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Melding Minds: When Contractors Partner with Agencies to Finalize Draft RFPs

Trust between a new contracting firm and an agency can begin early if both are willing to implement a simple government request for proposal (RFP) best practice: Specifically, a relationship can start while collaborating on RFP verbiage finalization from the moment an agency releases a draft.

All draft RFPs are open for contractor feedback, usually within a 1-month window once an agency submits its work for review. But contractors rarely take the government up on its offer. Why is this? Usually, because industry doesn’t want to overstep its perceived boundaries.  

In reality, collaboration on an RFP can bring a contractor that much closer to an award—even before the proposal phase  starts. The reasoning is simple. You become a known entity that is proactive, initiative driven, and can move an RFP into language that’s compatible with what you offer. 3

What follows are trends taking hold in government/contractor pre-proposal relationships:

 

Strong contractor proposal management starts at the draft RFP stage 

While you, as a contractor-side proposal manager, are responsible for delivering clear, compelling proposals in a timely manner, you can also influence RFP documents from the outset. 

By doing this, you can be sure requests call for broader win themes, sufficiently outline required technology expertise, specify required product or service  solutions, or mandate similar past-performance scenarios.

If you’re a strong manager, you know the power of a good story, and this now involves testing and adjusting core messages, not only in a proposal response, but also in the RFP that generates that response. It’s a good idea to share drafts of both with internal review teams, so the proposal and its request are tailored to your company as advantageously as possible. 2

 

Events and tools that increase pre-award contractor collaboration

At a Federal level, agencies are taking steps toward early and frequent collaboration and communication with industry. Along with vendor collaboration forums and industry days, progressive agencies are now holding pre-RFP conferences to gain your feedback on a body of new RFPs  either in early production or about to be released. 

In these intimate settings, you and your peers can shape the framework for RFPs currently in process and determine a new vision for what the contracting process may look like tomorrow.

To make it easy for you to find engagement opportunities, the Chief Acquisition Officers’ Council partnered with an Integrated Acquisition Environment team to add a new, searchable capability on FBO.gov and FedBizOpps.gov called “vendor collaboration.” This tool provides quick, easy access to collaborative events in the works and pre-preparation toolkits. 1

 

GSA is looking to build new bridges with vendors 

Another government RFP best practice? The GSA Federal Acquisition Service’s Interact program. Its goal is to build dialogue with vendor partners to not only deliver better acquisition products and services, but to give contractors the opportunity to shape GSA’s future offerings.

Interact is an open, public platform where GSA acquisition managers and the 

contracting community can connect and share thoughts on everything from draft RFP 

collaboration to:

  • Creating diverse, informative dialogue on better delivery of proposal products and services 
  • Discussion of webinars, videos, polls and wikis posted on the site by agencies, contractors, and individual subject-matter experts
  • Specialized vendor training offered by the GSA
  • Aggregated cross-agency news feeds, articles, and blogs. 1

 

Sustainability partnerships green the supply chain

As a facet of the  GreenGov Sustainable Supply Chain Partnership program, contractors can reshape agency RFP drafts to not only make the Federal supply chain more sustainable through contracts, but also bring their own green approaches into contract proposals themselves.

Membership in the program is segmented into groups that map to your contracting category: 

  • Information technology
  • Professional services
  • Aerospace manufacturing 
  • Food services
  • Construction  

One  way to make a draft RFP more sustainability-conscious: Ensure that supply-chain greenhouse gas emission inventory is a part of every contractor’s proposal submitted for contract. Federal agencies must now complete yearly inventories of operational emissions for their own recourse; inclusion of vendor emissions are part of future requirements. So why not include them now? 

Environmental impacts involve water, energy, and certain chemicals, which include identifying and reducing your firm’s emissions. This act goes beyond preserving the environment—it creates cost savings and increases your competitiveness as a contractor in international markets.    

Additionally, there may soon be a sustainable supply chain community on Data.gov. This online destination will become the primary way you engage with agencies to help shape RFPs and resultant proposals, ensuring all contain green perspectives. Such a community may also contain a resource section to share government and industry-developed sustainability training. 1

 

Scorecard RFPs empower contractors to rank themselves 

The GSA plans to use a “Scorecard RFP” approach for the annual Polaris procurement. 

What does this mean? At the RFP stage, you’ll complete a self-scoring mechanism whereby you rank yourself on several factors (supporting documentation may be required). 

After verification, the GSA will rank you and all other potential bidders based on your self-scores. This process omits the need for a written technical proposal; rather, you’re able to craft the needs of the final RFP and your resultant proposal based on your past performance documents. Strong contract management processes can help you maximize your self-score and ensure compliance with the final RFP’s requirements and those of any submitted proposals. 3

Maintain close collaboration during contract filing with ProPricer

At the proposal filing stage, the synergies between ProPricer Contractor Edition and ProPricer Government Edition let you continue with the synergies you established while co-creating a contract’s final RFP. 

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of using the government’s preferred format for proposal submissions. Doing so proves your firm is professional, experienced, and well-versed in the world of federal contracting—helping you secure more contracts and solidify ongoing relationships. 

Effectively partner with your agency from preliminary RFP to contract award. ProPricer is the scalable proposal software that grows with you—and it can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Request a free, 30-day trial of ProPricer Contractor Edition here

Sources

1.  GSA Website: Collaboration Outside of Government

2. Boscobell Website: How to Win Government Contracts with Internal Collaboration 

3. BakerTilly Article: Find Your Path to Polaris - Important Takeaways from the Draft to GSA’s Latest GWAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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