Government Contract Proposals – Tips and Best Practices, Part 1

Government Contract Proposals, Part 1:  Be Prepared – Pre-proposal Tasks

APTAC staff article

If you are new to government contracting, lengthy, complex Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with tight deadlines can be overwhelming. This three part series of articles hopes to offer some basic principles and definitions particularly with regard to negotiated acquisitions which may help be helpful. Each article will address issues specific to a different stage of the Proposal process.

Negotiated Acquisitions are contracts awarded using other than sealed bidding procedures. Source selection is made based on “best value”, involving an evaluation of price and other non-price factors (“trade-offs”) with award going to the proposal judged to be the best overall value to agency. Award decisions are made by the Source Selection Authority (SSA), which in most cases is the Contracting Officer. Proposals are evaluated solely on the factors and sub-factors in the RFP. A competitive proposal must demonstrate a thorough understanding the RFP and present a clear, compelling narrative as to how your company can provide the best possible solution to the customer’s (agency’s) needs, rising above mere compliance to provide better value than any competing proposals.

Ideally, you will accomplish some important background tasks before you are faced with specific RFPs. Take these tasks up early in your government contracting efforts so you are ready when the right opportunity comes along. Some examples include:

  • Assessment of Business Capabilities: A hard-nosed, realistic evaluation of the company’s core-competencies is essential. You will not be served by exaggerating or misrepresenting your capability. Doing so can undermine the credibility of your proposals and/or result in an award that you cannot perform successfully, with potentially damaging consequences for your business, not to mention your ability to secure government contracts in the future.
  • Establish Pricing Practices: Make sure you understand the accounting standards you must meet (whether the government’s Cost Accounting Standards or Generally Accepted Accounting Practices), and have a sufficient accounting system to be able to calculate Indirect Cost rates. If necessary, work with a Small Business Development Center for general business assistance. You – or your accountant – should understand the principles of allowable, allocable, and reasonable, as well as avoidable or unallowable costs, and in some cases, an Economic Price Adjustment.
  • Know Your Target Customer(s): If you can target an agency which represents the most promising market early on, it allows you to thoroughly research the potential customer’s mission, priorities and past procurement history with regard to similar products/services. Your PTAC Counselor can help you with this research.
  • Evaluation of Competition: Negotiated contracts are seeking the best value from among the offerors, so it is critical that you know your likely competitors and their strengths and weaknesses relative to your business. This understanding will be invaluable in crafting a proposal narrative which demonstrates the ability to provide better value than the competition. Your PTAC Counselor can also help you to find this information utilizing online government database search tools.
  • Identification of Potential Teaming Partners: Small businesses that have established relationships with large businesses and/or HUBZone, 8(a), SDVOSB and WOSB firms have greater flexibility to put together a team when they identify an RFP that would make more sense to pursue as a sub.

Your PTAC Counselor can elaborate on this topic and provide you with additional advice at no cost. Click here to Find your PTAC today!

Watch this space for the rest of the series:  Reviewing the Solicitation and Reaching a “Go/No Go” Decision and Preparing the Proposal.

More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.

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Need help identifying and responding to appropriate RFPs?

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PTACs provide a wide range of government contracting help – most free of charge!

Your PTAC can help you:

  • Identify your target agency(ies)
  • Find and understand bid opportunities
  • Pursue SDB, 8(a), HUBzone and other certifications
  • Market your business to agencies
  • Researching procurement histories
  • Network with government buyers, prime contractors and potential teaming partners
  • Proposal preparation
  • Contract performance issues
  • Preparing for audit


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