By: Stephanie Hagan on August 3rd, 2022
How to Break Down a Government Solicitation
Government Business Development | 5 Min Read
When you open up a government solicitation, you might feel overwhelmed, confused, or even a sense of dread. We know solicitations are not known for light and easy reading, but it shouldn’t seem impossible to you and your team either. With the right direction and knowledge, you can pinpoint which sections to start with and how to tackle the hefty document. In this blog, we’ll outline the key sections and what you should do when you first click on that PDF.
Cracking Open the Solicitation
You have the solicitation open, now what? The first step is to download the proposal and any attachments and save it in an easily accessible place where your whole team can view it. While at least one person on your team should read the entire solicitation, we suggest you don’t start from the top and read it all the way through. It’s more digestible to start at the key sections and start assigning parts for your team to review. This way your team can split up the proposal and become experts on their section. If you are planning on responding to the government Q&A, you should also have your team compile any questions they have upon first review.
Key Sections in a Government Solicitation
As mentioned above, one of the first things you should do is review the key sections: these are the proposal requirements/instructions, the evaluation criteria, and the total contract performance. The proposal deliverables/instructions are often labeled as Section L and the evaluation criteria is often labeled as Section M. Total contract performance is often referred to as Section C.
Section L: Requirements/Instructions
The proposal requirements/instructions section is most commonly referred to as Section L. However, if the solicitation is not organized by alphabetic letters, then you will have to search for a section labeled along the lines of “instructions” or “requirements.” It can also be referred to as “deliverables.”
So why is this section important? Well, often a government customer will only require a portion of the proposal’s Performance Work Statement (PWS) or Statement of Work (SOW) to be written, and Section L determines which parts are most critical to their evaluation and include it in the requirements section. When you are responding to the solicitation, you will need to address each one of these requirements and how you plan to pursue them/or if you’re capable of fulfilling them.
Section L also incudes the pricing and cost. You will most likely be asked to keep the cost deliverables separate and any templates will be included in a separate file. It’s important to start building out your cost plans as early as possible.
We suggest you pay close attention to how things are worded in Section L—use this language in your response!
You might be wondering how you keep up with it all. One way is to create a compliance matrix. This can look like an Excel table with the Section (ex. L.1, L.2, L.3) title of the requirements, and what the requirement really is. This way you can make sure you are addressing each one in your response.
Section M: Evaluation Criteria
If you remember writing essays in high school or college, your teacher would often include a rubric for grading. There would generally be a section for grammar, style, content, etc. Section M is a similar concept but for proposals. Section M will tell you how the government will evaluate and select a winner. If your proposal does not have letters, then you can search for “evaluation” or “evaluation criteria.”
This section will most likely align with Section L and will give you insight for what is most important in your response. It will also often include weighting criteria or ranks. For example the technical section might mean more than past performance or price, or vice versa. Use this section as a guide when preparing your response.
Section C or total contract performance will most likely include the Statement of Work (SOW) or Performance Work Statement (PWS). These will often be riddled with “shall statements” like, “the contractor shall develop a plan for the delivery of 15 tool kits per month,” or “the contractor shall abide by all cybersecurity regulations as outlined in DFARS.”
These statements carry legal weight, and it’s important you ensure your company can meet all the requirements. While you may not have to physically respond to each statement in the PWS or SOW (whatever is outlined in Section L), you need to make sure if you win the award, you can provide everything the government customer is asking for. One way to do this is to put all the “shall” statements in an Excel file and rank your company’s ability to perform each.
Other Important Contract Sections in Your Government Proposal
While the sections above are the important ones to begin reviewing right away, your proposal manager, whether that is you or someone else on your team, should thoroughly read the entire solicitation. Below, we’ll cover the contract sections that are crucial to pay attention to.
Section I: Contract Clauses
This section, often referred to as Section I, is a list of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clauses that apply to the solicitation. The FAR is essentially the rulebook for government contracting and carries legal weight. A member of your legal team should also review this section.
Section K: Representations and Certifications
Section K, or Representations and Certifications (Reps and Certs) is generally required to be submitted with your proposal response. As the name suggests, it’s a list of representations and certifications about your company (ex: socioeconomic status or size standard). As long as your Reps and Certs from SAM.gov are complete and updated, this section is often just checking a box.
Section H: Special Contract Requirements
The Special Contract Requirements section should be reviewed for any areas of concern. This section generally contains any special provisions, terms, and conditions that were not included in Section I (contract clauses).
Preparing for Government Contracting Opportunities
Now that you have a better sense of how to read and break down a solicitation, what’s next? Crafting your proposal response can take time and expertise. To learn more about the proposal response process, check out our blogs below:
- 3 Tips for a Successful RFP Response
- A Guide to Requests for Proposals
- Government Solicitation Q&A Best Practices
Often a proposal response is more than crafting a document for submittal. You should also make sure your GSA Schedule is updated and properly maintained. If you have any other questions about how you can prepare your GSA Schedule for the next opportunity, reach out to one of our experienced consultants.
About Stephanie Hagan
Stephanie Hagan is the Content Writer and Digital Editor for Winvale where she helps the marketing department continue to develop and distribute GSA and government contracting content. Stephanie grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and earned her Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism and Rhetoric/Communications from the University of Richmond.