Key Steps in the Federal Bidding Process

Checkmark and x - yes or no to a federal bid

Use a Go/No Go checklist to evaluate potential federal bids

During last week’s conversation with Judy Bradt about backcasting as a research strategy for federal contractors, she also had some excellent suggestions about bidding. I asked her to return with another guest post to answer the question:

What are the most important steps to take before you make a bid on a federal contract?

(1) Know everything you can about your buyer. If the first time you’re hearing about a requirement is on FedBizOps.gov or another bid notification service, and you don’t know the buyer, budget, incumbent or history, your odds of winning are in the single digits. In this case the question is not, “How can I win?” but “Why didn’t I hear about this before and how can I hear about it sooner next time?”

While your chances are slim, there are some valid reasons for making a cold bid without knowing anyone or anything about the project. For example, maybe you’re trying to get into an agency but you haven’t had any luck. Putting in a cold bid will at least get you the opportunity to sit down for a debrief and discuss why you lost and what you can do better next time, and collect whatever competitive intelligence you can get about the winning company.

(2) Focus on opportunities that match your own capabilities. Your performance history will force you to focus because if your past performance is not strong in the area where you’re bidding, your time and effort will be wasted.

(3) Assess your odds of winning, based on what you already know about the buyer, the project and the budget.

(4) Go through your Go/No Go checklist. Most successful businesses have something like this, for the simple reason that bids cost money. If you don’t know how much it will cost you to bid, figure out that first. If you haven’t done a federal bid, ask around to get an estimate. Then look for signs that you have a good chance of winning, so you know the bid will be worth the cost. 

The checklist will be unique to each company, and may includes items such as:

  • How well do you know the buyers?
  • How closely does your past performance match this new opportunity?
  • Which projects have you done that are like this one?
  • What is the size of the contract?
  • Do you have the resources, e.g., bonding, staffing, cleared staff, to take on this project right now?
  • What do you already know about the project?
  • How does your past performance position you to win?

(5) If you’re not familiar with the federal contracting process, get professional help with your proposal.

(6) Win or lose, get that debrief! This is your chance to start or continue building relationships with the agency and position yourself better for the next bid that comes along.

Great advice, Judy – thanks for stopping by!

Judy Bradt is the CEO of Summit Insight LLC and author of Government Contracts Made Easier. For 25 years, Judy has worked with her clients on business strategies to win government contracts. Judy blogs at http://www.summitinsight.com/blog.


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