With a zillion potential bidders for many government acquisitions, the government is often challenged meeting all prospective bidders. Given the government cannot favor one vendor or another, often needed one-on-one communications are just not possible. There are simply not enough hours in the day. There will be industry days and other such events that really don’t enable a contractor to adequately understand an acquisition or for the government to understand interested contractors. So, how do we, both prospective bidders and the government, address this challenge? My response is to follow the FAR, taking advantage of the provisions to downsize the competitor pool thus enabling the government to meet one-on-one with a limited set of pre-screened contractors, perhaps right up to the time proposals are completed and submitted.
Ask Early If You Qualify
The FAR clause that facilitates downsizing the competitor pool is FAR 15.202, Advisory Multi-Step Process. Per the clause, “(a) The agency may publish a pre-solicitation notice that provides a general description of the scope or purpose of the acquisition and invites potential offerors to submit information that allows the Government to advise the offerors about their potential to be viable competitors. (b) The agency shall evaluate all responses in accordance with the criteria stated in the notice, and shall advise each respondent in writing either that it will be invited to participate in the resultant acquisition or, based on the information submitted, that it is unlikely to be a viable competitor.”
For contractors and government alike, this is the best thing since “sliced bread.” I am amazed it is seldom used. Consider for a moment the advantage to a contractor that spends tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars or more pursuing an acquisition? For a fraction of that cost, responding to a request for a limited proposal presenting past performance, the contractor can be told if it is a viable competitor. If not, they can withdraw from the competition saving considerable monies, perhaps look at subcontracting or continue the pursuit understanding where they stand in the evaluator’s opinion. Nonetheless, the bidding pool of contractors is likely substantially reduced enabling the government the time to meet one-on-one with qualified vendors, facilitating an appropriate information exchange and receiving higher quality proposals at likely lower cost. This is good government. This is what the FAR encourages. This is a win-win for all.
Let’s look at the three likely outcomes for the government when performing this proposition. First, there is less work for the government. Likely the total number of bidders submitting proposals is reduced suggesting less evaluation time required by the government. Sure, there are the additive evaluations of the FAR 15.202 proposals but they are a fraction the size of a full-up proposal. The second outcome is higher quality proposals. After meaningful exchanges with the government, contractors are better informed about the government’s requirements and their operating environment, allowing them to propose solutions more closely aligned with the government’s statement of work. The third outcome is lower cost. Many proposals submitted to the government recognize a bevy of unknowns given a lack of needed information. While the contractor has a fair idea of the work to be performed based on the statement of work, often parts of SOWs are nebulous or don’t go into the level of detail needed to adequately estimate the level of effort. Further, the contractor often does not fully understand the operating environment in which the work is to be performed, as such is often not provided in a meaningful level of detail. No doubt it is difficult to present that environment in a set of paragraphs in the RFP and site visits are seldom available. It is these and a dozen other circumstances that cause contractors to take extra care in their estimates to perform the work. Accounting for these unknowns often drives up an offeror’s bid to the government. Should more open and timely communications be provided, an offeror’s bid can be estimated more accurately, often driving down the bid price.
Talk to your clients. See what they think
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on each skill/attribute of a bonafide Business Development Director provided by Bob Lam. Bob is the principal and founder of Bob Lam Solutions and is affiliated with GovFlex.