If you are interested in submitting a bid for a federal government contract, you must understand how the process works, and submit a fully compliant offer.
All federal contract documents are formatted in a specific, consistent way (see “How to Read an RFP” at the Sell2Gov website), which makes it easier to focus on what’s important.
Avoid these mistakes:
- Skim the paperwork – don’t bother reading the whole document
Everything is in there for a reason, and you should understand the way all federal government contracts are formatted. Once you have submitted a few proposals you’ll begin to notice certain sections and clauses coming up over and over again, but beware of skipping over the fine print.
- Don’t follow up on those ‘clauses by reference’
It’s easy to overlook the Clauses section of the contract document (Section I), but notice that only those with a checkmark are relevant to a specific federal contract. Some clauses are incorporated by reference, where just the clause number is listed, not the full regulation – these regulations have the same weight as those listed in full.
- Amendments are just minor changes; don’t include them in your submission
ALL amendments should be signed and included with your submission, even minor ones.
- Don’t try to clarify anything you don’t understand – you know what they want
If something isn’t clear, contact the Contracting Officer for clarification. All questions and answers will be made available to any prospective federal contractor.
- Don’t follow submission instructions to the letter; you know what’s important
All submission requirements must be followed exactly (Section L) – even seemingly minor ones such as font size or maximum number of pages. The Contracting Officer may reject any proposal that’s not compliant.
- Don’t take into account the evaluation factors in the solicitation document
Section M of every federal contract solicitation lists exactly how your proposal will be evaluated – price, past performance, management approach, quality control, technical expertise – and will give the relative weight given to each factor.
- Don’t pay attention to delivery requirements right now – deal with that later
For products, there will be a delivery date – that’s the date your product must arrive, NOT the day it must be shipped out. You may have specific shipping, labelling or marking requirements, RFID tags and so on. Pay attention to these details, as they could significantly change your costs.
- Don’t worry about invoice requirements until you’re awarded the contract
Some federal government agencies have very specific invoice requirements. Make sure you understand how this works.
- Submit late – what does one or two minutes matter?
Even a minute late will make your proposal non-compliant. It’s tempting to assume that if you can submit via email, you can submit a few minutes before the deadline. But any issue with the email not going through will NOT be accepted as an excuse for a late bid. It’s your responsibility to see the proposal gets there on time – not a minute late – so allow extra time to submit your proposal.
- You didn’t get the award – don’t bother to ask why
It’s always a good idea to ask for a de-briefing if you are not awarded the government contract. You’re not going to change the outcome, but you could gain some valuable insight for future bids.