In our government contracting blog series, we’ve looked at why the Federal Government is a good opportunity for many different types of small businesses. We’ve discussed potential advantages like set-asides made for veteran-owned businesses, how some great modern tools can help you evaluate your market and find the financing you need to start these projects. Now, let’s dive into how to bid for a government contract.
Contracts Come in Many Formats, and on Many Platforms
Federal contracts come in all shapes and sizes, from one-off credit card purchases of basic office supplies to multi-year complex service requirements. Finding and connecting with the right opportunities to suit your business can be as big a challenge as actually competing and winning those contracts. The main source for connecting with federal opportunities is FedBizOpps or FBO. However, many agencies have their own solicitation posting boards that they use, as well as alternative government systems like GSA Schedules or Multiple Award Contracts vehicles.
Before Submitting Your Bid
1. Evaluate the Requirements
Once you have identified a project where you’d like to bid, make sure not to rush into submitting a bid without carefully evaluating the requirements. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of finally finding an opportunity that seems perfect and wanting to get your offer in right away. Remember, however, that most bids on government solicitations are considered legally binding officers, and are often required to be honored for anywhere from 30-90 days.
2. Ensure You Meet the Requirements
Take the time to read through the solicitation and make sure you meet all the vendor requirements. These requirements include, but are not limited to, restricting competition to specific set-asides, contract vehicles, geographical areas, product origins, shipping capabilities, manufacturer approvals, and past performance history. Don’t get caught rushing to submit your offer and then realize you misread the solicitation.
3. Ask for Feedback and Get Clarification
When reviewing the requirements, if you have feedback or questions about the solicitation, don’t hesitate to speak up. Reach out to the contracting officer early and document exactly what information you need in order to bid. If the answer to a question will potentially change your bid price, don’t submit that pricing without first getting clarification!
4. Give Feedback and Engage the Contracting Officer
Similarly, you are the industry expert so feel free to provide relevant feedback to the contracting officer. Maybe they are asking for a product or service that is no longer available or toward the end of its production cycle and they should update to the new model. Or they may be asking for one thing, but you know there is another product that more adequately meets their needs. Whether it’s a question or feedback, don’t be afraid to engage the contracting officer in a polite and professional manner.
Get more tips on government contracting. Download “The Government Contractor’s Handbook.”
Get Ready to Submit Your Bid
Once all questions have been answered and the requirements carefully reviewed, you are ready to submit a bid.
1. Decide Which Bidding System to Use
The manner in which you submit an offer is as varied as ways to find the opportunity in the first place.
FedBizOpps (FBO): Most solicitations listed on FBO will have a PDF package that you need to fill out with all of your company and bid information and then either return a physical copy, fax your response, or email your bid.
Alternative System (e.g. FedBid): There are many more alternative government systems and exact procedures for submitting proposals to each. Follow the directions listed closely on each solicitation and be sure to reach out immediately to the contracting officers for clarification on anything.
What information you need to provide changes depending on how the contracting officer is going to be evaluating the offers to make an award. In some cases, they only care about the final price being offered, so there may be limited opportunity to provide information about your business, past performance, the product being offered, or other relevant information that can give them a reason to award you the contract.
On the other end of the spectrum, the contracting officer may ask for more information than you think necessary. A general rule of thumb is that, without overwhelming the contracting officer, you want to provide as much information as you can within the limits of the solicitation. Give the awarding contracting officer a good idea of how your company stands out from all other offers. Be thorough and clear and give them a reason to say “Yes.”
3. Don’t Procrastinate
Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your bid. Keep a buffer of time for the unexpected. Once the bid period ends, contracting officers are under no obligation to reopen the competition and accept your proposal. When your bid has been submitted, make sure you get confirmation that they have received it. If submitting through an electronic system, you should get a confirmation page or notification. Otherwise, you can follow up with the contracting officer to confirm that they received your bid.
One of the easiest ways to connect with federal opportunities is by using FedBid. FedBid is the industry-leading provider of reverse auction services that optimizes how businesses, governments, and educational institutions buy goods and services while giving vendors greater access to opportunities to compete and win contracts.
It’s All About the Follow-up
Once the bidding period ends, the contracting officer takes all the received bids and evaluates them before making an award decision. They may give some indication of the estimated length of time for a decision to be made, which can range from a few days to a few months.
It’s important to stay informed about the progress of the solicitation after you submit your bid. The requirements could be changed and put back out for bid, or the agency funding for this purchase could be de-obligated and the entire competition canceled. Without overly pestering the contracting officer, keep up with the status of the opportunity and your bid. Since a re-bid is possible or it could be months before you hear something, having a tracking system in place and creating financial partners before winning will help you in the long run.
Be Prepared When You Win
As the government contract financing partner for many small businesses including veteran-owned small businesses, we can help you understand how to finance your government contract and explain your options as a prime contractor or subcontractor. If you have an award, we can finance invoices up to $1 million. We also have business term loans and lines of credit that you can use with your invoice to mobilize funding for your contract. With our flexible financing options, StreetShares is ready to work with you with financing or helping prepare a Financial Capability Letter. Click here to apply for financing or learn more here.
This post was written by our partners at FedBid, an online marketplace connecting small businesses with government contracting opportunities.