provide a rationale.
    3. Demonstrate your commitment to diversity. In June 2021, the U.S. Federal Government announced its goal of increasing the share of contracts going to small, disadvantaged businesses (SDB) by 50 percent by 2026. (3) Does your firm have a solid record of subcontracting to small and disadvantaged businesses? Mentioning this could greatly improve your chances in contract performance evaluations. If you haven’t worked with many subs that fall into these categories, make a point of awarding them contracts from now on as long as all other qualifications are equal.
    4. Demonstrate logical technical tradeoffs. It’s standard practice for agencies to make tradeoffs, awarding contracts based on the best overall value to the government rather than simply the highest technical rating or lowest price. (4) To maximize your chances of winning a contract, you’ll need to show your ability to accomplish technical requirements. You should also provide a matrix—along with supporting narrative—of your past technical proposals, an explanation of your costs, and proof that you’ve used small businesses as technical subs. (1)
    5. Use a proposal platform that makes it easy on the agency. Government agencies love doing business with contractors whose proposal platforms sync easily with their own contract systems. It’s a plus if your system can also bring up historical data with ease and deliver on change orders quickly. You can make things easier for your agencies by using ProPricer Contractor Edition. Meanwhile, many agencies use ProPricer Government Edition. These two solutions can sync quickly without human intervention. When both agency and contractor use ProPricer, they can save hours in the proposal process. There’s no confusion over proposal requirements, and both parties can send data back and forth easily.


    Nothing we’ve written here suggests that your current proposal should be an afterthought. In fact, how you format your proposal could make or break your chances of landing the contract. If the agency sees a proposal riddled with inconsistent formats and unintuitive data presentations, your chances will be slim. But if you use ProPricer—the preferred format for most agencies in the contract process—you could put your firm in an excellent competitive position.

    Government Contract Pricing Summit is back for the first time since 2019

    We’re picking up where we left off and returning live and in-person for our 7th Anniversary on June 14th, 2022. Centrally located, and steps away from Harbor Island, the majestic waterfront Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina is the place to be to recharge and grow with strategic breakout sessions and inclusive networking opportunities.

    It’s your time to reconnect with peers and leading representatives in the industry. All work and no play? We don’t think so either. After engaging sessions hosted by GovCon thought leaders, take advantage of the proximity to the USS Midway Museum and nearby attractions for an unforgettable post-pandemic send off into summer!


    1. Acquisition.gov: FAR Regulations - 15.305 Proposal evaluation
    2. Bid Protest Weekly Digest: What You Need to Know About Past Performance Before You Submit Your Bid
    3. AGC Website: President Calls for More Federal Contracts for Disadvantaged Small Businesses
    4. GSA: Leasing Desk Guide Chapter 13, Source Selection

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