Navigating Government Proposals

September 20th, 2011   •   no comments   


I just got a response letter from a federal government agency to which Voluminant submitted a proposal and I’m not happy.  If the news that Voluminant was not awarded a $1.5M contract in logistics and distribution were not enough, then the statement in the third paragraph from the contracting officer certainly was: “Based on the overall evaluation, your quote was found to not be technically acceptable.”

It is true… our proposal development team took some liberties in the development of a solution for this agency’s challenges.  They wanted a copy-and-paste template-based training program for their new managers in a logistics niche.  We proposed developing custom, agency-specific content.  Stuff they could really use and learn from.  They wanted a copy of our course catalog that described the classes that would be delivered.  They wanted the programs to be available online through a stock learning management system. And, our solution was to leverage one of the many LMSs available commercially and host their program on our servers that we would operate and maintain on the governments’ behalf.

Our training solution would have also saved them close to $860,000 from a recognized supply chain industry association that already had their canned solution developed.  This association didn’t win the contract either, but I can guarantee you the company that did wasn’t charging anything less than the competing association.

So here’s the lesson learned: when it comes to the proposal phase of a federal government solicitation, the government doesn’t want innovation.  They don’t want programs developed around their needs.  And, they don’t want out-of-the-box thinking.  This is what they want: what is specifically detailed in the performance work statement.  If you don’t have that, then don’t bother responding to the solicitation.

The good news is that there IS a time when the federal government is looking for creativity, innovation and new ideas.  They want your ideas when the federal government releases requests for information (RFI’s) or sources sought notices (SSN’s).  When these documents hit the street, the government doesn’t specifically know what they want — they want your company to help them find out what they do want, how to procure it, and how much it might cost.  If you can submit a well-thought out, reasoned approach to solving a government problem then there is a significantly higher likelihood that you will be on the “short list” of potential vendors.  If you see a match between what was in your response to a RFI and what is in the solicitation’s scope of work, then there’s a good chance the contract is yours to win.

It cost Voluminant close to $2,000 to develop our innovative, creative, shot-in-the-dark work of fiction proposal for this government agency, only to be undermined by a canned approach.  I would have rather spent $2,000 trying to help a small and growing local business understand how they can survive rough times and grow through a complimentary business audit.

To compete in the government contracting world, you need to get in the game early.  And, that’s exactly what we intend to do.

- Stammer