Jenna Young, Proposal Director
It is no secret in federal sales that summertime is peak season for the industry. As Government Contracting Officers finalize procurements for the fiscal year, Q4 spending activity typically accounts for approximately 30% of the annual budget (thepuslegovcon.com). In FY22, the Government’s Q4 spending accounted for 34% of the year’s total obligations (thepuslegovcon.com). With significant spending underway and accelerated acquisition timelines, Contracting Officers often utilize relationships with trusted contractors. As contractors present themselves to new Federal clients, there are many steps a Contracting Officer can take to evaluate the credibility of a contractor.
Indications of a High-Value Contract Partner
- Satisfactory or above CPARS reports. CPARS, which essentially serves as a report card for contractors, is a critical indicator of a reputable company. Pay close attention to the commentary from evaluators.
- Repeat clients. Perhaps the best indicator of a successful contractor is repeat business. If a federal agency is willing to execute additional funds through a new contract, then the contractor has proven to be valuable to the Government.
- Clearly states benefits to client in proposal. Federal proposal evaluators must pay close attention to the quality of content in a contractor’s proposal. Do they mention the client more times than they mention themselves? Do they call out the client’s pain points with a reasonable plan to relieve them? Do they clearly articulate how their solution benefits the client? These are all indicators of a high-value partner.
Red Flags in Contractor Pitches and Proposals
- Restate the PWS/SOW. Perhaps the most concerning red flag in a contractor proposal is restating content (directly or by paraphrasing) from the PWS or SOW. Whether the restated content is from the background and scope or technical tasks, it shows a lack of understanding of the Government’s need as well as a lack of a verified solution to support the Government’s need.
- Significantly higher or lower price and/or staffing model. When a contractor is outside of the competitive range, or their bid price has a large variance from other competitors, it poses a serious risk to the Government. Extremely low prices often lead to an inability to recruit and retain qualified staff, or their price does not include enough staff to adequately support the client’s needs. Conversely, a higher price outside of the competitive range indicates too many staff or an overqualified staff proposed to support the client’s need.
- Lack of demonstrated experience. If a contractor cannot explicitly state how their proposed solution has helped solve a similar need for another client, it poses a risk to the Government. Solutions that have been previously implemented have been refined through lessons learned, client feedback, and contractor employee feedback.
Properly Vetting a Contract Partner
- Website Review. Does the contractor’s website reflect strong capabilities relevant to the solicited work? If their website reflects software development experience when the Government is seeking security operations center support, then the contractor may be selling their small business status rather than a developed capability area. This poses risk to the purchasing Agency as the contractor may potentially lack the expertise required to successfully fulfill the client’s need.
- Past Performance Points of Contact. One promising way to vet a potential contract partner is to go straight to the source. Directly calling the CO, COR, or other POC listed in a contractor’s past performance citation provides insight from a peer into where they successfully deliver and where they may fall short.
- Utilize Vehicles. Best-in-class vehicles, such as GSA OASIS, provide access to pre-vetted contractors. In order to receive an award on a best-in-class vehicle, a contractor had to successfully prove their qualifications regarding specific capabilities.
The process of vetting a contract partner requires strategic and thorough analysis. Ensuring a potential contractor’s credibility and expertise is not just a precautionary measure, but a vital step towards achieving Agency goals and National objectives.
About the Author
Jenna Young, Proposal Director
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