In government contracting, we don’t always win the contracts we bid. When we lose, we look for lessons we can apply to win in the future.
We did everything right: We did a bunch of capture work, we visited with the customer, we talked to our industry partners, and we put together a team that included people with experience in the necessary organizations. Well, we just got the results back and we lost anyways. The truth is these things do happen. We work hard, but we’re not the only ones who are working hard.
There are other companies with presumably equal qualifications. Of course there are things they say make them unique, just as we do, but fundamentally, it is the people who sit on the technical evaluation panels who determine who is best suited for the job. At the end of the day, there will be a winner and there will be losers.
It would be nice if we were always the winner when we bid, but the fact is we’re not. So let’s look at the positive things we can do with this situation. The most important one is to request a debriefing, in which we ask the government for their review of our proposal.
According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), Subpart 15.5, the government is obligated to give you this review. This gives you the opportunity to determine where you could have done better, for example did you do as good a capture job as you thought, or did something get missed in the process? Did you talk to the right customer group or did you maybe miss somebody whose point of view you should have gotten? Was your pricing within reason?
Another thing you should be listening for at the debrief is whether you think the government made a mistake in evaluating your proposal. If that is the case, you may want to formally protest the decision. We’ll discuss this in a separate blog post.
Note that you must request the debriefing within three days of either being notified directly that your company was excluded from the award, or within three days of being notified that another company was awarded the contract. (See FAR Subpart 15.5 for more details.)
In any case, the fundamental issue is always to get some feedback because you want to apply the lessons learned to the next bid, and the next one, and the next. The technical evaluators you speak to in the debrief process are often insiders you didn’t get to talk to in your capture efforts. This is always a good thing because you’re expanding your network and showing you’re interested in feedback – not taking for granted what happened during the evaluation of your proposal.
The bottom line is that it’s never easy to lose, but when we do, we need to take a look at why we lost, what we can do differently, and how we can prevent ourselves from losing in the future. That positions us for future success.