The Anatomy of an RFP
Government Business Development | 9 Min Read
Your first government proposal (and even your fifth) can be intimidating. Not every Request for Proposal (RFP) is the same, and it can take a while to review every section and identify what you need to work on first, especially if the proposal is several pages long. Although various agencies may use different templates, most solicitations will characteristically incorporate the following sections, so if you can get a handle on the basic outline, you’ll begin to easily make sense of each proposal. Let’s demystify the different sections of an RFP so your next response goes smoothly.
Section A – Solicitation/Contract Form
In government proposals, Section A is usually cited as the cover page or the title page, and it encompasses overall material around the solicitation and the contracting agency. This section could be perceived as an unimportant section; however it does define the central part on how to submit a compliant proposal. What you will find in Section A that is crucial for a successful submission:
- This section names the particular agency and the specific department or office responsible for overseeing the procurement process. This material is indispensable for vendors/responders to contact the correct people during the proposal process.
- Section A provides the deadline for proposal submission and outlines the specific instructions for submitting proposals. These instructions may include detailed formatting requirements, mandatory submission formats, or the number of copies to be submitted. It is critical to follow these instructions carefully to avoid having your proposal rejected.
- This section additionally lists the names and contract information of the Contracting Officer, the Contract Specialist, and other major staff who are involved in the procurement process. Being aware of who to contact and when to contract them can help vendors/responders obtain the information and backup they need to submit a competitive proposal.
Section B – Supplies or Services and Prices/Costs
Section B in government proposals is the analytical section that functions as the foundation for the entire proposal. This is where the vendor communicates the contract type, period of performance, and pricing structure of the procurement. The following bullets are why Section B is important:
- Supplies specific details about the products or services – this section allows the responder to provide a comprehensive explanation of the solutions they are proposing to sell to the government. This can consist of capabilities, specifications, and other technical features about the product or service.
- This section will assist in determining if the proposal is compliant. The information will determine proposal compliance, and if the vendor does not provide necessary information or does not meet the requirements stated in the solicitation, they could be disqualified from consideration.
- Government agencies regularly collect multiple proposals for a single solicitation, and Section B provides the ability to compare vendors’ offers to determine which proposal best meets the government needs.
- This section provides the pricing details which can include any discounts or incentives contractors are offering. The government uses this information to finalize the most cost-effective solution that meets their requirements.
Section C – Description/Specifications/Statement of Work
Section C is important because it states the specifics and requirements for the goods or services the vendor will deliver to the government. Here are some reasons Section C is crucial:
- This section stipulates comprehensive material on the requirements for the goods or services the government agency is pursuing. Section C comprises of the specifications, such as the preferred features, quality, and performance descriptions that the goods or service must meet.
- The requirements detailed in Section C are typically the source for evaluating proposals. Therefore, it’s important for vendors to comprehend and follow these requirements to guarantee that their proposals are compliant with the solicitation.
- Section C is generally the longest section of an RFP provides the essential framework and background for responders. Be sure to reference every item on the required Statement of Work (SOW) in your proposal response and include how you will deliver the requirements.
The following documents could be included in Section C:
- Statement of Objectives (SOO)
- Statement of Work (SOW)
- Performance Work Statement (PWS)
- Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan (QASP)
- Technical Requirement Document (TRD)
It’s recommended to review Sections L and M simultaneously regarding instructions and scoring before responding to Section C requirements.
Section D – Packaging and Marking
This section describes how the vendor should package and mark the goods being delivered to the government agency. Here’s what section D entails:
- Section D requirements are to make sure that the goods are packaged properly to safeguard the items from damage during transportation and handling.
- The marking requirements detailed in Section D stipulate a well-defined and explicit way of classifying the products being shipped.
- Section D might include instructions and packaging requirements to comply with federal, state, and local regulations. Compliance with these protocols is imperative to avoid potential fines, penalties, and other issues that may arise because of non-compliance.
Contractors must follow the packaging and marking requirements defined in this section to prevent elimination of their submission and to satisfy the delivery requirements of the contract.
Section E – Inspection and Acceptance
This section describes the inspection and acceptance obligations for the goods and services being purchased by the government. It’s essential for both the government and the vendor as it determines the terms and conditions (T&Cs) for inspection and acceptance of the goods or services being delivered.
For the government, it guarantees they receive goods or services that meet the stated quality standards and requirements stated in the solicitation. The T&Cs summarizes how the government will inspect and test the goods or services before receiving them and stipulates a structure for settling any problems that may occur during the acceptance workflow.
Contractors can use this section to identify what documents or evidence they need to keep verifying the quality and compliance of their goods or services. This section similarly supplies a source for vendors to settle any disagreements that could happen regarding acceptance or rejection of the goods or services.
Section F – Deliveries or Performance
Section F is an integral section that defines the vendor’s proposed schedule for delivering the goods or performing the services. It’s an important section for several reasons:
- The delivery or performance schedule defined in Section F must comply with the delivery or performance requirements stated in the solicitation. If there is any inconsistency concerning what the vendor proposed and what is required by the solicitation, the proposal could be considered non-compliant.
- The schedule should contain milestones that are significant to the success of the project. For example, delivery dates for critical components or services, testing dates, or other important deadlines.
- The delivery or performance schedule provides a well-defined way of accountability for both the vendor and the government agency. If the vendor fails to meet the delivery or performance milestones, they are accountable for the delay, and if the government agency fails to provide the materials or approval on time, then they are accountable for the delay.
- Read this section carefully because it impacts the cost proposal. Additionally, this section may stipulate the period of performance (PoP) for the final contract.
Section G – Contract Administration Data
Section G outlines essential instructions that pertain to the administration and management of the contract after it has been awarded. Here are some reasons why Section G is important:
- This section defines the responsibilities of the contractor and the government agency regarding the administration of the contract. The roles could be who will be responsible for administering the contract, how disputes will be managed, and how modifications to the contract will be managed.
- This section covers how changes to the contract will be managed, including the method for requesting and approving modifications and the timelines involved. Modifications to the contract may affect the pricing, delivery schedule, or scope of work and must be approved.
- This section could contain information on compliance with regulations, laws, and rules connected to contracting and procurement. This information is important to guarantee that the contractor and the government agency together follow all relevant policies and regulations.
Section G ensures successful management of the contract and compliance with all relevant regulations and policies from both the contractor and the government agency.
Section H – Special Contract Requirements
This section describes supplemental requirements, terms, or conditions that are unique to this projected contract:
- Section H defines any requirements that are specific to this proposed contract. These could include safety, technical specifications, or security/compliance, or other special terms and conditions. By stating these requirements, the contractor’s response will pledge to meet the government agency specific needs in their submittal.
- This section may include performance metrics that the contractor will need to meet to uphold the contract.
- Section H may contain requirements such as risk management, insurance, or other processes to lessen consequences related with the contract.
Section H is important because it summarizes the particular expectations, requirements, and risks accompanying a contract proposal. This section specifies key communication to the contractor, ensuring they understand the conditions for successful implementation of the contract.
Section J – List of Attachments and Exhibits
This section lists all the attachments, exhibits, and supporting documentation built-in for the proposal. Some reasons why Section J is significant:
- Section J furnishes a complete list of all the documentation contained within the proposal document, ensuring that the proposal is complete and includes all of the essential information needed to evaluate the proposal’s compliance with the terms and conditions of the solicitation.
- Section J attachments and exhibits supports Section L – Instructions to Proposers, and Section M – Evaluation Criteria. It helps contract evaluators to locate and review particular information and documentation pertinent to their assessment measures.
- This section assists procurement officers to promptly determine whether the proposal meets the proposal submission requirements and pass the evaluation.
- The attachment list may contain documentation that establishes compliance with important requirements, such as licenses, past performance, certifications, or financial statements.
Section K – Representations, Certifications, and Statements of Offerors
Section K allows the government agency to assess the offeror’s eligibility for the contract by verifying their certifications, representations, and statement. Here are some details why Section K is important:
- This section requires offerors to provide representations, certifications, and statements that prove their compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, statutes, and executive orders. This evidence aids the government agency to assess the offeror’s compliance with requirements such as labor laws, environmental laws, equal opportunity, taxation, and other applicable regulations.
- Section K provides a chance for the responder to prove their eligibility for the contract.
- This section requires the offeror to make specific certifications, representations, and statements. These certifications, statements and representations are legally binding, and help decrease the risk of fraud and misrepresentation.
Section L – Instructions, Conditions, and Notices of Offerors
Section L is arguably one of the most important sections to pay attention to, and one of the first sections to read when reviewing a proposal. Section L supplies the instructions and requirements for planning a competitive proposal in response to a government solicitation. Here are some major reasons why Section L is important:
- Section L offers detailed directions on how to structure the proposal, what content is required, and how to format it. This helps offerors to organize their proposal and present their information in a concise manner.
- This section determines the evaluation criteria, weights, and factors that the government will use to evaluate each proposal. This guarantees that all offerors are analyzed using the same standards and criteria, so all competitors have an equal chance in their response.
- This section minimizes the risk that a proposal will be non-compliant or non-responsive by plainly defining the requirements and instructions for proposal preparation.
Section L summarizes important information so that offerors fully understand the requirements of the solicitation, provides guidance for proposal preparation, advocates competition, clarity, determines consistent evaluation criteria, and reduces risk for government agencies. It plays a vital role in safeguarding a fair and competitive procurement process in government contracting.
Section M – Evaluation Factors for Award
Similar to section L, section M is one of the more important parts of a government proposal. It’s vital to study this section because it lays out the criteria that will be used to evaluate proposals and eventually settle which vendor is awarded the contract. If you are aware of these components, you will be able to shape your proposal responses to best comply with the needs of the government, plus boost your probabilities of being chosen. Fully understanding this section can significantly increase a vendor’s likelihood of being awarded the contract.
Are You Ready for Your Next Proposal?
Knowledge of each section will help you more easily and effectively break down your next RFP so you can spend more time formulating a strong response. If you need more help with RFPs check out our blogs: “6 Common RFP Mistakes Contractors Make and How to Avoid Them” , “3 Tips for a Successful RFP Response” and “A Guide to Request for Proposals (RFPs)”
As both a leading GSA Schedule consultant and a well-established GSA Schedule holder, Winvale is in a unique position to help you and your organization meet and exceed the government’s expectations in an RFP response. If you would like to learn more about Winvale’s GSA Schedule assistance services, feel free to contact our team of experts today.
About Leslie Crowley
Leslie Crowley is a Lead Account Manager for Winvale’s Public Sector department where she manages partner accounts under Winvale’s GSA MAS Large Category F contract. Leslie has vast experience building new business, securing customer loyalty, and forging strong relationships with external business partners.