First thing is to get a handle on people’s vacations schedules – not only your employees, but your teaming partners’ staff and anyone else who will work on the proposal. At your kick-off meeting make sure to ask specifics about who will be out; what timeframes they will be gone; what, if any, availability they have; and who is covering for them in their absence. Include this information on your master proposal schedule so you’ll have it at a glance. Remember, there are a fixed number of hours in a day and a fixed number of days to prepare your response. People can only provide so much support, especially if they’re working on client projects. The last thing you want to happen is for quality to suffer and have unhappy clients, particularly if you need them as references. If you don’t have adequate support and you definitely have a shot at winning the contract, then consider engaging outside resources to fill the gaps. But remember, consultants are not magicians; we need the same 30 days to pull together an outstanding response just like you. It’s unrealistic to expect that someone who is unfamiliar with your organization to come in with less than two weeks until submission and get a top notch proposal done. It may be good; it may be compliant; but it may not be as good as it could have been. And be prepared – it’s more expensive for a rush job than for one that starts when the solicitation is released. If you want to be in the best position to respond and win, then start working on the proposal BEFORE the RFP comes out. That way you’ll have more done in case you have to respond to multiple RFPs or hire outside resources.
The other things you should consider are: 1) is it a recomplete of a contract on which you’re the incumbent; 2) have you pre-marketed; 3) do you have the teaming partners you need; and 4) can you win? We’ve talked about this all year long, but it’s especially important this time of year.
- A recompete of one of your own contracts is almost a definite bid, unless you can’t bid for whatever reason. If you do bid, then make sure that you’re working as diligently as the competitor company who wants your contract. Don’t slack off just because you’re the incumbent and “the client loves you.” You still have to win, just like everyone else.
- Even if you’ve marketed the opportunity, be sure to read the solicitation carefully to ensure nothing changed in the requirements. One item that trips up companies is the solicitation type, i.e., it’s a SDVOSB set-aside and you’re not one, or six past projects are required by the prime and you only have three. Don’t waste your time by going after something that you don’t qualify for.
- Be proactive and get your subcontractors on-board before the RFP is released. If you need to augment your team, then fine, but don’t use two weeks out of your four available trying to assemble a team instead of writing your proposal.
- Can you win? This one is tough for some companies. It’s hard to be objective, but really look at the evaluation criteria, the instructions, your workload, the amount of time until the submission date and ask yourself – with everything else we have going on, can we really put together a solid, winning proposal? It’s better to pass than to submit something that doesn’t truly reflect your company and its capabilities. A bad proposal is not what you want your company remembered for, right?
Have a successful busy season. Remember quality is what wins contacts, not quantity. So choose what you pursue wisely.