Managing Your Portfolio of Contract Solicitation Opportunities

Not sure if you should bid on that government contract solicitation you just received?  Do you feel confident that your qualifications and experience meet the scope of work requirements?  Do the chances of winning the contract justify your time filling out all those government forms and answering all those RFP questions?

Well, as usual, you are not alone.

You’ve got an important decision to make and government contract solicitations typically don’t give you much time to respond.  And they’re very demanding in how you respond.  Forget to fill-out a form, or properly address a question (direct or implied) and they WILL either kick your proposal to the curb (aka declare you “unresponsive”) or subtract prized evaluation points from your bid and maybe award the contract to your competitor.

So, do you just a take chance, jump in and hope for the best?  REALLY?  Is that how you handle your personal finances . . . just tell your accountant or broker “let it ride on Enron and hope for the best?” Perhaps you should think of a better way to manage your portfolio of contract solicitation opportunities.

Investopedia tells us that “portfolio management is the art and science of making decisions about investment mix and policy, matching investments to objectives, asset allocation […] and balancing risk against performance.”  They sum it up nicely by saying “Portfolio management is all about determining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” in choices.

What’s true about financial portfolio management is also true for responding to the right government contract solicitation.  You are investing your organization’s time, resources and money on a chance to win a contract.  Like stocks and bonds, you need to select the right contract solicitations that reflect your risk tolerance, meaning how much resources are you willing to put on the line for a contract you might not win? Also important for winning contracts, you must select those opportunities that are most compatible to your organization’s capabilities and qualifications.

And like selecting stocks and bonds, a common mistake in picking contract solicitations is making incorrect assessments.  What I mean by that, for contract solicitations, is that if you are not careful, you will misinterpret the requirements listed in the opportunity’s statement of work requirements.

All too often we read what we want to see in a solicitation, not what’s in there.  And many times, as we read a solicitation, we jump right into thinking what the solicitation SHOULD be requesting, not what it is ACTUALLY asking.  It’s all too easy and natural for us to say, oh, they should really be asking for this and not that or thinking that your organization’s way for addressing a problem is better than what the solicitation is looking to implement. Continue with that train of thought and you are on your way to not winning the contract.

It doesn’t matter if your approach, method, product or solution is the best thing since sliced bread or toilet paper.   Remember, that old adage, the customer is always right?  It doesn’t mean you follow them blindly.  It just increases your chances to stay in the game, to be the one given a chance to change minds after you win the bid.

The key to success here is that you must line up the solicitation’s stated requirements (whether you agree with them or not) against what your organization can (or is willing) provide.  Make it a cold-hearted yes or no assessment.  Only after you have done that will you be in a better position to determine if that solicitation should be added to your portfolio of contract opportunities you intend to risk your time, resources and money to win.  But you knew that already, right?

Well, I’m not so sure about that since several people told me that the client would be better off with their solution and not what is stated in the solicitation.  Funny thing is that they followed up with, why wasn’t their stellar solution not chosen?   So, I decided to post this blog.

Simple as that.  Well, not so. . .   Next week, I’ll post an easy tool you can use to help you make that honest assessment and decide if you should invest your time, resources and money to respond to that contract solicitation.  Stay tuned or follow my blog for the tool.

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.