Have you noticed in recent DOD procurements that their standard definition of a “Strength” has changed, however slightly? I first noticed it when an active major RFP amended its Section M definition as part of an amendment. The change summary said that the government was adding the words “has merit or” to the definition. In context:
Strength is an aspect of an Offeror’s proposal that has merit or exceeds specified performance or capability requirements in a way that will be advantageous to the Government during contract performance.
Our client was thrilled! The client is an industry leader in a highly regulated industry, and the government’s requirements read like a best practices list for the industry. It had been difficult figuring out how our solution exceeded the requirements in a way that would be advantageous to the government in contract performance.
As we began to consider what this meant to our solution, some started offering their favorite features of the solution. After all, these features “had merit.” But even if features have merit, the acid test still is, do they have merit “in a way that would be advantageous to the government during contract performance”? The fundamentals of Strength-based solutioning still apply. Even with the new definition, a Strength is still something that makes it better for the government. It might make it easier for the contractor, too, but the government is first concerned about its needs.
As we explored the landscape, we discussed why we had some of these “meritorious” features. Some were innovations that made it easier for the client to perform, but were not affecting outcomes in a way that would be noticeable to the government. If the government doesn’t really care about the process, just the outcome, then it is hard to make a process a Strength based on merit.
As we explored further, I asked the client, an incumbent, what special problems had they solved for the customer in the past several years that a new entrant would struggle with? This led to several innovations that helped them address some unique government circumstances that those who only serve commercial clients would never think about. Come to think about it, they realized, even some of the other incumbents had not overcome these challenges with a reliable, repeatable solution. BINGO! We had some “meritorious” Strength ideas. Armed with an approach, we were able to find at least one additional candidate Strength in each major section of the technical proposal.
The expanded definition of a Strength does not change our fundamental approach to Strength-based solutioning. Rather, it allows us to more fully explore the range of ways that we can articulate features that do not obviously make our solution “better-faster-cheaper” than the competition. I believe that when you can exceed a requirement in a way that is advantageous to the government during contract execution and can supply a hard metric to back up your claim, your Strengths will always be more apparent. So use the “merit” approach to start thinking more broadly about your solution, and then figure out the language to articulate that value.
By Dwayne Baptist, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group
Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
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