To Bid or Not To Bid – That’s the $64,000 Question

By Guest Blogger:  Eileen Kent, Federal Sales Sherpa, 312-636-5381

Many federal sales executives, owners and proposal managers struggle with the bid/no bid decision because if it’s a “go” then they’re going to gamble precious selling time, evenings and weekends to get it perfectly compliant and delivered on time, but if it’s a “no go” they’re going to always wonder — what if….

Before you waste another 30 days on a loser proposal or another night’s sleep after you decided not to bid on an opportunity, use these questions to help guide you confidently to a bid/no bid decision.

    1. How did you find out about this opportunity? If you saw it for the first time at the public website, your chances of winning a blind bid is 5%. If you have been in conversations with the client for at least six months and you were expecting it to be published at – you have a slightly higher chance….20-30%…if there are only 3-5 of you qualified to deliver the product/service.
    2. Who do you know at the agency? Do you know the Project Manager who needs your product/service? Do you know the Contracting Specialist who posted the opportunity? Have you performed any past performance at that location of that agency? Were they happy with your work/delivery?
    3. What do they think of your company if you know the customer inside the agency?
    4. Who is the incumbent? How are they performing? Is the customer happy with their products/services?
    5. What is the contracting vehicle they’re using? Simplified Acquisition Procedures? GSA Schedule? Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract? Blanket Purchase Agreement? Do you have that contract vehicle, or do you need to team with someone to ride their contracting bridge?
    6. When is it due? Did they call you on a Friday and it’s due Monday or is it a couple of months before the bid has even hit the streets?
    7. Do you know the story behind the bid? What did they tell you was the pain behind the procurement?
    8. Do you have the perceived solution they TOLD you they wanted? (If you don’t understand this point, you need to take a federal sales training class.)
    9. Do you have a capabilities of the entire opportunity? Are you scrambling for partners and products and piecing the bid together last minute, or did you expect it to come and you have all your team members, agreements and security clearances ready to go?
    10. Do you have the insurance, the bonding, the past performance, the key staff, the name brand — they asked for — or are you putting together something just to “get your foot in the door?”
    11. What is the preference? Small, 8a, SDVOSB, VOSB, WOSB, EDWOSB, HubZone, Disadvantaged? A combination of these or none of these? Do you fit the preference or do you need a teaming partner? Is that teaming partner a current incumbent at the agency or is this their first time bidding this agency? Are they looking for two or three small businesses – just to set it aside in your category?
    12. Do you have the accounting team ready to manage the paperwork properly?
    13. Do you truly understand the customer’s budget or are you playing “pin the tail on the donkey” with pricing – just guessing what will be a good number in terms of pricing?
    14. Who’s managing the bid process? Is it the agency, or is it a designated agency like GSA, Army Corps of Engineers – or Fedbid?
    15. How long will it take to prepare the bid? 1 day? 30 days? 6 months? How much will it cost you to prepare and deliver the bid? (Multiply that by at least 2 because it always takes more than double the time to complete a bid.)Most large proposals take at least four people approximately 4 weeks to produce a compliant proposal document. 4 people at $100 billable x 40 hours x 4 weeks = $64k in lost revenue working on a loser proposal. (That’s why we call it the $64,000 Question.)
    16. Have you written a bid for this agency before? Do you know their formatting and nit picks?
    17. Do you have a strong win theme? If so, what is it?
    18. Do you have a library of proposal response templates or are you writing this from scratch – guessing every step of the way?
    19. Do you know how to deconstruct a proposal properly and do you know how to put it all together?
    20. Can you predict Who is on the Evaluation Committee? What do they think of you? What do they think of the incumbent?
    21. Any other vendors who could swoop in and win? How do you compare to them?
    22. Can you write a defensive proposal to keep the competition from beating you in the technical evaluation?
    23. What are the evaluation criteria? Do they mention past performance? Do you meet the past performance requirements?
    24. Are any of these answers – wishful thinking?

Now, if you don’t know most of the answers to these questions, then you’re writing a blind bid. Your chances of winning are 5%.

Consider this: Would you put $65,000 into a slot machine with a 5% chance of winning?

If you do have the answers to most of these questions, your chances have gone up — depending on the extent of your knowledge of the customer – and the customer’s knowledge of you.

Consider this: Would you put $65,000 into a slot machine with a 30% chance of winning?

The goal is to prepare a proposal that the customer can defend why they chose you – over the other guy. If you can do that – and keep price off the table – you’re in a good position. If it’s all about price — then make a case for why your price is the best value on page one, paragraph one.

About our guest blogger: Eileen Kent is known as the “Federal Sales Sherpa” and helps companies one-on-one with their federal sales action plans. In federal sales, you must have a relationship or you have a 5% chance of winning a blind bid. In this article, she covers the “bid/no bid” decision and how taking ten minutes to discuss the opportunity realistically could save you hundreds of hours in loser proposal efforts.

If you want to learn more about how to develop stronger relationships within the federal government, visit Kent’s website at: where she has over 15 hours of blog talk radio shows available for immediate downloads or call her for one-on-one federal sales training and custom action plans at 312-636-5381.