In a previous blog posting, we discussed some of the key questions and priorities to keep in mind when qualifying (or disqualifying) a new lead as a real opportunity. Let’s expand on those basics, digging a little further into the What and How.
When making pursuit decisions, knowledge is power. And so is consistency. New leads will always pop up. Ensuring you consistently acquire the most fundamental data points will enable smart your decision-making.
This group of questions is one that your team should be prepared to address in every opportunity review. Answers (or perhaps the lack thereof) and subsequent analysis of the results will determine whether you’re about to burn good Bid and Proposal (B&P) dollars or whether you’re making a sensible, calculated decision. Just like any other business decision, it follows a process and guidelines to help you make an informed answer with the best information available to you.
- Do you know the contract number, task order number and/or solicitation number? This information seems obvious, but it’s an often-overlooked tool. These numbers can greatly assist your search for more contract information. The Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) may sometimes include solicitation numbers. Knowing any of these can help you search FedBizOpps, FPDS, USASpending, etc.
- Who is the true customer? Don’t obsess over the contracting agency or office as the customer. Rather, be mindful of the funding agency or office. For example, there are instances when you have a single contracting agency and yet you have multiple funding agencies or offices. Follow that funding trail, and you will find who the real customers are and if they are desirable to your firm’s strengths and pipeline goals.
- What is the period of performance? This gives us important insights on the potential timeline of the acquisition and helps to gauge the contract-spend over time. The effective date and expiration date of an incumbent contract may give insight into when the recompete could be competed and awarded. If the expected end date is tomorrow, you’re probably too late. Backtrack from that end date 3 – 6 months to predict a rough solicitation date. Does that give you adequate time to engage the customer to the extent required to write and staff a targeted bid with a reasonable chance of success? If not, save your B&P for another target.
- What is “The Spend?” What is the obligated value of the contract compared to the ceiling value of the contract? Don’t fall for the allure of “ceiling value;” the contract action obligation reflects the REAL spending that the customer is doing on this contract. Look not just at the overall number, but also at the year-over-year spending through the vehicle: Is the trend increasing, decreasing, or flat? What’s the annualized spending rate? We’ve seen too many firms, especially those new to the federal market, get caught up in the irrational exuberance caused by ceiling values.
- What is the scope of work? This can be the trickiest part to identify. Seek out previous Requests for Proposal (RFP), Performance Work Statements (PWS), Scopes of Work (SOW), Requests for Information (RFI), etc., Without those, you may not have a clue about the finer points of the required work. Broad topics like “IT” or “Health Management” may sound appealing, but without those details, you could be burning your limited B&P for a proposal that contains little appropriate tasking for your firm. If these documents aren’t available, one shortcut is to look at press releases of the current incumbents: Businesses like to talk about what they do and will often give away useful contract and task-order details on their own websites. (Of course, we at FedSavvy Strategies know many more subtle tricks to deduce this intelligence. ?)
- What is the likely competition type and contract vehicle? – The acquisition type (e.g., small business set-aside, 8(a) sole source) may determine the competitive field and can limit your ability to prime on a contract if you do not meet the criteria. The contract’s acquisition vehicle (e.g., GSA OASIS, CIO-SP3, GSA IT-70) can also have an impact on your competitive field. Note, though, that the contract vehicle for the incumbent contract is not always indicative of the recompete vehicle. If there is no clear information on the recompete, then the previous acquisition can serve as an estimate for how the contract may be recompeted.
- What do you know about the incumbent(s)? More often than not, most contract opportunities will be recompetes of existing work. If you do not yet know the incumbent(s), see if you can identify them through government forecasts. You can also search using the contract number and task order number or through the legacy solicitation number. Knowing your foe(s) is a fundamental issue to deduce and critical to answering some of the other questions above.
Once you’ve collected the answers to these questions, is there enough that you’ve learned from this process to determine whether the lead aligns with your corporate capabilities and goals? If yes, dive a bit deeper. If not, there is neither shame in moving on nor obligation for your firm to spend additional dollars weighing or preparing a bid. It doesn’t matter where the lead originated: If you cannot figure it out or it just doesn’t fit then it’s not worth the B&P.
If you think you need some help with answering these questions, with instituting a formal internal opportunity review process, and/or with the deep dive into pipelines, bids, and competitors, as always, FedSavvy Strategies is here to help. Just contact us for more information.
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