After realizing the valuable revenue the state, local and education (SLED) market could add to your company’s bottom-line, the last thing you’ll want to happen is your contract proposal gets declined due to a missed requirement.
Government contract proposals are dense and can require a lot of due diligence to submit properly. With the amount of time and resources dedicated to each response, you’ll want to make sure to keep in mind the following 3 keys:
1) Every component matters in a government contract bid response
Once you have identified a government contract opportunity that is a good fit for your business you’ll need ample time before the deadline to prepare your proposal. Your first step will be to dissect the bid or RFP (Request for Proposal) and you’ll need to do this diligently: The last thing you want is to be disqualified for missing required response components.
Consider everything you know about what the SLED agency issuing the opportunity wants, what the competition will likely offer and what about your product or service is unique. Use the results of these findings to map out your competitive strategy and how you’ll write your proposal.
Many vendors, even the most experienced ones, often find that bid or RFP requirements are unclear. If you are uncertain about requirements you may be able to submit written questions to the contracting officer. Be aware that responses to these questions will be distributed to all your contract competitors — which means you’ll want to word your inquiries carefully, lest you reveal part of your strategy.
Wherever possible, use tables, charts and other graphical elements to summarize information and help the evaluators understand your proposal or bid.
Be sure to complete all required forms and gather the related documentation (such as product brochures and company balance sheets) that may be explicitly required in your proposal submission.
2) Past performance is important, and private sector experience counts
Contractors who are interested in working with the government often don't know where to start. Many contractors worry that their lack of experience with government contracts could keep them from ever being awarded public sector work. While it is true that performance on past government projects is often considered an asset, an RFP response from a company with no prior government experience won't necessarily be disqualified, as long as the company can demonstrate relevant experience in the private sector.
Most solicitations will clearly state how many past-performance evaluations should be included in the bid response, typically requesting details on the five to ten most recent contracts related to the project at hand. If your company has less experience than that, then you may want to wait until you have a few more private sector contracts under your belt before pursuing SLED government contracts.
Also, keep in mind that government bids and RFPs often contain different terminology than commercial contracts. Using the similar terminology that is used in the RFP and the past-performance survey will make it easier for your proposal response to be compared with those of your competitors.
3) Learn from past awards to get a leg up
One thing that makes the government contract market unique is its transparency. Most awarded contracts of decent size are available to the public and this offers businesses who are new to the market an opportunity to learn from the winning vendors.
When preparing to respond to your first bid or RFP, seek out recent award announcements of contracts with similar size and scope.
Once you’ve identified recently awarded contracts, work diligently to uncover the reasons why these vendors were selected and model your proposal accordingly.
Now that these 3 keys are top of mind, you’re ready to prepare your first SLED government contract proposal and start earning a piece of $1.5 trillion in annual procurement spending.