Focus on What you are bidding on and Who will take the lead
Despite our best efforts, in this crazy world of government contracting, none of us can predict with 100 percent certainty when RFPs will be released. Yet, many companies still spend significant time, effort, and energy anticipating release dates and moving opportunities up and down a pipeline based on calendar days. Although knowing generally when opportunities will present themselves (by what month or quarter they are expected), we argue the When variable is less vital than What you are bidding on and Who will be responsible for responding to the RFP.
To help with the What
Having a plan around the composition of your pipeline is a key component to successfully executing against your pipeline. Below are three types of opportunities you’ll want to ensure are in the mix:
- Contract Vehicles: In any given year, our small and mid-sized clients typically pursue one to three strategic new contract vehicles (or are on-ramping to existing vehicles) and then maintain a healthy pipeline of non-vehicle opportunities. Keep in mind that vehicles only give you a license to hunt, and that the award timeframe can be one year or more for the base contract, not to mention the delay for subsequent competitive task orders. You’ll need to pursue and win contracts with immediate funding in the meantime.
- Role: When you are a small business, many of your contracts may start off as a subcontractor. Which makes sense because you need to build your past performance, gain valuable experience and face time with new customers, and leverage entry points into new agencies and services. However, nothing replaces working as a prime. Even the smallest, newest companies can pursue and win prime contracts. To start, you may want to target an 80/20 blend of subcontractor/prime opportunities, then move to 50/50, and finally mature to a robust 20/80 balance. If merger or acquisition is part of your growth strategy, remember that your company is most attractive with a strong number of prime contracts.
- Incumbency: While you have your eye on the horizon and are thinking of new growth, don’t forget to protect your base of existing work. Add option years and recompetes in your pipeline so they don’t catch you unprepared, and make sure to address any customer satisfaction issues early before your contract is up for recompete. If you are bumping up against the small business-size ceiling (congrats!), you may find that you aren’t going to be eligible to stay a prime. In the event this happens, you need a strategy to discuss the pros and cons of a full and open competition with your client, or consider teaming as a sub on the same work to maintain some of your position going forward. Growth is good, and preparing for your existing revenue to move from 51 to 49 percent is a small price to pay for graduating from small business status.
To Answer the Who
Every opportunity needs a qualified corporate lead or proposal manager. So, ask yourself if you have the proposal expertise for each opportunity. Are there any gaps, whether in skills, experience, or availability? Can that proposal expertise be filled by a teammate or a new hire?
Or…can WinBiz fill that gap? Without a doubt, the number one reason our customers contact us is that they don’t have the in-house resources to keep up with their growing pipeline. There are only 24 hours in the day and when your team is spending eight on billable work, two on corporate overhead work, seven sleeping (yes, sleep is important!), two with family and socializing, two eating and exercising, and two commuting….well, there’s not a lot of time left over to put together a winning proposal.
And this is our Why
That’s why I started WinBiz five years ago. I saw small, but growing, businesses desperately needing a way to augment their already stretched thin business and proposal development staff. But, it seemed like all the resources out there were geared towards big businesses with deep pockets. That’s why we specifically work with small and mid-tier government contractors to provide large-business expertise across all aspects of responding to RFPs—management, editing, writing, graphics, desktop publishing, orals coaching, and more. We supplement in-house resources so you can focus on your what: strategy and execution.
Don’t turn down an opportunity because you can’t answer Who is available to respond to the RFP. We’re here to help. Get on my calendar to see how we can positively impact your proposal efforts.