Writing Winning Proposals – The Bid/No Bid Decision

By: Freida Curry, Director of the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) In last month’s Insider, I provided 6 steps for writing winning proposals.  The first step listed was ‘Make a Bid/No Bid’ decision.  In this issue, we are going to spend more time on this important step, and have invited Eileen Kent, President of Custom Keynotes, as our guest blogger.  Eileen, who has trained thousands of business owners nationwide in federal sales, proposal writing and GSA schedule contracting, is known in the industry as the “Federal Sales Sherpa” because she guides companies up the long and treacherous mountain path of federal contracting. 

The following are Eileen’s comments and suggestions about establishing a bid/no bid decision process: 

Eileen Kent

In my experience, one of the more rocky roads up the path to federal sales success is writing a blind proposal as a response to a bid posted on the public website FedBizOpps.gov. It’s as dangerous as walking up a mountain path with a blindfold on. You only have only a 5% chance of making it to the top three finalists.

If that is the case, then why do owners gamble their resources when there is such a low probability of making it to the top? Because owners believe their companies are perfect for the project – when, in fact, they often had no business bidding on it in the first place!

It is crucial that you take the time to evaluate and explore whether you should bid or not bid on an ‘opportunity,’ and I strongly advise owners and business development professionals to build a bid/no bid decision process that helps you decide which proposals to invest your time and talent.

Build a Bid/No Bid Decision Process

In my opinion and experience, you don’t stand a chance if you’ve never pre-sold to the customer inside the government. The goal is to “only write winners” (proposals) and that means you’ve already pre-sold the solution and you’re simply defending the win within theproposal.

A great way to judge your potential success is to ask yourself these questions below. If you don’t know any of the answers, you’re writing a blind bid and that means you only have a 5% chance or less of winning.

  1. Who is the incumbent?
  2. What does the customer think of the incumbent?
  3. Who are the other competitors calling on the client?
  4. Can the incumbent bid on this opportunity? What if they are a large business and the proposal states it is seeking small businesses? Could they bid with a small business teaming partner? If so, who is that small business? What does the customer think of them?
  5. Do I have the bonding capacity and the finances to be able to back such a project?
  6. Do I have the ability to provide the government agency the transparency it requires in terms of my costs, my team’s pay and my finance system? Would I withstand a Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audit?
  7. Have I performed work at this agency before? How did I perform?
  8. What are the past performance requirements? Did I do something in similar size and scope – at that agency?
  9. What are the products the government agency is requesting? Do I have the name brand products it is requesting or the “equivalent?”
  10. Does the customer know me? Do I know the customer? Have we worked together? Did they ask me to watch out for this bid?
  11. Have I built teaming partners and lined them up prior to the bid hitting the streets?
  12. What is the contract vehicle? Do I have it? If it is an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, do I have the sales team to uncover and win each task?
  13. What are the billing processes and the invoicing procedures at this agency?
  14. If the government agency is asking for key staff, do I have THE people on my staff it  told me it wanted or am I just filling a position to fit their description?
  15. Is this opportunity in my specialty? Do they know me for this specialty?
  16. Do I have the security clearances for this project, or am I scrambling to get them now?
  17. Do I know the story behind the opportunity? Why is this on FedBizOpps? Why didn’t they use a current prime, a GSA schedule or another contracting vehicle to avoid all the “noise” of a public procurement?
  18. When did I hear about this bid?
  19. When is the bid due?
  20. Was I invited to bid, or did I just pull this off the public bidding website?
  21. Who do I know at the agency – the end user, the contracting officer, or the stakeholder, or all three or none?

My motto is “Write Less Proposals – WIN More.” If you put as much time and investment in knowing the answers to the above questions by developing strong relationships, great past performance and excellent teaming partnerships before the bid hits the streets – as you do writing the proposal – you should be in a good position to be among the top three finalists. And even if you lose, you’re in a great position to be the winner the next time around.

If you want to hear more from Eileen Kent, visit her website at http://www.customkeynotes.com.

For more information on proposal writing, certification, finding contract opportunities, and developing a government contracting strategy we invite you to schedule a free appointment today with a WBDC Illinois PTAC counselor by calling 312-853-3477 x 100.

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