Do You Keep Missing The RFP Target?

Does This Sound Familiar?

The owner of a small services firm told me about how her business responded to thirty or so RFP solicitations. She spent time and effort carefully filling out the forms, crafting out a recommended approach and pricing to satisfy the requirements of those opportunities that were “right up her alley.”

And this is what she got for all that effort . . . zilch, nada (thing), diddly-squat! She was, however, invited to explain to her partners and investors why she wasted their time and money.

So What Happened?
Hearing more about her approach, it turns out that she should not have responded to any of those thirty RFP opportunities. Why? Even though those opportunities were in her firm’s areas of expertise, they were not a good fit for reasons that had nothing to do with the scope of work defined in those RFPs.

Just because you find out about an RFP or RFQ opportunity, that doesn’t mean it is an opportunity for you.  But make no mistake about it. Winning competitive RFP/RFQs is a game of large numbers. You’ve got to be in as many of these opportunity bubbles as possible. The question is, which ones won’t pop on you?

So, consider my 10% theory. No matter how good your organization is, even if your product or service is the best thing since sliced bread, you still must have at least ten RFP/RFQ responses going just to win one. Question is . . . which ten? Obviously the business owner described above responded to the wrong RFP/RFQ opportunities.

Bottom Line: Think Twice Before You Respond To Any RFP Solicitation!

In my next blog, I’ll talk about how and why you need to understand the true story behind a RFP solicitation before you respond to it.

It’s A Juicy Opportunity! But Should You Agree To All Government Contract Terms and Conditions?

Mmm boy! You’ve come across a great state or federal contract opportunity. But the RFP solicitation requires that you agree to ALL of the government’s terms and conditions as part of your RFP response.  A yellow flag pops up in your head.  But the opportunity sizzles before you-  like a Ruth Chris Cowboy Ribeye.  And you want it!

Sometimes small businesses are so eager to receive a contract from a government agency, or a prime contractor, that they are willing to agree to the offered terms and conditions. This attitude, however, may lead to unreasonable risks for your business.

William Curry, author of “Contracting for Services in State and Local Government Agencies,”(click here for more information about the book) cautions us to not give in so quickly.  Consider indemnification clauses.  Government agencies oftentimes have two versions of indemnification clauses. But they only present the indemnification clause version that requires you to indemnify the government, but does not require the government to indemnify your business.

Businesses with good legal representation are likely to balk at such one-sided clauses wherein they assume considerable risk while the government avoids that particular risk. Curry tells us that it is not unusual, however, for a government agency to have a back-up provision that does provide for mutual indemnification and they are usually willing to use that version if challenged.

Bottom line is this- when faced with contract terms and conditions with such one-sided indemnification provisions, small businesses should consider asking the government to substitute an indemnification clause that pertains equally to both parties in the contract.  There is a caveat. Not all government agencies have multiple indemnification clause versions and there is no guarantee they will agree to your request.  But it doesn’t hurt to ask.  Above all, it is best to secure legal advice on these matters because we are not lawyers.

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WANTED!!! A Finance & Insurance Regulatory Expert

Join our virtual team!

I’m looking for a regulatory finance & insurance subject matter expert img_1035to join our data analytics team. This person should have in-depth experience with state and/or federal agencies and be able to work with our team to: dig through various data sources, discover/explain actionable insights and uncover hidden systemic risks and/or fraud. Background in federal/state regulatory issues is a must. Experience working with these agencies desired.

Please contact me if interested or feel free to forward this opportunity to your network. This is a quick response contract opportunity, so we need to hear from you now!

Hit The Right Target! It’s Time to Reread The RFP Requirements.

Happy Holidays & Winter Solstice All!

I’ve neglected my blogging chores recently, having been busy helping a few clients respond to some state government bidding opportunities before the end of the year.  But, now I’m back and want to share with you a funny experience I had the other day while scanning through a bunch of new opportunities.  It’s literally an eye opening experience that we all should keep in mind!

Now, we all understand that knowing the Request for Proposal (RFP) stated requirements is critical to being selected.  But literally hundreds of state/federal solicitations fly across my iPad screen . . . each one begging my eyes to scan through and assess their need.  But, I don’t have time to read these requests word-for-bloody-word!

So, while speed reading through the requirements, I noted that a potential RFP opportunity is looking for a vendor to conduct SWAT training.  Now, in my head and from a halcyonic prespective, that acronym sounded like Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threats, an area where my client excels.  Ding, ding, ding, this is a slam dunk!  I can writeup a proposal for my client quickly and get ready for Christmas. Yea, buddy!

But, fortunately, the analytic geek inside of me decided to look into this further . . . slower . . . more intently.  After rereading the solicitation, and this time going all the way down the bottom of the page, it turns out the RFP solicitation actually wants someone to conduct Special Weapons & Tactics training . . . a totally different target (and client).

Lesson learned: read, re-read, then read it again!

Did you have a similar experience?

Wanted! A University Enrollment Management Subject Matter Expert

img_0867Join our virtual team!

I’m looking for a subject matter expert to join our data analytics team to help a university client understand what their student enrollment numbers are saying. You will leverage your knowledge, lessons learned and experience to help our team make ‘call to action’ projections and clear recommendations to the university. The end goal- to enable our client to meet their University Student Lifecycle/Support goals and objectives (student: admissions, course enrollment, workload, retention, financial assistance, productivity, grades, etc.).

Background in (and strong references from) a university/college admissions organization where you helped to optimize conditions to attract and retain students in a positive learning environment for their success is a must.

Please contact me if interested or feel free to forward this opportunity to your network. This is a quick response contract opportunity, so we need to hear from you now!

RFx Terminology – It’s Back-To-Basics

So what is your organization responding to?  Is it a RFP, RFQ, IFB . . . what’s the difference anyway and how does it affect your sales strategy?

img_0841I’ve seen these terms tossed about like multicolor balloons on New Year’s Eve!  But in the contracting world, each balloon is different.  They signal the solicitor’s varied intentions, which can affect your decision to respond to the opportunity in question.  Unfortunately, these terms are not always used consistently and can lead to confusion.

To see how other experts define RFx terminology, I did a quick Internet scan. Below is a high level summary of what I found and my personal comments on each. Take a look but don’t consider them the gospel for RFx terminology.  Instead, use this information as part of your overall research on the solicitation opportunity.  And remember, no matter what they call it, the real meanings will be found in the solicitation details such as: purpose, scope of work, instructions, terms and conditions and vendor selection criteria/process.

Request for Information (RFI) – These are open solicitations that seek broad information and understanding about a problem or requirement. RFIs are used to gather industry data, intelligence and vendor capabilities to help decide what step to take next before embarking on more formal and specific solicitations.  RFI’s are, therefore, seldom the final vendor selection stage, but instead tend to establish the beach head that paves the way for other solicitation types described below.

Bottom line here is don’t expect this to result in a contract, at least not yet.  Instead, think of the RFI as a golden opportunity to introduce your organization to the buyer and contract manager. You will most likely have to respond to another solicitation to win the contract. That’s more work but it may be worth the effort in terms of getting positive exposure and time to propose the best solution.

Request for Quotation (RFQ) is a solicitation opportunity for potential vendors/suppliers to communicate to the buyer proposed costs for a defined set of products and services. I’ve read some industry sources that say the quote you submit is not a binding offer. But I have come across RFQs that included terms and conditions that effectively bind your firm to the price you submitted and confirmed with your signature as an official person authorized to commit your firm. So read the nitty-gritty details!

An RFQ usually contains a specific detailed list or description along with related parameters of the service and or items to be acquired by the purchasing organization. Bottom line, the buyer knows what s/he wants and is most likely doing a price comparison. This is a technique sometimes used to ensure that the incumbent vendor (if there is one) doesn’t overcharge for his/her services or products. The lowest priced vendor usually prevails here.

Invitation for Bid (IFB)– Similar to a RFQ, this solicitation is a method to gather competitive pricing for a specifically defined need and the decision is generally based on price not ideas. I’ve read IFBs are used for procurements greater than $100,000 in value but not all procurement departments follow that rule. For example, we recently won a Texas IFB that totaled about $20,000.

Request for Proposal (RFP) is a solicitation sent to potential suppliers with whom a creative relationship or partnership is considered critical to success. Typically, the buyer knows what s/he wants but is not sure on the approach to get there.  So, the RFP asks competing vendors to state their proposed strategy to achieve the buyer’s goals and objectives.  This also gives the buyer an opportunity to see how their potential vendor partner thinks and to get a glimpse into how the relationship will take shape. In fact, the creativity and innovation that vendors include in their proposals can become a real competitive advantage as the buyer is looking to see if what the vendor is thinking is aligned to the buyer’s needs and organizational culture.  Prior to the RFP due date, I’ve seen and participated in a lot of back and forth with the buying organization to better understand the true intent of the buyer/contracting officer and establish a relationship.

A word of caution here, don’t simply dump boilerplate information, brochures and fancy advertisements in your RFP response to describe your approach.  This is not a high school or college lab assignment where the professor grades your paper based on its weight.   If you do, the buyer and contracting officer will probably knock points off your evaluation score . . . I would.

Having been on the receiving end of vendor RFP responses, nothing angers me more than having to wade through a ton of paper and pamphlets that do not support their approach and strategy.  Nowadays, contracting officers are putting statement into their RFP solicitations that discourages this sort of shot gun approach.  For example, a recent Florida RFP solicitation included the following discreet statement “The Department discourages lengthy Proposals.”  I even saw this statement in a California solicitation, “Due to limited storage space, the proposal package should be prepared using the least expensive method (i.e. cover page with staple in upper left-hand corner, no fancy bindings).” A major university in California went even further saying, “Elaborate bids in the form of brochures or other presentations beyond that necessary to present a complete and effective proposal are not desired.”  And for those who can’t read between the lines, that university went on to say “The bidders ability to follow the bid preparation instructions set forth in this solicitation will be considered an indicator of the bidder’s ability to follow instructions should they receive a contract award.” Get the hint?

Needless to say, if done right, RFPs take more time to: clearly define an aligned and prioritized need set; communicate that need to the competing vendors and allow them sufficient time to formulate an intelligent and innovative response; assess and select the best vendor; and conclude final negotiations.  Effective RFPs typically reflect the strategy and short/long term business objectives and provide insight upon which suppliers can use to enhance their proposals and shine brightly in the buyer’s eyes.

Request for Tender (RFT) is similar to the RFQ where the: work or commodity to be delivered is clearly defined/specified; price carries a high evaluation factor and there is not much room or need for alternative strategies or problem solving techniques. You may read that RFTs tend to be used more in the public sector but I’ve seen more solicitations labeled as RFQs than RFTs in that space.

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There are several more types of solicitations but we have covered the basics. Below is a list of the solicitation types I know about. Drop me a line if you find any others.

RFS – request for services
RFQ – request for quotation or request for qualifications
RFP – request for proposal
RFO – request for offers
RFN – request for negotiation
RFI – request for information
RFD – request for documentation
RFA – request for applications
ITV – invitation to vendors
ITT – invitation to tender
IFB – invitation for bids
EOI – expression of interest

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Organizational Mgt. & Training For USAF

Here’s another Virtual Team opportunity!  Join our team to compete img_0836for a USAF contract. Ideally, we need a person with some organizational management (leadership, cultural analysis, change management, etc.) background and/or general training experience.  This person should also have a STRONG USAF Security Forces background and knowledge of its organizational challenges.

If you don’t have all of these skills but possess a STRONG USAF Security Forces background, you can help us customize our existing organizational management courses and techniques to be relevant to the USAF Security Forces organization environment and challenges.   Bottom line . . . this is a great contract opportunity for a retired USAF person to jump start his/her career in the civilian corporate world!

You will work with our team, leveraging your knowledge to establish our proposal’s goals & objectives, approach, cost and timeline to satisfy the USAF Security Forces requirements.   As a Virtual Team contractor, your time commitment and financial reward will depend on your specific experience and scope of work presented to and accepted by the client.

Please contact me if interested or feel free to forward this opportunity to your network. This is a quick response contract opportunity, so we need to hear from you now!

Click here to learn more about our Virtual Team approach to winning contracts. Thanks!

Siemens Soarian Implementation PM & SME Virtual Team Opportunity

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I’m putting together a virtual project team to compete for a contract to provide project management and knowledge transfer services to oversee the implementation of a Siemens Soarian health information management system on the East Coast.

I’m looking for project managers and Subject Matter Experts with DEMONSTRATED knowledge and background coupled with documented successful experience with Siemens Soarian implementations in a healthcare/hospital environment.

Please contact me if interested or feel free to forward this opportunity to your network. This is a long term but quick response contract opportunity.  See the Virtual Team page for more information.

Gov’t Contract Solicitation Tripwires- Will You See All Contract Opportunities?

So you registered your company in a state vendor registeration portal!  img_0833You listed all the industry codes representing the types of services and commodities you provide, you provided your contact information, submitted your FEIN number, confirmed your email address and jumped through a bunch of other registration hoops. Now, you finally received that confirmation email saying your company is a registered state vendor.

Congratulations!  Now that you’re done, you can just sit back and read the tons of contract opportunities that will soon pile up in your email inbox . . . right?  WRONG!

Just because you are registered in a state’s vendor registration portal, don’t expect to see ALL the opportunities. There are dollar thresholds that states follow to determine if they will advertise a contract opportunity. Each state has a different trip wire. Louisiana says that “procurements of $25,000 or greater are advertised…” California’s State Contracting Manual – Vol. 1, tells us that “contracts under $5,000 are not required to be competitively bid.”

Going after these under the wire contract opportunities now becomes a strategic business decision.  One that should be unique to your operation that depends on things like if the opportunity is in your home state, setasides, the incumbent vendor’s (if there is one) relationship to the client and profit margins associated with winning/servicing the small contract.

Think about it . . . then act . . . or move on!

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