Business Development Blog

The Scoop on Government Procurement Teaming, Affiliation, JVs, and More

The majority of teaming arrangements usually take place between large and small businesses, where either one could be the prime, depending on the procurement type. A full and open procurement where anyone can compete will usually have large businesses as the primes with small business subcontractors, whereas in small business set asides, you might see small–large arrangements, and even teams of multiple small businesses. Because the size rules are complex, small business size is the largest cause for protests. Teaming could be one of the contributors to the problem. Therefore, you must understand the rules that have to do with the small business type and size, and how the government views your size.

Multiple Award Contracts Trends

You have probably heard about the upcoming multiple award contracts (MACs) on the horizon: NASA’s Government-wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) SEWP V with the draft RFP already on the street, the somewhat controversial GSA’s OASIS, and even the Army’s ITES-3S ...

What to Prepare Prior to RFP Issuance

In order to raise your probability of winning a proposal, you have to prepare before an RFP hits the street. It is virtually impossible to develop a solution in the mere 30 days or less you get for most proposals, unless the subject is your core expertise or you are an incumbent. Even then, you may not develop as mature of a solution as you otherwise could. You should, therefore, develop proposal content ahead of time. Your advance preparation should include flowcharts, notes, graphics, and bullet points that describe every aspect of your solution, proposal section by proposal section. Ideally, this information will enable you to go straight to drafting your proposal, without much additional brainstorming, once the RFP is issued.

Don’t Let Errors Undermine Your Credibility

Having a few spelling errors or a rough-around-the-edges look certainly does not invalidate all the great content in a proposal. Or does it? After all, you should be graded based on the virtues of your approach and price. Most of the time, the evaluation criteria don’t mention grammar and spelling, and many Requests for Proposal specifically ask to avoid elaborate presentation.

Developing Information Dominance Over Your Competition

The U.S. government is all about transparency: it posts bids publicly. Yet, just because most opportunities are posted for the world to see, that doesn’t mean a level playing field. In order to increase your win_rate, during capture, you have to learn how to take advantage of other open sources of information, in addition to gathering intelligence directly from your customers (or instead of it, if you missed the window of opportunity to talk to the customer).

Know When to Talk to Government Customers

In the task of relationship building with the government, you need to know that the government actually wants industry to approach government customers. FAR part 15.201, “Exchanges with industry before receipt of proposals,” states: “Exchanges of information among all interested parties, from the earliest identification of a requirement through receipt of proposals, are encouraged.” The FAR then states that the purpose of exchanging information is to improve the understanding of government requirements and industry capabilities, thereby allowing potential offerors to judge whether or how they can satisfy the government’s requirements, and enhancing the government’s ability to obtain quality supplies and services at reasonable prices. The FAR goes on to express the government’s desire to further increase efficiency in proposal preparation, proposal evaluation, negotiation, and contract award. The same law encourages one-on-one meetings with potential offerors. You will find that despite this law, the govies are often worried about breaking the procurement integrity rules—so you will have to learn when to talk to them, and when not to. Generally speaking, you can talk to the government freely before they have developed an acquisition strategy (or the way they are going to run the competition) for a specific pursuit, and then the communications become increasingly limited and formal. Therefore, you want to start as early as possible before their doors shut.

Relationship between Strategy and Themes

All successful capture pursuits have to have a sound strategy, just like sports competitions or military campaigns. Win strategies help you run a pursuit in a way that separates you from the pack of your competitors. Essentially, you have to be able to articulate what will enable you to win. Your win strategy has to be written in a succinct set of statements, reviewed regularly to make sure it is still accurate, and adjusted as necessary.

Pros and Cons of Using Boilerplate in Proposals

Old recycled proposals or boilerplate in the form of well-prepared model sections from your proposal library seem like the right answer to speed up your proposal development process and save you precious B&P dollars. It is great to have a proposal library, and starting from scratch every time you craft a proposal response flies in the face of all arguments for efficiency. Used incorrectly, however, boilerplate and recycled text are dangerous.

Secrets of Persuasive Proposal Writing

Evaluating boring proposals is akin to biting into a cardboard cake. As a poor evaluator sinks their teeth into the unappetizing content, the effect is predictable and rather expected. Highly readable text is paramount to getting a great score for your proposal. To be persuasive and appealing to the evaluator’s senses, your proposal text has to have compelling content and correct structure. It should use metaphors and stories to make it more engaging and vivid, and less flat and one-dimensional. It should also use appropriate language and be so simply written and accessible that even a high-school student could understand your offer.

Winning Proposals is a Team Sport

Winning proposals is a team effort. Even if you are a one-person shop, you have to find someone to check your work. It is easy to miss or misinterpret requirements because they are so numerous. Someone else also has to review and edit your writing because you are too close to it. Proposal reviews are a best practice, and you should have at least one, no matter how quick is the turn-around. When you respond to large proposals, you will need to involve numerous parties to shape your proposal into a winner. Your and your teammates’ Subject Matter Experts have to participate and lend their technical know-how and ingenuity to find innovative solutions to customer’s problems.

The Scoop on GSA Schedules

GSA schedules, also referred to as the Federal Supply Schedules (FSS) or Multiple Award Schedules (MAS), are lists of prequalified suppliers in their respective areas of discipline, who will have submitted their price lists and other qualifying information to the government in the form of a GSA proposal. GSA vets companies to provide to the rest of the government a wholesale supply source for millions of products, services, and solutions. According to BGov analysts, as of 2011, roughly 7 percent of all government contracting is done through GSA schedules. GSA includes a Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and the Public Buildings Service (PBS). Basically, any company in good standing, registered as a government contractor, can apply to obtain a GSA schedule. You need to know as a business developer that it is not always advisable to get a GSA schedule, nor is it required to sell to the government, contrary to what many unscrupulous businesses around government contracting might tell you.

How to grow your business development capability

When you are a small business or a brand new department in a larger company, you might start as one person who is responsible for winning government contracts. This is not a problem—you can join the ranks of many who have started at one point or another and are still the only one writing proposals, even as their company has grown to a nice size and they have the capital to afford professionals. We once met the CEO of a 1,200-person business who still was the company’s best proposal writer—he had a 99 percent win rate. (He’d lock himself in a hotel room for a week at a time with a few six packs.) It was possible because the company was focused on a single set of offerings and wrote for the same set of customers. Many companies reach a point at which they have to start maturing and growing their business development, capture, and proposal capability. It usually happens when they have a constant volume of bids and they are looking for a more efficient way to develop proposals and win consistently. They want to scale up, grow aggressively, and create a true business development engine.

How Good Teaming Partners Are Like Parking Spaces

Good teaming partners are like parking spaces in an office building’s parking lot. The closest ones to the building get taken by those diligent souls who arrive to work before 7 am and have half their day’s work done before their colleagues roll in at 9 am. If you are one of those people who come in after 9 am but before the lunch break has started or morning meetings have ended, you might have to circle around the lot to find the spot that’s furthest away from the door, the one that no one wanted. The key to success is to start the teammate identification process early, so that you don’t find yourself teaming in the 11th hour with companies that will bring you no closer to winning than bidding by yourself.

Rules of Interfacing with Government Personnel that You Don’t Want to Break at Any Cost

Marketing to the government is very different than marketing to commercial customers. With most commercial customers, you can wine, dine, and entertain them. Not so with the government. If you do, there are two outcomes: government personnel will either start avoiding you outright because they will know that you don’t know how to work with the government, or they might be corrupt and accept your gifts—and when that gets out in the open, you will lose your job, and your company will lose government business in a big scandal. It’s simply not worth it.

Why worry about what your competitors do?

Competitive analysis is your measuring stick against the rest of the world. To use a boxing analogy: your form may look impressive when you are boxing a punching bag, but it cannot hit you back. There are also no surprises and no unknowns. Ultimately, to see what you are made of, you have to be pitted against an opponent. Your capabilities, in and of themselves, may be impressive, but would they stand up to your leaner and meaner opponents? Let’s look at the reasons why you should mind your competitors and predict their possible actions; what you need to know about your competition; how to find this information; and how to put all the pieces of the competitive analysis puzzle together to exploit your competitors’ shortfalls to you advantage and outdo them through strategic actions.

Tips and Tools for Improving Proposal Readability

Graphics, focus boxes, paragraph order, structure, text layout, and flawless spelling and grammar are all the necessary attributes of a great proposal. After spending years in proposal management, however, I have noticed that one important attribute, readability, is often overlooked. Since editors frequently refrain from making in-depth content edits, it is the technical writers’ task to make their sections more readable before their sections go to editors. The problem is that many people tasked with technical writing do not know what readability means or how to make tangible changes to make their sections more readable. This article offers a tutorial on improving readability that proposal writers could start using immediately.