Proposal development expert Beth Wingate, APMP Fellow, offers tips for reviewing Federal Government RFPs (solicitations).
Reviewing a Federal Government solicitation combines both a strict process and creativity.
When I’m lucky enough to receive a draft RFP, I follow a standard process—reading the solicitation, evaluating the requirements, creating my outline and requirements/compliance matrix, creating checklists, and then preparing briefing charts for my bid/no bid review. Even if the RFP doesn’t follow the Uniform Contract Code (organized by Sections A–M), I still go through the following process.
- Review the RFP by starting with Section L (Instructions), then M (Evaluation Criteria), then C (Statement of Work (SOW)), H (Special Contract Requirements), I (Contract Clauses), J (Attachments – sometimes where they hide the SOW), and then the rest of the RFP.
- Look for inconsistencies or places where the government has been unclear.
- Look for requirements that appear in the wrong RFP sections—even if they’re in the wrong section, I still need to respond to them. Over the past 24 years, I’ve found many requirements in the wrong sections, and if I hadn’t read the entire RFP soup to nuts” I would have missed because they showed up in Shipping or some other strange place.
- Have your contracting shop look at all of the clauses incorporated by reference—there can be some surprises hidden in them to which you may need to respond.
- Create a running list of ALL questions that your team, including subcontractors, has identified regarding the RFP. Then, consider each question. If you ask it, can you live with the answer? If you ask it, will it give away something about your solution to your competitors? If you ask it, can you offer a suggestion to the government that will help your position?
- Review the final RFP (L, M, C, H, I, J, then all the other sections), looking for inconsistencies or places where the government has been unclear. Apply all my other suggestions for reviewing a draft RFP to your final RFP review.
- Check to see if a competitor has gotten language inserted that shows the procurement is wired to them, e.g., 20 years ago an RFP had all of my folks named as key staff! The government corrected this mistake with an amendment, but good luck bidding against me!
Once you finish reviewing the solicitation and carefully evaluating the requirements, you’re ready to create your outline and requirements/compliance matrix, drive your proposed solution into your storyboards or annotated outlines, create your checklists, and then prepare your bid/no-bid briefing charts.
Bonus Tip: Start compiling your list of questions to the government in parallel with your initial solicitation review. All questions should be reviewed by a senior management team for wording, content, and potential ramifications to your response. Submit all your questions through your contracts shop so you have a single point of contact.