The Development Source

Being the Incumbant still means Submitting a Great Proposal

Being the incumbent on a government contract puts you in a great position to re-bid successfully on a Request for Proposals (RFP) to continue doing the same work through a new contract.  However, often incumbents are unseated despite their good work on the previous contract.

According to Chuck Keller of Keller Proposal Development and Training, there are several important tactical steps you can take to ensure that you win the next government contract as an incumbent.  Some of these steps are process-oriented while others involve the development of a certain mindset:

  • The best proposal strategy as an incumbent is to perform really well on the contract.  Your unique win theme will be:  we understand this work superbly, we already are doing it well, and we will do even better on the new contract.  And do not forget the proof!
  • Treat the new RFP as a must-win proposal.  This means the following:
    • Use your best proposal team.
    • Acquire the resources you need to submit a first-class proposal.
    • Develop a detailed schedule with milestones and deliverables.
    • Do not use boilerplate from the past winning proposal unless you can adapt it for the new RFP.
    • Allocate enough time to perform the necessary reviews.
    • Allocate enough time for proposal production and delivery.
  • Do not underestimate your competition’s abilities to unseat you or do not overestimate your own abilities.  Complacency often results in new contractors.
  • If at all possible, work closely with your agency to develop an RFP that looks wired.  By wired, I mean that it is written to favor a specific bidder – you.  If the RFP is wired, it will make it easier for you to respond to the RFP and discourage your competitors from applying. 
  • If you win the recompeted bid, request a debriefing.  Besides being informative, a debriefing will demonstrate to your agency that you are still interested in learning and improving your performance.

As Keller points out, the biggest danger for an incumbent is complacency when re-bidding.  You cannot assume that you will be awarded the follow-on contract simply because you are doing good work.  In your proposal, you must still answer the all-important “So what?” question.

Use the advantages you have accrued as the incumbent to submit a better proposal than the competition.  If you have done good work and the government agency likes your company, the contract is yours to lose. 

Do not let it slip from your grasp!  Treat the RFP as a must-win proposal and behave accordingly.


Article source: