When you face a bid-no-bid decision and look at the Request for Proposal (RFP), you need to watch out for signs from the Government that suggest, “I know what I want and who I want to buy it from, but my Contracting Officer is forcing me to get competitive bids.”
This is technically against procurement rules, but a government buyer may make it intentionally difficult to buy from anyone else other than the company they already know and trust. When you are evaluating an RFP, it is important to look for signs that the opportunity is already wired for someone, so you can spend your time and money elsewhere.
Here are seven signs of a “wired” RFP:
- Unreasonably restrictive deadlines:
- The time to write a proposal is too short given the amount of information the RFP is asking for
- Quick turnaround response times that are unusual for this customer
- The deadline for submitting questions is too soon
- Time to study the documents in the “document library” is too short
- A site visit or a walk through too short or scheduled too late in the game
- Only a token extension gets offered when requested, while the government has no real need for urgency.
- Unusual requirements having little to do with project success but seeming to favor a specific vendor (or the incumbent):
- Must have design-built 40 municipal buildings
- Must have been in business for over 10 years
- Extremely specific key personnel requirements:
- Must have completed an obscure certification course that no one has heard of
- Must have more than 10 years of experience in the non-corrosive metals manufacturing industry but this contract is for project management support
- Past performance validity timeframe is too narrowly defined:
- Include up to five references for relevant projects that have been completed in the past two years, or started no later than June 2010, and that are no less than $1 million in size
- A performance specification that can only be offered by a specific product:
- Vehicle must have sealed, 4×4 transmission with self-adjusting belt drive, but only one manufacturer makes a patented “self-adjusting belt drive”
- A manufacturer’s model number is provided in lieu of a specification.
- The contracting officer is unresponsive when you challenge the requirements as too restrictive or unreasonable and ask for extensions.
Even if the buyer seems somewhat open to a new vendor (especially if your prices are significantly better than the incumbent’s), you should opt to no-bid the opportunity if you see two or more of the above-mentioned characteristics. There’s simply no benefit to bidding on an RFP that you have no chance of winning.