How Best to Identify Whether to Bid on a Federal Services Contract

Written by
Brett Cornwright
Published on
22 January 2021

In the ever-evolving and highly competitive world of federal contracting, deciding to bid (or not to bid) on an award is as crucial as it is complex. This pitfall-filled decision-making process demands deep analysis and strategic foresight, balancing the potentially massive rewards against the risks and costs.

In this blog post, part of our OnFrontiers Expert Interview Series, we explore the strategic layers that help define successful federal contract bidding. We culled these from an in-depth conversation between Jean-Francois (Boodi) Blanc, Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at SDV International, and Brian Caouette, CEO of OnFrontiers. You can view full the interview here.

Understanding Your Client: The Foundation of a Successful Bid

A successful bid starts with an intimate understanding of the client's needs, challenges, and objectives. This foundational knowledge ensures precisely tailored proposals to address the federal agency's specific demands and pain points.

"Truly understanding your client's needs and being able to speak to them is critical," said Blanc, who has been in sales in the Federal Contracting Space with companies like PwC, IBM (20 years), and SDV International currently. "We don't lose (bids) on price or tech. We lose on customer intimacy because we didn't understand the client in the right way."

Blanc noted that your “client” is usually not just one person but a set of stakeholders in different business units across the organization. "You'll never completely understand [all parties] deciding on the bid,” he said. “But knowing the significant stakeholders' take is critical.

"I call it the three legs of the stool. You have the contracting side, you have the IT side (CIO), and then you have the program side. They can all have different opinions, and they often do, right? So, you have to thread the needle through those three legs to figure out the best solution."

Aligning Capabilities with Contract Requirements: A Strategic Imperative

Ensuring your organization's capabilities and strengths align with the contract's requirements is not just about compliance—it's about demonstrating a clear value proposition that resonates with the client's needs.

"Align your capabilities and strengths with what will resonate with the clients,” Blanc said. “Engage with them well before the RFP or procurement process begins to understand upcoming opportunities." This strategic alignment between what your organization can deliver and what the contract seeks is crucial.

"You could lose before the RFP even comes out," he said. "Then you spend a ton of money and effort pursuing an opportunity, replying to the RFI, replying to the draft RFP, putting together a proposal … and you lost it before you even started because you're bidding the wrong solution."

Navigating the Competitive Landscape: Differentiation as a Competitive Edge

Understanding your competitors on the bid is vital. Blanc pointed out the importance of differentiating your bid from the competition, focusing on niche areas where your organization can uniquely excel.

This differentiation can come from innovative solutions, superior technology, or a more compelling approach to meeting the agency's needs. For larger companies, this might mean targeting complex, high-value contracts where they can leverage their scale and breadth of services. Smaller firms should focus on specialized contracts where their agility and technical expertise can shine.

Resource Allocation and Opportunity Cost: The Art of Selective Bidding

Every bid requires a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. Blanc discussed the necessity of judiciously choosing which opportunities to pursue based on a realistic assessment of the organization's capacity to deliver and the potential return on investment. This careful selection process ensures that resources are allocated to opportunities with the highest chances of success, avoiding spreading efforts too thinly or focusing too narrowly on a few high-stake bids.

"The biggest mistakes I see growth leaders make are over-investigating in too few deals or under-investing in too many deals,” Blanc said. “Finding the right balance is key.”

By deeply understanding the client, aligning organizational capabilities with contract requirements, and strategically positioning themselves against the competition, companies can make informed decisions that enhance their chances of success in federal contracting.