(833) 233 3266

The Long Wait – a Tale of Two Perspectives of the Process

Preview: A large part of government contracting requires patience and an understanding of timelines. Let’s take a look at how this translates for both Contracting Officers and an interested business.

Let me paint a familiar picture: you found an upcoming opportunity that you are confident about performing well and prepared to put in the work to win the bid. You did your market research, responded to RFIs and Sources Sought, and had some productive conversations with potentially your SBA representative, contracting officers, and others in the agency. The problems they’re having with a current contract or the reason the agency wants to hire out for a particular goal are familiar and solvable to you. You have as much ready as you can possibly prepare. You know the RFP is going to drop soon, but now it’s a waiting game.

From the Contracting Officer’s perspective, maybe the RFI’s they received are complicating an already complicated process. They’ve met with many different businesses who claim to offer solutions and most of them seem capable enough, but some of them don’t seem to have quite enough resources and others have fantastic past performance in the private sector, just not yet the federal sphere. If it’s not a new requirement, are they safer going with the less perfect option that they’re already familiar with? Or have issues remained unsolved for long enough that going with a new perspective might be better for the overall agency goals they support? They might have pushed back their timeline a few times to allow for better research, more conversations with people the contract will affect, and a chance for the incumbent to fix glaring issues. One month extra might turn into two or three or a bridge contract to keep things running while decisions are made. Finally, they can’t wait anymore and have as much information as they can possibly get. They wait until a Friday at noon, thinking they’ll drop it so people have a couple of days to relax before getting into the nitty gritty of the RFP. After all, they have two full weeks to a full month to prepare a proposal and they’ve been waiting extra long for the information to be released. Sooner is better, right?

Now that the business finally has the official RFP to write, the race is on. They were likely prepared well ahead of time, after all, but timing is critical here. The extra months cost them a few resumes they’d worked hard to find for this particular contract and mission, so now you have to start that search all over again. Maybe the RFP had a few teaming issues pop up because instead of being competed for Small Business, the contracting officer had been impressed by a few 8(a) companies and chose for it to be 8(a) set-aside. Your original teaming partner can’t help, so now you have to find someone new who’s ready to team and whom you know you’ll work well with for this. And it all has to start with a weekend of work to re-solidify the proposal you thought you were submitting. While you do have two weeks or a month to finish writing the proposal (or having someone else assist), you want to have everything hammered out but not submitted until the safety of the last second. Proposals submitted early are not necessary and can come with problems, such as teaming partner snafus or an aggressive competitor who decided

to outbid you. The Contracting Officer had reasonable intentions with their timing, but for your needs, a Monday or a Wednesday would have been better. You get everything together quickly and efficiently with a proposal writer you trust and wait until the timing is right for your submission.

The Contracting Officer likely knows they won’t see proposals coming in until the day they’re due, but they have a month or two to review and narrow down the offers. Maybe the whole team will go through them or maybe they’re stuck sorting the first round solo. They work hard to notify the “definitely not” as they find them and as time goes by, those who are in the final round are asked about pricing and potentially invited to negotiate.

The business finally gets invited to negotiate (also known as “discussions”) and with the relationship they’d built with the contracting officer as well as the intel they had gathered during the waiting period, they still feel confident in their submission. Unfortunately, the last-minute 8(a) switch and their pricing is just a little too high cost them what they had hoped was a sure deal. This story still has a happy ending though, because while they didn’t get this particular contract, the Contracting Officer was really impressed by their efforts and gave them some insight into a few upcoming opportunities that were new requirements that hadn’t been announced yet and were perfect for the business.

Both contracting officers and businesses have a variety of ways they perform their jobs. Understanding both a federal timeline and feeling confident in your win potential as you prepare are key. Contracting officers are often in charge of lots of opportunities and they want to find both the best (and sometimes easiest) way to fulfill their staff’s and agency’s needs. Business owners need good networking, a solid business practice, and patience as they navigate the government contracting sphere. Most important of all, they need deep understanding of the big picture…from the government’s perspective.

If you’re a business that wants help growing and navigating the government contracting sphere, FP&C has the experience in both the federal and private business spheres that you are looking for! We provide you with timely updates and connections you won’t have to wait or search for. Let us help you with understanding the government’s big picture…schedule a meeting with us today!

Government Contract Opportunity Prospecting

For those businesses interested in government contracting, knowing what you have to offer and what the government is looking for is key. But where in federal government contracting do you start? How do you identify opportunities that align with your company’s core capabilities? There are a number of databases, both free and paid, that outline what the government is currently looking for or might be in the future. Here are a few examples:

Sam.gov – This is your first and most important resource. This free website is where federal agencies typically post their requirements. These post come straight from the source without any manipulation. This is also where you need to register if you want to do business with the federal government. If they can’t find you in this database, they won’t be able to hire you.

FPDS-NG – Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation is a government system where contract information is input when awards are made. At one time, there was a publicly available site within FPDS-NG. In case you’re wondering why it’s no longer visible, that has been moved to Sam.gov. Use this for gaining insight into how, when, why, and to who government contracts are awarded.

USASPENDING.GOV – This is another tremendous FREE resource for gaining knowledge and crunching numbers. There is a large amount of data and the information to be gained from perusing this site can be overwhelming. If you are not sure where to start your analysis, we have some thoughts on that and you should give us a call.

GovTribe – This is one of FP&C’s favorite resources. This paid database has multiple functions. GovTribe searches through Sam.gov as well as pulls potential upcoming contracts of interest for you. It’s search capabilities are also more user friendly than Sam.gov. The other unique feature that GovTribe utilizes is the ability to create “pipelines”. You can create a variety of pipelines for the different kinds of business you do or for the variety of government agencies you serve. We like to use it to keep track of which opportunities are best for each of our clients, so that every time we meet with you, we can show you new opportunities AND show you where we’re at on previously approved opportunities.

GovWin – This is another paid database. It doesn’t have the pipeline feature that GovTribe has, but it does have a more sophisticated search system. Rather than just use Sam.gov, GovWin has agents that track new opportunities with agencies AND opportunities that are reaching their end with the current contract holder. It sometimes seems to have “future” sense! As you’ll know if you’ve done government contracting for any length of time, the government does not move quickly and the sooner you’re in the door, the easier it is to win a contract. This is where GovWin shines, as it can give you a head start on an opportunity you’d excel at.

Procurement Forecasts – Each agency has a procurement forecast of some kind that you can look up, usually on their respective website. These list out everything they’re looking to potentially procure within each fiscal year. These opportunities don’t always get posted to Sam.gov and you will likely want to contact the contracting officer assigned to the opportunities you’re interested in. If you are polite and ask good questions, you can utilize this option to build a relationship with the contracting officer. They may not have that particular opportunity available anymore, but they might be able to point you in other directions.

There are also a variety of factors to keep in mind while you’re searching. You likely can’t go after every single opportunity that sounds interesting, so narrow it down in these ways:

Timeframe – If the opportunity is due within the next month, someone else has most likely already spoken with the contracting officer and has a leg up on you. You also want plenty of time to work with potential teammates and organize a solid proposal. We prefer to search farther out than within the next month or two to give our clients the highest chance of success!

Amount – A small business may not be able to handle really large sums. If the contracting officer doesn’t believe that you have the infrastructure ready for the estimated award amount they’ll be giving you for the work, they won’t choose your proposal. Choose your opportunities and teammates carefully. You can always try and lowball the proposal amount, but you don’t want to go so far as to not be able to provide your best work either. Individual RFPs will specify the pricing they’re looking for, such as Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) or Best Value Tradeoff. Make sure to give an amount that works for both you and the government to receive the biggest bang for your buck!

Set-Aside – This is a big one. If you don’t have a set-aside designation, you’ll be limited to Full and Open competition, which is incredibly difficult to win. Oftentimes, you’re going up against huge corporations. Getting a set-aside that makes sense for your business is a great way to narrow down competitors and have a good chance at success. See our other blog post on Set-Asides!

Place of Performance – Not all contracts require you to be near to the place of performance, but it can help in your proposal if this is a key part of what the contracting officer needs. Someone familiar with a particular area or agency also has a higher chance for success and can pay less for transport than someone from out of the area. A good place to start when starting out with government contracting is to look for opportunities located in your state. If you live in or near Washington DC, keep in mind that the competition will be fierce for contracts in that area.

Agency – You can spend hours upon hours looking through opportunities. Make sure you’re looking at agencies that will have the kinds of contracts that you can perform. If I’m not in healthcare, it doesn’t make sense to try and work with Veterans Affairs or the Defense Health Agency. Your time is valuable and spending it looking through opportunities that aren’t is useless.

As always, FP&C can spend the time looking for opportunities for you so YOU can focus on what matters most: your business!

Contact us for a free consultation to get the ball rolling!

The System for Award Management Registration

One of the most important steps necessary to doing business with the federal government is registering with the System for Award Management (SAM). Registering with SAM.gov is part of the business process of pursuing government contracts and being awarded one. Do not be one of the companies making the mistake of soliciting government agencies and hoping it will open doors. You are going to need a SAM registration.

The US Federal Government is dependent on large and small contractors to provide high-quality goods and services of all kinds. SAM is a government-wide website and portal that is owned and operated by US government. In simple terms, it’s a free tool for businesses and organizations to apply for US government contracts. And of high significance, for the government to award as well as make payments for those contracts. SAM was developed in 2012 when the General Services Administration (GSA) consolidated several federal procurement and awards into a single system. This was done to streamline processes and eliminate duplicate data entry thereby improving data quality, and—ultimately—saving taxpayers money. SAM is used to:

· Update or renew your business or organizations registration

· Check the status of a business or organizations registration

· Search for business or organization registration and exclusion records

· Find resources about federal acquisition and procurement

· Find information about acquiring financial grants and cooperative agreements.

On April 4, 2022, the unique business or organization identifier used across the federal government changed from a DUNS Number to a new Unique Entity ID (generated by SAM).

· The Unique Entity ID is a 12-character alphanumeric ID assigned to businesses and organizations by SAM.gov.

o As part of this transition, the DUNS Number was eliminated.

· For a business or organization registration, searching, and data entry activities now require use of the new Unique Entity ID.

· Existing registered businesses or organizations can find their Unique Entity ID by following the steps located here.

· New businesses or organizations can get their Unique Entity ID at SAM.gov and, if required, complete the necessary registration.

When you feel you are ready to enter the government marketplace, you shouldn’t go it alone. FP&C Consulting is happy to hear about where you are with your registration and where you want to go. We will offer you a path to get there, and we will be proud to be a part of your team! Let us help you submit a fully accurate, and compliant SAM registration and provide counsel and guidance every step of the way. Reach out to us today to get started!

Marketing Hype and Government Contracting

One of the most overlooked areas of doing business with the government is knowing how to successfully market to the government. Rather than promoting their technical advantages, many companies make the mistake of overhyping their commercial messaging and marketing collateral in front of government agencies and hoping it will resonate. We can tell you right now, that it won’t!

Government buyers are very keen to hear how their peers in the commercial sector have benefited from your solution, so case studies should be an essential part of your marketing toolkit. However, you do not want to hype them to the point that could lead the government buyer to believe you are offering a panacea solution. Without overhyping, use quotes from case studies on your Web site and other marketing materials to create interest.

Always keep in mind the federal government has entirely different pain points, requirements, and objectives (or missions) than found in the commercial sector. To be successful you need to take the time to understand an agency’s mandates, goals, and challenges. Remember landing government contracts means that you must abide by a complex set of rules and regulations. Doing business with the federal government is substantially different than doing business in the commercial world, marketing to the federal government can be a cumbersome task for the uninitiated.

After registering to do business with the federal government one question is often overlooked, what level of past performance do you actually have. Government contracting agencies will look to see what you have done in the past and how well you have performed. In the commercial sector, the sale is usually based on price. Whereas the federal government focuses on best value. This will almost always include an evaluation of your past performance record.

Currently, government contractors with commercial revenues lose up to 35% of potential income because of the wrong marketing strategy and overhyping. At FP&C, we routinely have conversations with clients about the time it takes the government to do whatever it is they are waiting on. Often, clients are pacing the

floor and clicking the browser to refresh SAM.gov hoping the information they are seeking has been uploaded by government procurement officials.

In today’s government contracts, the federal government is seeking more competitive bids and RFPs. At the same time, more and more contractors are getting into trouble for contractor code of conduct and business ethics violations. Marketing materials sometimes help win the government over. But, you should never rely on just marketing materials, presentations, or hype. The government is bound by strict rules and regulations when deciding whether or not to award a contract.

Part of your marketing strategy to win government contracts is to promote credibility to the agency without overhyping. If you are new to federal contracting, it helps to let the agency know you have a team on board that is familiar with the government contracting process, like FP&C Consulting.

When you feel you are ready to enter the government marketplace, you shouldn’t go it alone. FP&C Consulting is happy to hear about where you are and where you want to go. We will offer you a path to get there, and we will be proud to be a part of your team!

The Process

How We Manage the Proposal Process so You Can Manage Your Business!

For anyone who has dipped their toes into the GovCon world, you know that the process of finding relevant opportunities, making the necessary connections, and writing and submitting the proposal can be very costly in both time and money. As a business owner, it also puts extra stress on your plate that takes away from running your own business. If you have never worked in the GovCon sphere or only have a little past performance, you may not have the kind of connections you need to successfully win opportunities and getting turned down after so much time, effort, and cost sunk into the process can be very demotivating. There is a world of opportunity and financial success within GovCon, but only if you have the right help. With our process, we take those many, many hours of work off your hands and deliver you opportunities tailored to you and your business. Wondering what we can do that you can’t? Here’s our recipe for your success:

First, we meet with you to get a good sense of who you are and what you have to offer the federal sphere. We discuss your goals and look at both business development and potential GovCon needs. We decide which of our GovCon specialists has the experience and connections you’ll most benefit from. And once we have that sense, we can start the opportunity search process.

Next, we spend a few hours digging through a variety of resources to find the best opportunities for you. We will get them in a list and go through them with you so you can decide which ones you want us to focus on.

After you’ve given us some feedback, we get to work talking with our connections and getting your name in the back of their minds. We will set up meetings with you and contracting officers and guide you through what makes a GovCon meeting productive.

If after that you are still interested in pursuing the opportunity, we guide you through the RFI, RFQ, Sources Sought, and RFP processes, depending on what that particular opportunity puts out. The earlier you get in on an opportunity, the better! Oftentimes, Sam.gov is not the first area that the government puts information out on and having software that predicts potential upcoming awards is the better thing to have. As a business owner, that’s really expensive! And time consuming to wrangle Sam.gov in a similar way. We take that off your plate and help with as much or as little as you’d like. We can guide you through the writing process or do all the work so you don’t have to.

Once your submissions are in we then have to wait. The GovCon world is slow, as you likely already know, and patience is necessary. If you already have a positive relationship with that contracting officer, you may hear back for some negotiations or you may get some feedback on what they needed to see more from you. If they really liked you and you didn’t get it, they may even let you in on some unpublished upcoming opportunities!

As a business owner, this whole process is enough for a full time individual to work. You are already likely stretched too thin to do it efficiently and successfully yourself, especially with as much time as it takes to run a business without wanting to take advantage of the opportunities you can find in the GovCon realm. If you’ve been struggling or are interested in the potential, we can help! We can get you

into successful GovCon opportunities with minimal exertion on your part. Sit back, focus on your company, and let us do the work for you!

If this sound like what you’re looking for, let us know! We hope to hear from you soon!



Or (What Does BIC MAC mean for ME?)?

You may have heard whispers of a new contract vehicle that goes by BIC MAC, BIG MAC, Next Generation Services IDIQ, or OASIS 2. The name hasn’t yet been finalized, but for all intents and purposes, most have been referring to it as BIC MAC.

While BIC MAC may conjure up thoughts of a tasty encounter with some beef, it’s actually a replacement. BIC MAC is the new OASIS contract vehicle, if the name OASIS 2 didn’t give it away (for a refresher on Contract Vehicles, see our previous blog posts!). If you have a variety of NAICs, congratulations! You may be in for a new contract vehicle. BIC MAC is also an IDIQ and will likely have a longer period of performance than 10 years, making government procurement for your services easier and more efficient. This is also very beneficial for Small Businesses as it allows the government to combine contracts. Less paperwork is ALWAYS a good thing for everybody!

BIC MAC will affect you if your NAICs cover any of the following domains:

· Management and Advisory *

· Technical and Engineering *

· Research and Development *

· Intelligence Services

· Enterprise Solutions

· Environmental Services

· Facilities

· Logistics *


As BIC MAC is still getting set up, the government is still deciding what all it should cover, so expect even more additions to this list. (* indicate what OASIS 1 covered previously)

If you’re already on the GSA schedule, just keep an eye out for the draft RFP, which is likely dropping soon. The initial RFI’s were released last year and you can view them here. Make sure you have everything up to date, which FP&C is happy to assist with as well!

Finally, FP&C is offering an Insights Into BIC MAC webinar in the very near future. If you are interested in the most recent decisions about BIC MAC and want to know how best to leverage it, this will be a great webinar for you! Sign up HERE.

We hope you found this information useful and let us know what we can do to help you and your business flourish!

Government Notices and Communication (Part 3)

Over the previous two blog posts, we examined some of the more regular communications from the government throughout a procurement. Before diving into the conclusion, let’s recap quickly what was covered.

In the PLAN phase of the process, the government is very much interested in learning more about their requirement. How is it executed in the commercial environment? How is it procured? IS it procured in the commercial environment? While step 3 of the Seven Steps to the Services Acquisition Process is specific to market research, in reality, market research is being conducted from step 1 through step 5. When the government engages industry in the formation of its requirement, it will better align with commercially available products and services while also increasing competition during the procurement.

The DEVELOP phase is where the rubber meets the road. The government has collected a plethora of information during the PLAN phase, and it is now time to collate it into a coherent requirement and solicitation. This is where the government must lay out clearly what it needs, why it needs it, and how they intend to procure it. If done correctly, the information the government gleans from industry will serve as a strong foundation for their request for proposals (RFP) and source selection.

Remember, while there are multiple processes by which the government procures goods and services, the Seven Steps to the Service Acquisition Process is used in these blog entries because of its broad applicability. In the final phase, EXECUTE, the government finds itself sequestered in source selection mode. The RFP will be issued, presumably incorporating as much of industry’s feedback and input as is practicable, thus allowing for ample competitive opportunities. This sequestration does not mean that the government is not communicating, however. As a reminder, here are the phases and steps of the Seven Steps to the Acquisition Process:

The communications will be more formal because the government is held to a high standard when conducting source selections. The government must not provide one vendor an unfair competitive advantage. Once an RFP is issued, the government will typically take great care to ensure all interested parties have equal access to the information used in the government’s requirements.

Some of the communications seen during this time include:

Synopsis –

A synopsis is essentially a warning to prospective offerors that the government is about to issue an RFP imminently. FAR 5.203 mandates a minimum of a 15-day notice before issuing an RFP. Of course, there are exceptions to this, which can be found at FAR 5.202. What this means to industry is “get read, here it comes!” The government will sometimes put the synopsis out as the RFP is going through internal reviews so that when the approval to issue is granted, they can act on it quickly. Because of this, the amount of time between synopsis and RFP may be more than 15 days. However, the synopsis represents a somewhat high confidence that the RFP will make it through the approval process and get issued in a matter of weeks as opposed to months.

Final RFP Release –

Releasing the final RFP is just as it sounds, the final release of the RFP documents represents the point in which offerors need to pay close attention to ALL instructions. If a DRAFT RFP was issued, take particular note where differences exist. There may be clues there on what’s important, or unimportant, to the government. More importantly, if proposal language was started based on draft RFP language, updates must be made that align with the final RFP. Any failure to do so may render the proposal unacceptable for award. Do not take lightly any of the proposal instructions. While the government is a beneficiary of competition, it is much easier for them to document a failure to comply with instructions than to document a judgment call in a trade-off scenario. Don’t make their job easy in this respect.

Questions and Answers –

Most RFPs will allow for potential offerors to submit questions about the RFP requirements. This allows for clarity and understanding when developing the proposals. Those who submit questions must understand that any question asked will be answered, and those answers will be published for all to see. This goes to the government’s intention of ensuring a fair playing field and no one party having information that no one else does. When developing questions, be sure to strategize around this eventuality.

Discussions –

This topic could be a blog post on its own. Generally, discussions are the point where the government has conducted initial proposal evaluations and has found weaknesses or deficiencies (or both) that need to be addressed before an award can be made. FAR 15.306 discusses “exchanges with offerors,” and there are numerous articles and training available just on this topic. A great resource describing discussions can be found HERE. The critical take away here is that you must take care of what is being communicated and carefully strategize your response and proposal revisions when you find yourself in discussions with the government. It is getting down to crunch time at this point!

Award Decision –

The award decision will be communicated in a few ways depending on the target audience. If the award amount requires it, there will be a pre-notice sent to Congress. Once the appropriate internal communication is accomplished in accordance with policy, only then will offerors begin to receive notification of the source selection outcome. The contracting officer has some latitude on what order he or she wishes to communicate the results. Letters outlining required information in the unsuccessful offeror letters are drafted, reviewed, and signed and typically get sent out electronically all at the same time. The successful offeror letter will also go out at this time. For more substantial, more complex proposal efforts, the government may also take the additional step to call offerors’ representatives to communicate in person the source selection results.

This three-part series hardly scratches the surface of government communications. Vendors working with the government should be careful to capture as much information they can coming out of the government. Being the vast bureaucracy that it is, the right and left hands don’t always speak with one voice. If…scratch that…when you need help deciphering the government’s messaging, give FP&C a call. We can help you through the fog.

Government Notices and Communication (Part 2)

In the previous blog post in this three-part series, we discussed government communication cues, why they are essential to understand, and the first phase of the procurement process, or the Plan Phase. We are using the Seven Steps to the Service Acquisition Process as a general framework for this discussion. Still, you should be aware that there are other processes the government follows for procurement. Agencies may focus on systems acquisitions, or their mission may be aligned with construction requirements. There’s also research and development, base-level operations, and many other agency missions. Depending on what the agency is charged with accomplishing, their process may look a little different. However, the Seven Steps to Service Acquisition Process is an excellent demonstration of the procurement process and has similarity to most other procurement processes. As a reminder, here is a visual of the process:

Picking up from Part 1, we are now in the Develop phase. At this point, the government has done the bulk of the market research they are going to do for the specific procurement. This does not mean they won’t continue to engage industry for input and feedback. In this phase, industry must exert its knowledge in a given area to provide the most significant impact on shaping the acquisition strategy.

What does it mean to shape an acquisition strategy?

FAR Part 7.105 describes the elements government offices are required to include in acquisition plans. 7.105(b)(1) and 7.105(b)(2) compel contracting officers to consider what sources are available to deliver the requirements and what competition is expected. Depending on the company’s socio-economic situation, responding to the government’s communication can help them reach set-aside decisions that favor the company.

Another consideration for businesses trying to influence the procurement process is to provide government information about their requirement that would affect the language they use to describe their requirement. FAR 11.105 instructs agencies NOT to write requirements that lend themselves to a specific vendor, as this would severely limit competition. In this respect, you should be careful not to overdo your recommendations to the government. However, providing them with feedback that allows them to state their requirement in a way that ensures your business can be competitive is a great way to walk that tightrope.

So what are the communications typically seen in Phase 2? Here is a couple that, if seen, you should take full advantage of the opportunity and provide input and feedback:

Step Four – Define Requirements

By this point, the government is swimming in information if they’ve been active at all in the market research step. The procurement team will be looking to collate this information and sift through what is pertinent and extraneous. This sifting activity is why you don’t want to send the government a bunch of information they didn’t ask for, without first giving them as much as possible along the lines of their specific request.

During the Define Requirements step, industry is likely to see more requests for information (RFI) or a targeted industry forum. The government is looking for answers to specific questions at this point and will use these types of communication to get answers. These are both great ways to demonstrate your willingness to partner with the government to assist them in achieving their desired outcome.

Step Five – Develop the Acquisition Strategy

Theoretically, the government will take everything it has learned to this point and then put together their acquisition strategy. However, in reality, the government often starts working on the strategy very early and continues to refine things as they go. In this step, the government is documenting the decisions for competition and small business set-asides. It could be too late at this point to influence which way the government is going to go in a significant manner; however, there are nuanced changes they may still make. Perhaps they were going to set the requirement aside for small businesses. Still, because of the responses they’ve received, they have a reasonable expectation of having adequate competition among capable Woman-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB). As a result, they decide to set it aside for WOSBs instead of small businesses.

If the government is going to issue a draft request for proposals (RFP), it will most often happen at this step. They are working to finalize their strategy, but they may need to “test the waters” for their approach to the contract type, incentive structure, or some aspects of the requirements documents. The government will issue the draft RFP asking for input and feedback on their approach. This is an excellent opportunity to help guide the language in the RFP to ensure you are able to put together a competitive proposal. As an example, the government may put in significant cost-reimbursable line items, but your company does not have an approved accounting system, which may cause challenges in RFP compliance. Your feedback could be that the government’s requirement appears to be refined enough in most areas that they don’t need to use cost-reimbursable line items to the extent they are and recommend switching to a fixed-price arrangement. There are several examples of what you might provide for feedback, but there is no shortage of areas that can help the government and cast your company in a good light. Take this opportunity and run with it!

As always, FP&C is here, and our expert staff can guide you through the myriad ways in which the government communicates with industry. Let us help you take full advantage of every

opportunity to interact positively with the government throughout the entire procurement process. Remember, if you’re waiting until the final RFP is issued, you are probably too late.

Government Notices and Communication (Part 1)

If you’ve been around the Federal marketplace for any amount of time, you have seen that the government tends to communicate in a somewhat deliberate way. This is not to suggest that communication is clear or consistent. The words used by the government vary from one agency to the next; however, the method in which communications occur can be tracked and deciphered. If you intend to win contracts and grow your business with Federal customers, then it becomes imperative to understand more than “what” is being communicated, but also “how” and “when” that communication is delivered…and to “whom.”

There are many ways this topic could be discussed. Because the government utilizes a structured approach for most of its procurements, this blog post will go through what cues from the government that industry participants should anticipate in the first phase. The process for procuring services is called the Seven Steps To the Services Acquisition Process. There is a process for acquiring products and a very robust and complex process for systems acquisitions, but to understand cues from the government, this blog post (and those that follow) will focus on the Seven Steps To The Services Acquisition Process. The following illustration is provided to give a visual of how this process is laid out:

This post is the first in a three-part series. It will focus on the first phase of the process, the Plan phase. As the name suggests, the government is early in its requirements formation process. Depending on the complexity of the requirement, there may be clear and deliberate actions taken at each step, or it may be a less formal process whereby the government team manages the procurement in a more informal way. Either way, the messages going to the industry tend to be reasonably similar.

Step One – Form the Team

In this phase, the industry is not likely to see a lot of communication coming from the government on a specific requirement. The government program manager or requirement owner (many times this is the same person) recognizes there is a need that can be fulfilled by contracting with the industry. It may be an existing requirement going out for re-competition, or a brand new requirement. Specific communications will be limited, but there may be early notices regarding requesting information at a high level to assist the program manager with pulling together a team with the right skills and background. This point in time is a great time to engage with the agency Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) or Small Business Liaison Officer (SBLO). The government will move into market research in Step 3, and you want your

information quickly available to the team when that time comes. The OSDBU/SBLO can help facilitate that.

Step 2 – Review Current Strategy

This step can be a little quiet also. However, an example of communication from the government you might anticipate is questions regarding a previous procurement. The government might seek to learn lessons from what went right and what might have gone wrong from industry’s vantage point. The government is interested in soliciting its requirements, so any intel they can get on how to increase the level of competition will be helpful to them.

Step 3 – Perform Market Research

Market research is where industry is likely to see the most communication leading up to the issuing of a Request for Proposals (RFP). If you have any aspirations at all in being considered for a particular government requirement, you must take advantage of these opportunities to engage the government in their pursuit of information.

Sources sought notice – These are typically sent out to determine the level of interest among capable vendors. The government is interested in learning about vendors that might compete for their requirements. Of particular interest is how much interest there is; what size standard and socio-economic categories are the interested vendors; and are interested vendors capable of performing. This is a great opportunity to highlight your capabilities and encourage the government to set the procurement aside for the lowest socio-economic category for which your company qualifies.

Requests for Information – These notices are less about how many vendors or whether they are small businesses, but more about improving the government’s understanding of their requirements. RFIs are issued with all sorts of questions, but they’re mostly looking to improve the way the government outlines its requirement in an RFP. This provides industry an excellent opportunity to encourage the government to include requirements that align with their strengths, or conversely, remove provisions that might be a barrier to entry and prevent you from participating in the competition.

Industry Forum – An industry forum can be associated with a specific requirement, or it can be hosted by an agency who is wanting to share information about several upcoming requirements. Keeping with the seven-step process tied to a specific requirement, an industry forum in this context is often associated with more complex needs. The main benefit to the government for these is they have the opportunity to dialogue with industry regarding the requirement openly. These are enormously beneficial to a vendor as you can learn a lot about what the government is trying to accomplish, how they think they will go about it, and you can see who else is interested.

DRAFT RFP – When the government shares this information publicly, they are asking for help from the industry. They WANT feedback on the current configuration of the RFP so they can make changes to improve competition and better align to commercial best practices. This is a golden opportunity for a vendor to shape the procurement in a meaningful way. Do not sit this one out!

These are the types of communication tools most often seen during the market research step, but the list can be quite a bit longer. The main point for the government is looking to understand the competitive landscape, whether they can set it aside for small businesses (or lower-level socio-economic category), and whether the requirement is commercially available.

The descriptions above at each step hardly scratches the surface. Understanding the cues sent out by the government is critical. Do not brush off an opportunity to get your business noticed by those who are doing the purchasing on the government side just because you don’t think the notice is all that important. If you need or want help responding, give FP&C Consulting a call or schedule some time right on our home page. We are here to help!


At FP&C, we routinely have conversations with clients about the time it takes the government to do whatever it is they are waiting on the government to do. Often is the case, clients are pacing the floor clicking the browser refresh on beta.SAM.gov in hopes the request for proposals (RFP) they know is coming “soon” has been uploaded by government procurement officials. The endless waiting leads to huge frustration, which leads to a negative outlook on doing business with the government.

While the angst associated with the “waiting game” is understandable, clients should not cave to the devil sitting on their shoulder to make rash decisions based on unknown information. In this post, we will briefly go through the procurement timeline from the government’s perspective. Keep in mind, a full multi-page essay could be written on every phase of this timeline, so this post just scratches the surface; however, there should be enough here to give a glimpse into why things take “so long” for the government to issue just about any document that signals progress toward awarding an opportunity.


In industry, we like to use the term “opportunity” for anything that has to do with a government-purchased effort. The first thing we coach clients on is that while we may view them as opportunities, the government views them as mission nrequirements. They are procuring a good or service because they need to get their job done. And, believe it or not, they do not have an endless budget to buy the things they need to do that job.

Understanding the government’s motivation as they enter into the requirements development phase will help manage your expectations on what’s to come. In this phase, the government will be performing market research to help them understand what’s commercially available. Sometimes what’s available to the general public is fine for their needs and sometimes they need to alter a commercial item to fit their need. Either way, the government has a lot of work to do in figuring out how best to articulate the requirement to industry so they actually procure the thing they are hoping to buy.

How Can a Vendor Help?

When the government is seeking information from industry in this phase, it is not an automatic process where there is an RFP that is issued for vendors to bid on. The requirements development phase can be sloppy…and lengthy. The first thing you can do is be patient. Track the opportunity, collect information and use it to decide if it is an opportunity you want to compete for when the RFP comes out. However, that does not help the government.

If you want to help them out, while also helping yourself, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Understand they are almost always NOT allowed to directly award something to a specific contractor. Yes, it does happen. No, it’s not easy. As the government works to understand their

requirement, use your knowledge to help them refine it. Help them to understand the competitive landscape so they can make appropriate set-aside decisions. And help them to understand how to set up the contract vehicle and RFP so they can align the risk-reward equation in a way that benefits both. If you are willing to provide this level of assistance in the early stages, you might just find that the RFP will be skewed in your favor. We call this shaping an opportunity.

How Long Can It Take?

This is the million-dollar question – sometimes literally. There are a lot of variables that go into answering this. If the government is simply re-procuring an existing service because the current contract is expiring, the market research effort and requirements development phase may not take as long. However, if there is a significant change, then it will be a more intensive effort requiring a longer lead time.

What isn’t as obvious is everything that is going on within the government team to manage the initiation of a procurement. Market research feeds the budgeting process, which by itself can create a months-long endeavor. The procurement team at this juncture will be working on developing its acquisition plan and strategy. Within the plan, several elements require government action. All of this must be completed before they will be approved to release an RFP for industry to respond to. There is myriad actions that I can go into detail on, but the larger point is, the government has a process that can be challenging for them to navigate and that translates to more time spent in this early phase. To make matters frustrating to us in industry, there is – by design – little to no transparency in this process. Remember though, this is the government’s requirement, not our opportunity.

In a subsequent post, we will discuss the timeline associated with the source selection process and why things take “forever” in a government proposal evaluation.

At FP&C Consulting, our skilled consultants are uniquely adept at shaping government opportunities because our team members have been on the government side doing the procuring. Our former contracting officers know firsthand the challenges government procurement officials face in meeting mission needs through a contracted effort. Give us a call and let us help you manage this process with a unique contextual awareness your competitors are unlikely to have.