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A Go/No Go Checklist for Federal Contractors

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Want to lower your costs and increase your win rate this year? Be more selective. Here's how to start.

(1) Know everything you can about your buyer. If the first time you’re hearing about a requirement is on FedBizOps.gov or another bid notification service, and you don’t know the buyer, budget, incumbent or history, your odds of winning are in the single digits. The question is not, “How can I win?” but “Why didn’t I hear about this before and how can I hear about it sooner next time?”

(2) Focus on opportunities that match your capabilities and past performance. Let your performance history guide your choices. Evaluation factors often give significant weight to past performance. If yours is weak, other factors might not be enough to compensate, and your proposal effort and resources can be wasted.  

If your chances seem slim, there are a few valid reasons for making a cold bid without knowing anyone or anything about the project. For example, maybe you’re trying to get into an agency but you haven’t had any luck. Submitting a carefully-prepared cold bid to be a prime contractor gives you the opportunity to request a debriefing. If the agency agrees, you can learn why you lost, ask how you can do better next time, and collect some competitive intelligence about the winner.

Even better, this is a chance to meet some of the decision makers and -influencers, and verify your research into potential future opportunities. One of my clients won contracts worth $500,000 by following up on what he learned during his debriefing!

(3) Budget for the bid

Procurement Success Rates Decline With Increased Bidding Activity

If this will be your first federal proposal, or your federal win rate is less than 25%, consider getting professional help with your proposal. Where to find the right expert proposal consultant? Ask friends, shop around, get estimates, and remember, it's not just about the price. You want someone with a track record that inspires confidence. Always call their references.

Got the experience to do your proposals in-house? Know your baseline. Sweat equity counts. What did you invest in proposals last year – personnel cost, production, consultants and outsourcing? What was your win rate? Then look for signs that you have a good chance of winning, so you know the proposal is realistic.

(4) Assess your odds of winning, based on what you already know about the buyer, the project and the budget. Given what you know it will cost, how do the investment and the odds of winning compare with your baseline performance results last year?

(5) Create – and use – your own Go/NoGo Checklist.

Your checklist will be unique to your company. If you're starting from scratch, take a look at your bids, and your wins, over the past two years. What do the winners – and the losers – have in common? Consider factors like:

  • How well did you know the buyers?
  • How closely did your past performance match the opportunity?
  • Which projects had you done that were most like the one you bid?
  • What was the size of the opportunity?
  • What were your proposal costs?
  • Did you have the resources (e.g., bonding, space, cleared staff) to perform the project at the moment you submitted your proposal?
  • How much did you know about the project beyond what was in the RFP?
  • Did you win or lose?

In YOUR experience, what are the three most important factors on your Go/No Go checklist?

 This article was adapted from a post originally published onBill Jaffe’s blog, The Fish Don’t Jump in the Boat

Tue, 02/04/2014 - 9:17am


Submitted by Carl Gouaux on
Great information, tips, and tools for potential bidders. Thanks for sharing.

Submitted by Judy Bradt on
Thanks, Carl! Tell your friends...and let us know what you think is most important in YOUR checklist! JB

Submitted by Bryan Cary on
Where do we download the resources from the book? I bought the book on the kindle and in a couple areas it says since it s modified for the kindle we can get the graphs and GO NO GO papers online..?

Submitted by Judy Bradt on
Bryan, I do offer a softcopy version of the workbook that is a fillable PDF...and it includes a GO-NOGO checklist that does weighted calculations for you! It normally retails for $69.95, but tell you what -- you were kind enough to comment and ask so if you email me via the CONTACT page on the site, I'll send you a complimentary copy!

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