Top 7 Questions about eBuy Opportunities
After winning a GSA contract and uploading their price list to GSA Advantage, many GSA contractors are excited to access the myriad of RFP’s (Request for Proposal) and RFQ's (Request for Quotation) posted in GSA’s eBuy system. While it is a boon to many a firm, you can spend all of your time responding to these opportunities with little to show for it. So let's answer the top questions you should ask before responding.
The Difference between eBuy and FedBizOpps
First it is important to know the difference between the governments two most popular bid posting sites.
FedBizOpps, or FBO, is where the Federal government's posts all Federal open market opportunities with a value over $25,000 that are open to all qualified bidders.
eBuy is similar to FedBizOpps (fbo.gov) except that the opportunities posted in eBuy are strictly limited to GSA vendors with contracts with a specific SIN. And they may be of any size. [Note: Opportunities posted in eBuy are referred to as RFQ's, but for all practical purposes, service firms will consider these the same as an RFP. It has been to federal acquisition regulations, but not important for this article.]
For example, if an agency has an custom IT programming project and they want to quickly start the project, they might choose to use a GSA Schedule contractor. They would issue the RFP and it will be restricted to contractors who have SIN 132-51 (IT Professional Services) under the GSA IT schedule 70.
But if the agency wanted to open it up to the universe of IT firms, with or without a GSA Schedule, then they would post it on FBO. It generally takes an agency 265 days to get a contract awarded through this mechanism, and only 15 days on average with a GSA schedule orders.
So if it is posted on eBuy, you know that the universe of potential competitors is limited to those that already have GSA contracts with that particular SIN.
Is bidding on eBuy difficult?
Some RFQ’s are simple and straight forward, requiring a well constructed but brief 3-5 page response. Others are more demanding and require substantial time to prepare. Therefore, bidding on each and every opportunity is impractical and you should apply the same "bid, no-bid" logic that you might use in evaluating even broader solicitations that are posted on FedBizOpps.
That's where some firms get into trouble. remember, just because you know you are qualified to do a job, does not mean you should bid on it.
Is the Opportunity a Strategically Important Project?
It's easy to get carried away with the prospect of winning any federal project and therefore easy to convince yourself to pursue. But if the opportunity falls outside the strategic objectives of your business plan, then be cautious. It may be beneficial to pursue the occasional opportunity outside your core focus, but often it can result in a tremendous waste of time and money, not to mention the opportunity cost. Be careful when spending time on opportunities that won’t contribute to your plan’s objectives.
Is this an Important Agency?
Also consider whether the opportunity is in your desired market or is a customer you actually want. Some agencies are viewed as the leader in some fields, and if you win an important job from them, it sets you up for other customers. Again, being opportunistic sometimes allows you to expand into new agencies and gain new expertise, but the risk can outweigh any rewards, so tread carefully.
If the opportunity is a fit with your strategic goals and is with a customer that may help you set up for future opportunities, then it may make sense to respond, but analyze a little further.
Did you Know about the Project before you saw the RFQ on eBuy?
This is perhaps the most important question. Have you talked to this agency about this project before? Were you involved in analyzing the agency's problem and helping them define the solution? If not, you can pretty much bet that competitors have. This does not mean you cannot win such opportunities, but it sure makes it a lot more difficult to succeed if you don't know much about the project other than what is written in the bid documents.
Can you Beat the Competition?
This is a difficult question to answer. Very strong competitors exist in your market and if you refuse to bid simply because you may square up against a bigger, more experienced competitor, then you may never break into the market. Just like in sports, the favorites don’t always win and upsets occur all the time – that’s why they play the game. But just like in sports, to win, the underdog must be well prepared and have a good game plan.
Do you have the market intelligence about the firm and this project? Are they the incumbent? If so, do you know what the agency liked or disliked about them. All of this is made easier if you already have a relationship with the client and know about the program. (See our article Finding Opportunities or Creating Opportunities)
Can you Make Money and Manage Risk?
You should also realistically assess your ability to write a responsive proposal, if you will have enough time to prepare the proposal, and if you have the right people to put on the project.
Ideally you will have some idea of the agency’s budget for this project, or can glean it from the RFP.
Do you have the resources necessary to carry out the project readily available or will it requires significant new investment (consider the potential impact on cash flow).
Some agencies may want something that is unrealistic or not technically feasible and you should avoid those situations at all costs.
And if you undertake this project, would it put other client projects at risk?