Bidding on contracts can be a complicated process, riddled with hoops and red tape. Don’t let these common obstacles stand in the way of you landing an important project. These bidding basics will help you understand the bidding process and put you on a path to throwing a compliant, competitive hat into any ring.
- Attend pre-bid conferences. If the solicitation you are responding to includes a pre-bid conference, make every effort to attend. Pre-bid conferences provide you with an opportunity to ask questions, learn more details about the good or service being solicited, and to network with the soliciting agency and prospective prime and sub contractors.
- Consider certifying your business. Small business certifications are like professional certifications. They document a special capability or status that will help you compete in the marketplace. If you want to take advantage of government contracts, you may need to obtain some certifications such as classifying your business as a small business or receive certification of your women- or veteran-owned status.
- Consider subcontracting. If you specialize in a niche market, or if you are interested in working on a specific part of a large project, consider bidding as a subcontractor instead of as a prime. The advantages of subcontracting include increased opportunities to, among other things, increase your competitive edge, share the risks and rewards of a project, integrate different skills, and provide complementary capabilities to a project. Subcontractors should attend all pre-bid conferences as a way to meet prime contractors and to identify where the subcontracting opportunities exist.
- Make sure that the products and services you are offering meet the requirements set out in the solicitation. It is a common mistake for vendors to offer something better, something more cost effective, something different. If it is not what is being solicited, your offer is non-responsive and will be rejected. If, of course, the government specifically allows alternate solutions or products, then you may have some flexibility in what you propose.
- Make sure that you complete and submit all the appropriate standardized forms. The most frequent mistake by vendors is submitting the solicitation form back to the government unsigned. The next most common mistake is neglecting to attach another required form that had to be obtained elsewhere. Finally, it is a common error for vendors to not double check the forms and leave blanks where information should have been submitted.
- Make sure that your pricing is realistic. Pricing that is, on its face, unreasonably low or high will cause alarm in the evaluation of your offer. Your pricing should be carefully constructed, fully loaded. You should research similar purchases by the government to get a feel for the market and what your competitors are charging. In the end, you want to make a profit. Bidding a loss contract just to “get your foot in the door” is not a sound tactic.
- Proofread. It is always advisable to have someone else proofread your offer when it is ready for submission, and edit it if necessary. Make sure that your offer is clear, concise and understandable. Simplicity and clarity will carry the day. If the government cannot understand it, if they have questions, they will probably not give you a second chance to explain yourself.