Just like any company, government organizations have needs that they find hard to fulfill on their own. Hence, they send out RFPs in the open market and make public announcements seeking any prospective bidders. Usually, government RFPs have fixed budgets, and hence, projects awarded are fixed-price contracts. Unlike commercial RFPs, government RFPs are usually hard to read and have complex jargon and legal terminology layered in nearly every single section.
In this article, we give you three tips (and a bonus tip) to help you respond well to a federal RFP and be compliant.
Tip 1: Know what is in each section
- Section A contains the most basic information such as contact information, important addresses, solicitation number, guidelines and deadlines for submission, specific submission instructions, and even information on current incumbents.
- Section B requires you to enter information on billing. You will need to enter in detail line by line on various billable expenses such as travel, labor, supplies, etc
- Section C gives you the Statement of Work (SOW). The SOW forms the essence of what services are required and how they are expected to be delivered. It is crucial that this chapter must be thoroughly studied and analyzed by the delivery teams.
- Section L gives you details on formatting, organizing and laying out of content. It may also contain additional submission requirements- such as a maximum page count, margin, spacing, font, etc.
- Section M gives you details on how you will be scored and what are the scoring criteria. Focusing on this will help you evolve a strategy that will enable you to have a high likelihood of winning the deal. Reading section M and C together will enhance your ability to create a sound winning strategy and value proposition.
- Section K has information on representations or certifications that you need to provide. This is especially important if the RFP requires only a specific type of a bidder, such as a US Firm, a minority bidder, a woman-led enterprise, etc.
Step 2: Ensure 100% compliance with a compliance matrix
Often, proposal writers and managers avoid creating compliance matrices because they may take much time to prepare. They feel that they would be more productive if they directly spend their time in responding to the RFP. However, industry studies have shown that creating a compliance matrix before writing an RFP response actually saves more time than they take to prepare.
Even if your font size does not match the compliance criteria mentioned in section L, your proposal will be instantly dismissed. It is crucial therefore that each compliance factor is captured well and adhered to by the proposal writers and contributors. We strongly recommend using a good capture management tool to auto-fetch the compliance factors, or to note down the compliance factors in a spreadsheet manually. Zbizlink provides a capture management tool that will fetch all relevant compliance factors for you so that you can focus on what is more important: strategy.
Tip 3: Read and Ask, Don’t Assume
Proposal writers who work on federal RFPs end up being either too complacent or too worked up while responding to a federal RFP. They either overthink of the RFP or too little. While you can use the above guidelines to find the information you need, depending only on the above guidelines may cause you to miss out on some important guidelines that may be hidden in other sections of the RFP. Hence, it is a good practice to glance through the entire RFP once to ensure that you have not missed anything before the kick-off call. During the kickoff call, allocate specific chapters to be re-read by a specific date by specific accountable proposal contributors. Since federal RFPs have long response times, ensure that the entire RFP is read thoroughly before responding.
Just like how proposals contain much boilerplate content, RFPs also contain much boilerplate content. Contradictions and confusions are commonplace. If you are not sure what the RFP’s intention is in-regard-to a specific matter, ensure that you ask about it. You can usually find guidelines for queries on the RFP and how they can be addressed in section L of the federal RFP. Ensure that the RFP is thoroughly read, and all queries are noted and sent to the customer by the date mentioned in section L.
Bonus Tip: Use a proposal management software.
Good proposal management software will help you organize and prepare the proposal better. Instead of wasting time on mundane tasks such as finding compliance factors, getting approvals and developing and maintaining proposal schedules, a good proposal management software will help you do the same, with a lot less effort. Consider using Zbizlink, a proposal management software built by proposal managers for proposal managers.
Zbizlink is entirely online, ensuring that all communication regarding a proposal is available in one place. It also helps you with scheduling, getting approvals, ensuring compliance, finding resumes and teaming with partners who have relevant resources, among other things. Save time. Don’t bid to respond. Bid to win, with Zbizlink.