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Finding work: identifying good proposal opportunities

Finding work: identifying good proposal opportunities

Finding work: identifying good proposal opportunities

In my observation, businesses take a funny approach to responding to government proposals. On one hand, delivering products and services to the government is a lot of work. Fulfillment includes not only delivering goods, but also completing a lot of paperwork before, during and after the sale. On the other hand, government contracts can be a steady source of reliable income. In a good economy, a government contract may not be very lucrative. In a soft economy, it can be a lifeline that helps keep your doors open.

Learn about your prospective customer

The most effective strategy for getting government contracts starts with learning how your target (local, state or federal) does business. Most government procurement offices offer workshops or online information for potential service providers. These resources can be invaluable for learning what you need to do to become eligible to bid. They also provide clear instructions for getting set up to respond with proposals.

Know your eligibility status

Meeting basic eligibility requirements is a must. Government procurement offices will not make exceptions for unqualified or ineligible bidders. Eligibility requirements could include having the proper licenses, specific insurance coverage or demonstrated experience. They usually include registration with the proposal issuer and also a requirement to have a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) number. Additionally, the proposing entity may designate certain contracts as “set-asides.” These contracts must be awarded to and fulfilled by specially designated entities. Special designations could include minority or female ownership; veteran, combat veteran or disabled veteran status; or disadvantaged business status.

The proposal issuer will also identify eligibility requirements within the proposal text. It’s important to read through each proposal carefully and completely before deciding to submit a bid.

Sign up to receive information

Proposal issuers often publish requests for proposals (RFPs) on a website. Prospective providers can join procurement mailing lists to learn about available and upcoming opportunities. The US federal government publishes contract opportunities on FedBizOpps.gov. You can find and download contracting opportunities available from the federal government. If you’re interested in state, county or local contract opportunities, visit your target’s procurement website. Learn about their proposal procedures and also any required steps you must take to submit proposals.

Identifying good proposal opportunities

The best proposal opportunities are the ones that fit your core capabilities exactly. If a proposal opportunity includes required products or services you don’t supply, consider finding a partner to fulfill some requirements. If you don’t want to partner with another entity, then the opportunity may not be right for you.

Ideally, you can fulfill the contract without hiring workers, stocking unfamiliar products, offering new services or pricing significantly below market. The more work you have to do to meet the contract requirements, the less attractive the opportunity becomes. Many inexperienced providers find this out too late, and then have trouble meeting the contract requirements.

If you have to hire staff to meet the contract, be sure you’ve covered all of your expenses! This includes wages, taxes and any premiums required by the contract. Your new workers should be fully qualified to meet the contract requirements for the life of the contract.

Providing a good contracting experience can lead to additional or more lucrative opportunities and also a steady income stream. Conversely, providing a poor contracting experience will limit your ability to win future work with the proposer.

If you’d like more information about proposal writing, or evaluating potential proposal opportunities, please contact me at eileen@juliesocean.com or call me at (734) 961-0408.

Photo Credit: Ken Teegardin, via Flickr