This blog post is a primer to guide you through the Government request for proposal (RFP) process.
Starting out as a Federal Contractor can be an intimidating experience, but the rewards can be substantial. There are very few businesses that can go from a start up to having a multimillion dollar contract in a very short time span. And with the Government’s sudden shift to Low-Price, Technically-Acceptable (LPTA) proposals and small business set-asides, your business can be competitive without past performance — a major advantage to a newly launch business. The evaluation factors for LPTA proposal and winning comes down to who has a technically acceptable proposal and the lowest (realistic) price.
Now that you’ve located an opportunity under your NAICS code where you believe you can be competitive, what are the next steps?
You will need review the Request for Proposal (RFP). The RFP is a document that informs you of the requirements the Government is looking to have a contractor perform. Try not to be overly intimidated by the size of the RFP; you do not need to read the entire proposal although, you may want to be familiar with the standard contract jargon that goes into Government RFPs. After going threw a few RFPs, before long you will be able to quickly determine what is important to know. For now, all you need is the most critical information found on the cover page and in Sections C, L and M.
The cover page will inform you of the type of contract, Cost plus, (CP) Firm Fixed Price – Level of Effort (FFP-LOE), or Time and Material (T&M) or derivatives of these types of contracts. You should also become familiar with the the Federal Acquisition Regulation www.acquisition.gov. You can look up and review the FAR references that apply to the proposal.
You have already determined if the proposal falls within your NAICS code, so now see if the proposal is Full and Open (meaning it is open to all contractors) or a set-aside contract (set asides are only open to those companies qualifying, such as SDVOSB, WOSB, 8(a), and etc.)
After downloading the Request for Proposal (RFP), you will need to:
1. Review Section C – the Statement of Work (SOW), this is the Government’s requirements for the service they are expecting a contractor to perform.
2. Look at Section L – this is where you learn the Government’s requirements for formatting (font size and type; page count, and etc.) and the organization of the proposal volumes (Technical, Program Management, Past Performance, Security, and Cost) of the proposal you will deliver to the Government.
3. Closely review Section M – this is where the Government lists the criteria they will evaluate each proposal volume . Failure to follow all the Government’s requirements could result in a non-compliance proposal which will automatically be taken out of competition.
4. Develop and Outline – Once you have reviewed the RFP, you will need to develop an outline for each volume you will be writing. You will want to provide an outline that will provide you with the best organizational flow for how you will meet the Government’s requirements. Sometimes it can tricky to combine the SOW and evaluation criteria so it flows logically and smoothly but you should include both both Section A and M in your outline.
Below is a sample of a Technical Volume outline I developed for a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal. Remember, you are providing the Government what they are requesting, not what you believe they should have. Make sure that you following L & M to the letter and combined them within your outline. Beautiful writing does not win proposals — compliant and technically sound proposals win when combined with price. Also be aware that various sections are assigned higher weighted values for the overall evaluation of the proposal.
NOTE: This is the sample outline with guidance taken from the RFP combining sections L & M and guidance for Volume I, Technical. The outline decomposes the Government’s requirements to include page count limits. Anywhere you see “writer’s directions” this was added by me to help the writer know the Government’s criteria. RFP guidance varies based on the Government customer and the type of procurement.
Writer’s Directions: The information provided from the RFP provides overall guidance for the proposal submission. This information will be deleted after the guidance is no longer needed by the writers.
III.1 52.212-1 INSTRUCTIONS TO OFFERORS — COMMERCIAL ITEMS (JUL2013)
(a) North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code and small business size standard. The NAICS code and small business size standard for this acquisition appear in Block 10 of the solicitation coversheet (SF1449). However, the small business size standard for a concern which submits an offer in its own name, but which proposes to furnish an item which it did not itself manufacture, is 500 employees.
(b) Submission of offers. Submit signed and dated offers to the office specified in this solicitation at or before the exact time specified in this solicitation.
(1) The solicitation number
(2) The time specified in the solicitation for receipt of offers;
(3) The name, address, and telephone number of the offeror;
(4) A technical description of the items being offered in sufficient detail to evaluate compliance with the requirements in the solicitation.
(5) Terms of any express warranty
(6) Price and any discount terms
(8) A completed copy of the representations and certifications at FAR52.212
(9) Acknowledgment of Solicitation Amendments;
(10) Past performance information
(11) If the offer is not submitted on the SF1449, include a statement specifying the extent of agreement with all terms, conditions, and provisions included in the solicitation.
(c) Period of acceptance of offers. The offeror agrees to hold the prices in its offer firm for 30 calendar days from the date specified for receipt of offers.
Volume I – Technical Proposal
This volume must not contain any reference to price; however, resource information (such as data concerning labor hours and categories, materials, subcontracts, etc.) must be contained in the technical proposals or that the Contractor’s understanding of the requirements may be evaluated.
This volume shall consist of the sections described below.
1.0 Section 1 – Transmittal Letter
A letter that formally transmits the proposal and states in general terms how the offeror meets the solicitation requirements. (not to exceed 2 pages)
2.0 Section 2 – Executive Summary and Table of Contents
In this section, the offer will be summarized, highlighting salient features of the proposal, including a description of the offeror’s approach and plans to satisfy and support requirements of this solicitation. Any technical and schedule risks should also be detailed. The summary should indicate the offeror’s complete acceptance of the technical requirements or specify any exceptions. A clear table of contents with page numbers referenced should be included. (not to exceed 5 pages)
3.0 Section 3 – Technical Approach
The technical approach should be in as much detail as the offeror considers necessary to fully explain the proposed technical approach or method and must demonstrate a clear and concise presentation that includes, but is not limited to, the requirement of the technical proposal instructions. The Technical Proposal shall be tabbed as indicated below and each tab shall not exceed the maximum page limit identified after the title of each tab. The Technical Proposal should reflect a clear understanding of the nature of the work being undertaken. The technical approach should discuss any perceived areas of risk and risk management. If subcontractors are to be utilized, the offeror shall submit the same information pertaining to the subcontractors.
The offeror should state all assumptions, exceptions, and deviations at the end of this section. For every instance where the offeror does not propose to comply with or agree to a requirement, the offeror shall propose an alternative and describe its reasoning therefore.
For requirements that describe a mandatory feature, the response may consist of a reference to the offeror’s technical literature. Any technical literature used as a reference must be furnished as an attachment to the proposal. If the reference contains the required technical detail, it is not necessary to restate such detail in the proposal itself. All references must clearly identify the volume, page and line number of the referenced material. For requirements that describe an optional feature or function, the offeror must provide a response on how this optional requirement is to be satisfied.
Elaborate brochures, binders and the like are neither required nor desired. Legibility, clarity and completeness are important. The submission of brochures or flyers alone without an accompanying explanation specific to this proposal is not acceptable.
Page limits have been established for each tab. If the offeror includes more pages than are allowed, all pages that exceed the page limit will be removed from the proposal prior to the evaluation.
4.0 Tab A: Corporate Experience and Assessment Methodologies (not to exceed 5 pages)
The offeror shall provide a detailed description of their experience, qualifications, and technical knowledge, as it pertains to the requirements outlined in the solicitation. This should detail the number of years of experience in providing polygraph services, any major accomplishments, and how they can contribute to CBP.
4.1 Description of Experience, Qualifications, And Technical Knowledge
5.0 TAB B: Polygraph Examination Processes, Methodologies, and Quality Assurance (not exceed 20 pages)
The offeror shall fully-describe their polygraph examinations process. This should completely outline all steps and processes for the Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (LEPET) polygraph examination format. This should outline all pre-test preparations, the polygraph exam, any other additional procedures, and correspondence measures with CBP.
The offeror shall describe their methodology to ensure quality polygraph examinations. Details need to be provided that clearly explain their processes, methodologies, strengths, and how it contributes maintaining our timelines for delivery.
5.1 The Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (LEPET) Polygraph Process
5.1.1 Pre-test preparations
5.1.2 The Polygraph Exam, Additional Procedures, and Correspondence Measures
5.1.3 Methodology to Ensure Quality Polygraph Examinations
6.0 Tab C: Facility Resources:
6.1 Detailed Description of Current Facility Resources/Locations
6.1.1 Details on the Number of Polygraph Rooms and Total Square Footage
6.1.2 Additional Facility Locations to Meet Capacity
6.1.3 Steps for Procuring Additional Facilities
6.1.4 Resources/Locations and the Anticipated Timeline
7.0 Tab D: Equipment Resources and Training (not to exceed 15 pages; process flows and screen shots can be included in a separate appendix and are not included in the page limit)
7.1 Detailed Description of Their Current Equipment Resources
7.1.1 Meeting DHS CBP’s Requirements for Conducting Polygraph Examinations
7.1.2 Staff’s Experience using Software and Equipment.
7.2 Steps for Procuring Additional Equipment to Meet An Increased Capacity
7.2.1 Procurement Timeline
7.3 Training Program
7.3.1 Timeline to Complete Training
8.0 Tab E: Staffing Representation and Training: (not to exceed 15 pages)
The offeror shall provide the extent of their current polygraph examination workforce and their ability to provide qualified candidates that will be utilized for purposes of this contract.
8.1 Our Polygraph Examination Workforce and Ability to Provide Qualified Candidates
|Name||Current Certification||Years of Experience||Time Away to Maintain Certification|
Figure 8.3-1. Polygraph Examiners Current Certification(s) and Experience
8.1.1 Anticipated Number of Examiners and Estimated Yearly Workload to Meet Contract Requirements
8.1.2 Recruitment strategy for increased capacity
8.1.3 Recruitment timeline
9.0 Tab F: Approach to Security Requirements (not to exceed 10 pages)
Provide a detailed description of the approach to maintaining all security requirements related to this contract.
10.0 Tab G: Communication (not to exceed 5 pages; process flows and screen shots can be included in a separate appendix and are not included in the page limit)
Once you have your outlines completed, double check to ensure you capture all the proposal requirement. For the most part, try to ensure the outline is easy for a Government evaluator to follow; if you follow the evaluation criteria it will make the evaluator’s job easier.
Here’s to writing your first Government proposal … and a win!
With Love and Respect,