1. Be sure you are properly registered and have the necessary background work completed in order to put in for a proposal. The federal government will check your SAM registration and other information to ensure you are considered “responsible” (google it).
2. Read the RFP thoroughly. I cannot stress this enough. Many proposals are poorly prepared simply because contractors did not read the RFP. If you want to separate yourself from the pack, read every word of the solicitation. This helps you fully grasp the requirements and understand exactly what is expected for the successful performance of the contract. Nothing else matter if you don’t accomplish this one step.
3. Hire someone to write your response to the RFP. If you can’t hire someone to write your proposal, then hire someone to professionally edit your proposal. Grammar, sentence fluidity, the proper flow of ideas, not too wordy, and conciseness, are super important. A well written proposal opens doors your unedited poorly written proposal may close. If you aren’t a good writer or a good editor, then please consider getting help. It could easily be the best investment your firm can make.
4. Respond to exactly what the proposal says, not what you think it might be saying. If it ask you for 3 pages in 12 pt Arial font, then provide 3 pages in 12 pt Arial font. If it asks you for an example of where your firm has performed on projects under $1M, then don’t provide an example of where your firm has performed on projects that are $50M, because you think that puts your firm in a better light. You can hurt your firm’s chances by submitting information that is not relevant and doesn’t comply with what was asked of you. You want to be sure your proposal is “responsive” (google it).
5. Ask questions. Every RFP or RFQ will provide you with contact information of who to inquire with questions. Submit questions and inquire as much as you need to in an effort to understand the request. If you aren’t sure about something, it is critical that you take the initiative to ask the question. You can’t afford to be shy. The chances are, there are other potential firms that have that same question. It also provides important information to the government about what may have been a mistake, or something that could have been done wrong. Perhaps your question will clear up a misunderstanding or lead to a very important amendment to the solicitation. You are not penalized by asking questions, so go for it.
6. Don’t be late. This one goes without saying. When you turn in a bid, or offer late, you have just taken the fate of that proposal out of your hands and put it in the hands of the contracting officer. That is a problem that you want to avoid at all costs. Be early or on time!
7. Have references on standby. Be sure you are able to refer to several past projects, or past work, where you can point to good past performance and where someone involved with that previous experience will speak highly about you and your firm. There is nothing more important than having good references who are ready to speak highly of you and the fantastic work that your firm has done. If you are a small business building a reputation, this matters quite a bit. This is why it’s crucial to do excellent work, shake hands and network, and maintain a great reputation in your industry.
8. Get a Debrief. Debriefs are for the winners and the “learners”. So, whether you win the award, or contract, or don’t win it, you should still request a debrief. Be sure to request your debrief timely, formulate questions ahead of time, understand what can and cannot be shared with your firm during the debrief, stay positive, learn from the information, and be kind and cordial during the debrief. Remember, you and your firm are “on stage” during a debrief. Whether that debrief is in person, over the phone, or in writing, be sure to leave it on a positive note. Debriefs are a fantastic way to gather vital information about what you can do better next time, so take advantage of it.