Request for Proposals (RFPs), Requests for Qualifications (RFQs), Invitation to Bid (ITBs) are the tickets into the world of government contracting. All local, state and federal agencies must provide ample opportunity to prospective vendors. This is done through a competitive bid process. RFPs, RFQs and ITBs are used to objectively evaluate the qualifications and pricing of vendors interested in a particular contract; which can include providing goods and services to the government, providing goods and services on behalf of the government, or concessionaire opportunities at government facilities like parks and airports. Consider these tips and tricks before you decide to bid.
1) Make sure you are in the know.
After all, you can’t respond to an RFP if you don’t know about it in the first place. Start doing your homework by identifying the local governments that may be in need of your goods or services, and get in touch with their respective procurement departments. Most require that you are a registered vendor in order to be notified of upcoming opportunities.
2) Be Responsive.
A thorough review of the RFP is essential. All responses must be “responsive”, which means the response must properly address all the required issues of the RFP, as well as provide all required information, including all supplementary documents and exhibits. If any required information is missing, then the response can be deemed unresponsive and may be disqualified. Be sure to also pay attention to the deadlines. Generally, all questions must be asked by a certain time prior to submission, and if not asked by that time, the procurement officer will not provide a response. And of course, be sure to submit on time. Submission deadlines are strictly enforced. The last thing you want to do is invest time and resources into a great RFP response only to miss the deadline by just a minutes and be disqualified.
3) Be Responsible.
In addition to being responsive all RFPs are evaluated to determine if the responder is ‘responsible’, which means the responder has the ability to perform the contract. What responsible means will depend on the nature of the contract. RFPs are generally graded based on a set of metrics that are used to determine if the responder is responsible. Areas evaluated are the experience, background and qualifications of the responder and its key personnel, along with the responders approach to the contract.
RFPs are scored by a team of people from various departments or divisions within the government, some who are very familiar with the underlying contract and others who have no familiarity with it. A point system is usually provided in the RFP and used by the selection committee to rank submitted proposals. A well–crafted response can maximize your points. Your response must be prepared so that the reader can easily identify how your experience and background make you a responsible bidder and shows how you are capable of fulfilling the contract.
4) Know your numbers.
You’ll want to think carefully about the numbers you quote in your pricing proposal. Service RFPs typically require a minimum annual guaranteed rent or how much of a percentage of gross revenue you are willing to share with the government agency. When providing goods, you will have to quote a minimum cost. With this in mind, the highest annual guaranteed rent or the lowest possible price in an attempt to seem competitive, because you will not be able to renegotiate your offer during the contract period. And, more importantly, if you are unable to deliver you provided in your RFP response, you will be setting yourself up for failure.
5) Anticipate the next steps.
After the submissions have been reviewed and graded, the bidders with the highest scores are typically asked to provide oral presentations to the team of evaluators, or to another board within the government agency. And, having a well prepared presentation is critical. This is the opportunity to seal the deal if you were the highest scorer, or if you were not, is in an opportunity to edge out the highest bidder. After oral presentations, the highest bidder is typically recommended for award and the item will be scheduled before the highest governing board for the agency. All agencies have different processes, committees and governing boards. So know the process up front for anticipating your time, efforts and cost in responding to a bid.
Once the bid is awarded, there is usually a negotiation period after the contract is awarded. The RFP will layout which areas are up to negotiation and which are not. An attorney’s help can be invaluable in government contracting. The right business lawyer will have a strong familiarity with the nuances of the process, the document preparation, negotiation with government agencies, and proper strategy.
If your business needs a fine-tuned RFP response, get in touch with the professional attorneys at Ser & Associates. Our law firm routinely assists companies in the pursuit of government projects. Our knowledge, insight, and expertise in preparing, presenting and negotiation government contracts will give your business an edge in the selection process. Call us today at 305-222-7282.