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6 Common RFP Mistakes Contractors Make and How to Avoid Them Blog Feature
Julien Cannon

By: Julien Cannon on December 12th, 2022

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6 Common RFP Mistakes Contractors Make and How to Avoid Them

Government Business Development | Resources and Insight | 5 Min Read

As your company searches for contracting opportunities in the federal marketplace, you have most likely come across a Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFP is a solicitation document to communicate the requirements and parameters of a government agency's needs, both products and services. An RFP often requires companies to convey the technical aspects of the proposal and address how their company will meet the government’s needs while offering the best value. Your response to the RFP needs to be highly detailed and precise, as RFPs are considered formal requests that could result in contract award. However, this is is easier said than done. There are a number of common mistakes that contractors fall into as they hunt for government contracts. Here’s what they are and how to avoid them.

1. Not Researching Customers and Competitors

Prior to the government agency releasing the RFP, your team should have an understanding of the requirements and environment that the RFP is being released into. Reviewing and participating in the Request for Information (RFI) or Sources Sought Notice (SSN) process gives your company a distinct advantage over competitors’ proposals. Review and provide detailed responses to any and all specific tasks noted in the client’s RFP document or request. It’s important to consider all aspects of your competition including cost, capability, relationships with other customers, and contract history.

It's to your benefit to know who your competitors are as well as what the pain points are for your customers. Proper research enables your team to incorporate all of the items that the agency wants into your responses. Moreover, ensure you address the very issues that your customers are concerned about and how your solutions are the right fit for their needs. This helps to differentiate your response, allowing you to stand out from your competitors.

2. Not Responding to the Request for Information (RFI) and/or Not Attending the Industry Day

Researching the RFPs that your company wants to respond to is more than knowing the agency and how your product or service can benefit them. Responding to RFIs and attending any relevant Industry Days can ensure your company go the distance. Some companies choose to strategically ignore RFIs because they don’t want the public to know which solicitation they’re pursuing. This is not a great strategy.

RFIs allow you to get your foot in the door with government agencies. Since they are designed to potentially lead to a final RFP, you have the opportunity to shape any additional qualifications or criteria, giving you an advantage. Likewise, attending Industry Days ensures you can gather all information the Contracting Officers are looking for as well as scope out possible competitors.

3. Not Writing to the Draft RFP

Sometimes an agency will release a draft RFP ahead of the final. Some companies may view this as an excuse to push writing anything until the final comes out, but this is a perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with the requirements. Writing the draft RFP allows you to identify gaps and issues ahead of the deadline, granting you extra time to resolve any issues you may discover. Responses to the RFP should be clear, and concise, and address all components noted by the customer, so writing up a response to the draft RFP gives you more time to craft your response and get it right. However, it’s important to note that there are often changes from the draft RFP and final RFP, so you must address them in your final response.

4. Not “Teaming” Early Enough

Occasionally, you may see an RFP that is relevant to most of your company’s solution and is a great opportunity, but there are some requirements you just can’t meet. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to toss the solicitation out. By forming a Contractor Teaming Arrangement (CTA) with other GSA Schedule holders, contractors can offer a complete solution to meet an RFP that neither partner would be capable of performing on their own. However, developing team relationships takes time to build. Finding a company to team with means vetting them, ensuring that their offerings complement yours, so it’s important you start looking for total solutions as early as you can. Remember, if you are awarded the contract, your team is evaluated as a complete unit. You want to make sure that your teammates can deliver on their commitments, and you are able to deliver on yours.

5. Only Focusing on One Procurement Site

Finding contracting opportunities can be a challenge, especially if your team has tunnel vision and only focuses on one site. The federal contracting space has several programs and platforms to track opportunities like, GSA eBuy, and Acquisition Gateway. We suggest you take advantage of all the tools available to you when searching for opportunities. For example, eBuy filters opportunities by your Special Item Number (SIN), so you have more relevant opportunities at your fingertips, but in you can cast a wider net for teaming opportunities, or for specific keywords and/or places of performance that are not listed in eBuy. This is also where attending the industry days as well as Q&A sessions to hear from GSA specialists about the latest information is useful as well.

6. Assuming You Are a “Shoe-in” to Win

Your company has gone to the industry events, researched agency pain points, and written draft RFPs to touch all the proposals requirements, but that does not mean your company will win the contract. Regardless of what service or product you offer you have competitors, and they may be reading up on how to ace RFP responses too. Do not get complacent with your response. Government Contracting Officers are not obligated to give you work. Rather they are obligated to find the best value for services and/or products. If you do not put your best foot forward, some other company could step in and win the award.

Are You Ready to Respond to Your Next RFP?

Responding to a government agency’s Request for Proposal (RFP) can be a daunting task, especially for those that do not have a background in drafting and responding to these types of requests. As you research and respond to the government, ensure that your words bring support and value to their mission. This is the surest way to win contracting opportunities. Understanding what not to do can oftentimes be just as important as understanding explicitly what you should do. By avoiding the common mistakes listed above, you can help your organization stand out from your competition.

At Winvale, our years of experience consulting and utilizing our own GSA MAS contract puts us in a unique position to help you and your organization meet and exceed the government’s expectations. If you would like to learn more about Winvale’s GSA Schedule assistance services, please reach out to us.

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About Julien Cannon

Julien Cannon is a Consultant for Winvale’s Government Contract Services Department. A Marine combat veteran and native of New Market, Virginia, Julien earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.