Winning new business is the core mission of every company.
If you are a small business owner, you can expand your business by learning to create winning bids to Requests for Proposal (RFPs) from the U.S. Government.
U.S. Government contracting is a $400-to-$600 BILLION a year market. You can claim your share from this market by learning how to respond to RFPs.
This course gives you the fundamentals to choose a good opportunity, identify your strengths, and craft a winning response.
In this comprehensive course, we discuss the fundamentals of government acquisition, and how to influence the customer to choose your proposal.
Compelling bids can make money for your own business or further your career at your company.
This class is for all skill levels, whether you work for yourself or are taking the first step to becoming a proposal management professional.
Welcome to our course on doing business with the government, responding to RFPs and win US Government contracts. We are Ugur Akinci, writer for Fortune 100 companies since 1998, and Sean Stevenson, a Proposal Manager for a government services company, and a former Technical Editor in the Defense sector. We have been managing proposals for a number of years now, but we are also still very interested in the craft of being able to write and respond to a good RFP, and we hope to let you in on some of the secrets we’ve learned.
"U.S. Federal contracting in a nutshell" is all about the acquisition process. The government can’t buy a light bulb without going through its acquisition process.
The very large federal contracting market sells its services in only one way, and that’s through Requests for Proposal (RFPs). The government has its needs, and must follow its own process. This is a longstanding process that has been going on for many decades. Watch this video to learn more.
It’s very important when you start any kind of project that you get the basic lingo down. The first one, RFP, is request for proposal. A government RFP is split into lettered sections, A through M. A is the intro. B is pricing. IF you are a business, you will have to deal with all of these. If you’re just a writer, write to Section L, which are the preparation instructions, and to Section M, which is the evaluation criteria—what we have to do to win. So those are the first things you look at.
The number one thing I want people to get out of this course is this: If you can’t win, don’t bid. You would be surprised how many bids people put in that they know that they can’t win. That they know that they don’t meet the minimum requirements. Or that they know that couldn’t perform the contract to the budget that the proposed, or that they couldn’t run a profit. We’re going to get into a lot of these issue about if I can bid, or should I bid. Here we’re going to talk about the very basics of can you bid. Do you meet the minimum requirements? Watch this video to learn more.
In this video we will address contract types under the general lesson of "Can I Bid?" because it’s very important to know whether or not you’re going to be able to perform under the kind of contract that the government wants. We need to go over the kinds of contracts now, and I’ll give an explanation of them, and what kinds of services and products they usually procure. Watch the video to learn more.
There are a certain number of groups where contract are set aside for those groups. There are groups like Small Disadvantaged Businesses, which tend to be owned by minorities, or Alaska Native companies, Native Hawaiian. Or they could be set aside for things that are called HubZone, which are the company has to be based in a traditionally disadvantaged area. Watch this video to learn more.
Welcome to our video on Statements Required. You need to go to section K of the RFP, and look. There’s going to be a lot of FAR clauses. The FAR is the Federal Acquisition Regulation that was mentioned in an earlier episode. So, there are a lot of them that they put into Section K, and you need to make sure that you’re compliant with all those different FAR clauses. Also the Reps and Certs process, it used to be that you had to fill out a lot of information about your company. Watch this video to learn more.
Subcontracting and teaming is very important. Now we’re going to start moving into more of the strategic considerations. We still put this under section "can I bid?" Because most of the time if you’re a small business, the answer can I bid is, yes technically, but no practically. If this is your first time in government contracting, it’s important to think about the risk the government takes on whenever it awards a contract. Watch this video to learn more.
We’ve already talked about "can I bid?" Do I meet the minimum requirements if it’s a set aside contract, do I fall into the protected group needed to bid? But the really important question is, "should I bid?" I really want people to know that if you don’t think you can win, don’t bid. You’re just wasting your time. Some people think, oh I’m going to get my foot in the door with the government. Sort of introduce our company with this bid. That’s not the way you introduce yourself to the government. Watch this video to learn more about this important strategic point.
Capture is developing a winning campaign through all the different phases of the acquisition process. There are people called Capture Managers who, all they do is they get out very early and begin to engage the government and put together a winning offer well before the final RFP comes out. If the Final RFP comes out and you haven’t done any work to capture this business you are very likely going to fail because you haven’t done your homework. Watch this video to learn more.
When the Final RFP comes out, you need to go through it with a set of questions. The Final RFP may be quite different than the draft. Or, form how you were trying to influence the government through your capture process. So you need to document your assumptions. The RFP is going to make you ask a certain kind of question, and you’re going to need to document that to the government, but the government may not answer it in the way that you want. This may affect your pricing. So you need to document your assumptions. Watch this video to learn more.
There are a lot of different parts of a proposal, make sure you have a plan for how to deal with each and every one of them. Watch this video to learn more about every part and how to get them right.
It is very important to have a good team. And this is something that you want to have ready to go prior to when the Final RFP comes out.
An important member of your team, and well before the RFP comes out, is your Capture Manager. This is the person who’s in charge of the entire capture process, and in some organizations, everybody works for the capture manager because that person is in charge of bringing the business home. Watch the video to learn more about the other positions on the team.
After we’ve got our team in place, we’ve decided to bid, basically the Final RFP has just come out. This is where you hit the ground running. But you need to do your first things first. As soon as the Final RFP comes out the Proposal Manager takes the action to put together an outline. Outlining the RFP, you start with Section L. Anybody who really looks at a proposal, first thing you need to go do is look at Section L. It’s the preparation instructions. Watch this video to learn more about the other aspects of scheduling.
After the kickoff meeting, the next major milestone is the Pink Team. Now, the Pink Team, you’re going to want to have your writers go and whiteboard in the same room with your volume leads and proposal manager. You put your team together, with your Subject Matter Experts, you document the RFP requirements and your customer issues, and you begin to map your themes, your win strategy against the RFP requirements, and against the customer issues, or what I like to call their Most Important Requirements. Watch this video to learn more about the all-important Pink Team.
The Red Team is the critical review of your proposal. I would say that if you have a bad Pink Team, but a good Red Team, you’re going really well. If you have a good Pink Team, but a bad Red Team, this is going to be a critical review, and a bad Red Team can get your proposal cancelled. It doesn’t always get it canceled. Give about a week to recover after the Red Team before you get to Gold Team. You need to do your schedule at the very front to give some time after Red Team to recover, especially if you have a bad Red Team—otherwise you might get your proposal canceled because someone will day there isn’t enough time to be able to turn it in. Watch this video to learn more about this critical phase of the review process.
It’s very important to have a checklist approach before you turn in your proposal, because at this point you’ve been working very long hours most likely. You’re very tired. On a very large proposal, the Proposal Manager’s job at this point is pretty much to make sure that every single “I” is dotted, “t” is crossed. Every single little requirement of the proposal is in. If you’re part of a joint-venture, each company might need to provide a letter saying, hey, this is our commitment to the joint venture. Or, to make sure all of your Bases of Estimate are covered. There are so many different things that are going on. Watch this video to learn more.
There are definitely things to be careful for. The number one thing is basically, are you being led on a fishing expedition? And there are a couple different kinds of these. Sometimes there are proposals out there where the government…and remember there are 18,000 RFPs being released every year. Most of these are being done on the up and up with the expectation of fair and open competition. But every once in a while there’s going to be something called a fishing expedition where they’re going to trick you into responding because they want to know a couple of different things. Watch this video to protect yourself against such "expeditions."
RFP proposal process is a complicated one that requires a lot of attention both to the specs and to the prep work to answer two very important questions before you even type the first word of your proposal: 1) Can I bid? Can I win this contract? (If the answer is YES) 2) Should I bid to win this contract? This course went into the detail of every step to write an RFP proposal and successfully bid for a federal contract. There are no guarantees in life but by implementing all the points that we have learned from years of field experience we hope you'll have an easier time with government contracting and avoid some of the pitfalls outlined. Good luck!
This is a sample RFP for facilities maintenance services for four school in Guam. This is a good representative sample in that it has all the required lettered sections, its scope is well described, but is not overly complicated, and it is written clearly. We have also included Amendments that contain answers to questions, and the conformed (revised) RFPs based on those questions. The main RFP file to start from is HE1260-17-R-0002_Guam_TMC.
Fortune 100 technical communicator and educator since 1998. The hi-tech companies he worked for include ADP, Fannie Mae, and Honeywell.
Ugur started his professional career as a senior translator for NATO Hqs. LSE. He has worked as a writer, translator, editor and publisher since the mid-80s.
For his copy writing clients, Ugur created all kinds of marketing materials and press releases while honing his skills as a Desk Top Publisher and even publishing a biweekly magazine for a number of years by using DTP techniques.
In mid-90s we see Ugur as a full-time accredited journalist, covering the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress for a daily publication.
In 1998, Ugur has discovered the joy of technical writing, marrying his love of science and technology to his artistic sensibilities and design skills.
Working for Fortune 100 hi-tech corporations like Fannie Mae, ADP, and Honeywell, Ugur created many user guides, system admin guides, reference sheets, release notes, quick start guides, and all kinds of similar software, hardware and networking documents, sometimes as a part of an international documentation team.
Ugur enjoys teaching a wide variety of writing, software tools, content development, and document design skills both online and also in person.
He is a Toastmaster (CC), an active senior member and Associate Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and a Past President of his award-winning local chapter, STC Washington D.C. -- Baltimore.
With decades of writing and technical communication experience under his belt, Ugur teaches not only the general principles of good writing and content development but also the insider tips that will save you a lot of grief and headaches. Learn software documentation and different kinds of writing from an industry professional who is still working in this exciting field.
Sean Stevenson is a proposal manager for a mid-sized government contractor. He started as a creative writer who taught writing on the side, and eventually realized he needed a stable career. In 2008, he took a job at defense contractor in Maryland as a Technical Editor. Over time, he found his way into business development. In 2013, took a job as a proposal manager. Sean has an MFA in playwriting from the Actors Studio Drama School and a BA in Humanities from the University of Chicago.