I recently asked government contracting officers what they would ask Santa for, if indeed there was a Santa just for government contracting officers. In particular, I wondered what would be on their wish list of improved business practices from you, their government vendors? I also asked them what you could do better to improve agency/vendor relationships and the value you deliver?
CO's Santa List
I heard from several COs with current or prior DoD, Navy, Veterans Affairs and PTO experience. Here is their 2013 wish list (I have edited or expanded on the thoughts somewhat for clarification purposes):
Follow the directions in the RFQs and RFPs better. - I suspect this has been on their wish list for some time now, and is simply a reminder that they still receive far too many proposals that do not follow directions, which costs those vendors dearly.
Better focused quote and proposal responses. Sometimes vendors often focus on presentation to the detriment of content – Content is King, and style and presentation, while important, take a back seat to how you respond to RFP requirements.
Don’t overdo the marketing to the detriment of being clearly responsive to the solicitation. – One CO lamented that the biggest mistake she has seen is that the group preparing the document “has focused so heavily on marketing their capability, they forget to be responsive to the solicitation.” This has cost many talented up and coming firms vital contract wins.
Be careful of overdoing or over using CRM systems to market to government personnel. If you are delivering valuable content, great. If you are just inundating them with self serving or superfluous material just to stay in touch, stop.
Use a senior capture manager to objectively look at requirements of solicitation and how well the proposal addresses those needs. Yes, firms need to have help from different groups to work on different sections, but make sure it comes together in a cohesive fashion, avoids redundancy, and addresses all evaluation criteria. Sometimes it appears each Factor ( Price, Technical, etc.) is written separately and that no one is performing a strategic review to ensure that one major section is not contradicting another. Make sure that the themes and content of Technical section don’t contradict or conflict with the Price/Cost section or Past Performance section.
Read and Understand Section L and make sure you don’t skip anything. Provide a matrix of requirements cross-referenced to where the information can be found. This helps ensure that you submit a responsive proposal and that the reviewers can easily find where you addressed each requirement.
Read and Understand Section M- Basis of Award/Evaluation Criteria - read how we are going to evaluate the information provided in Section L. Seems simple enough, but I infer that too many firms don’t pay close enough attention to this.
Timely submissions – it was always true that it is imperative to get the proposal in on time. Just because we live in a world of electronic submission, doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful about timeliness. If it states 2:00 PM, do not wait until 1:00 PM to submit just in case you have an issue uploading files.
Look at and Respond to RFIs - Be proactive and provide government the information they request. Budgets are shrinking and every opportunity you missed may be lost revenue to your company. .Partner with government every opportunity you can!
Partner with the Government in changing policy and the regulations to create IT agile contract vehicles. Help facilitating the change. - This is a bold but wise wish. While this wish is limited to IT contracts, I think the underlying point is that the vendor community should become more involved in shaping procurement policy. If you don’t like the way some contracts or contracting strategies are being implemented, make your thoughts known. Agencies often issue draft RFP requirements and seek your input. Don’t let that opportunity pass. And if you see bad trend emerging, don’t be afraid to let your contact the agency program manager. Email your Congressional representatives and members of appropriate committees if you feel strongly about an issue. This goes for small businesses who too often do not get involved at this level.
And while vendors often get frustrated by the burdensome government procurement process, so do contracting officials. They face a myriad of contradictory laws and regulations that needed to be interpreted by their legal office. They too are frustrated when laws were applicable to some offices yet exempt for others. If you see such issues, raise this with Congress and Agency management. Squeaky wheels do indeed get the grease... at least in time.
So that’s the list for Santa so far. With 12 days to go, why not add your two cents worth. What else can vendors do to be more responsive in the government procurement process.