RFQ’s and RFP’s : The First Steps to Ensuring Success

November 17, 2022 | Business Development, Government

Photo by Christina Morillo:

If you want to do business with the federal government, it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of RFPs. In my work with my clients, I have learned tips to make the process more efficient and effective while also learning a bit about what doesn’t work. This article will share a few of these and will especially help people who have very little experience reading or responding to an RFQ/RFP Here are a few of the most important considerations. 

First Things First 

When I receive an RFP, I first search the document for two phrases. This is where the most important information is included, and there are a few specific things you should look for in each section.

  • “Instructions to Offerors.” The includes details like the due dates for responses, the due date for questions submitted by respondents, desired proposal format (font, font size, paragraph spacing, page limits, and proposal sections), and submission instructions (file format, file Size, whether submissions should be mailed–which is, perhaps surprisingly, requested from time to time–and number of copies requested, or whether it should be emailed–and who to send the submission to.
  • “Evaluation Criteria.” This is what is most important to evaluators–and how your submission will be scored. Among the criteria typically included are price, technical ability, and past performance, among others. The requested criteria will help determine your proposal outline.

When to Say No

The above should help you in your go/no go decision. While each company has different go/no go criteria, here are some examples of questions that may help arrive at a go/no-go selection:

  1. Is our brand name spec’ed in RFP/RFQ?
  2. If the RFP/RFQ asks for a “Brand Name or Equal,” can our product meet or exceed the brand name specified?
  3. Does the agency desire a Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) solution or does market research show a COTS solution that specifically solves the agency’s problem? 
  4. Does the agency desire a demo?
  5. Can our product compete with competitors on the basis of price?
  6. Has our company had any previous experience with a like project?
  7. Are there any case studies with a like project we can share with the agency?
  8. Has DB Servicesthe company had any previous contact/done any previous work with the agency?
  9. Has an outreach strategy already been formed with the agency?
  10. Will the RFP/RFQ take less than 10 hours to prepare?

With these questions posed, there is no exact rubric to determine a go/no-go decision. The goal is to get the team thinking about what is involved. However, if the answer to questions 2, 5, or the last three is “no,”  I would give it a no-go. Key information to answer these questions can be found in the Instructions to Offerors and Evaluation Criteria.

Other Best Practices

If your response is less than 210 pages, it can be submitted on letterhead. Start with a letter to the evaluators (addressed to “Dear Contracting Officers”), introduction, and company background, then include the proposal sections as defined in the RFP. 

Longer proposals should be more formal. Include a title page, table of contents, and executive summary before the proposal sections. 

Regardless of what the instructions say or what’s in the evaluation criteria, even if the RFQ/RFP is based on solely price and all that is requested is a quote on company letterhead, it’s good practice to include:

  • Past Performance. This gives you a chance to demonstrate your capabilities and differentiate your company from those who only provide pricing info. 
  • Marketing Information with Clear Metrics. Include a statement about why your company is the right partner for the opportunity. Here is an example: “With over $5M in Federal Contract Awards in 2022, Company ABC has provided 5000 widgets across 30 Military Bases Across 25 States.” 

Follow the rules

Don’t create your own outline or formatting. While these may seem like superficial changes, your company will be judged on your adherence to the evaluation criteria. Breaking the rules puts your offer at risk of not being fully evaluated or being considered non-responsive because evaluators can’t find the information they’re looking for.

The RFP process can be daunting, but you don’t have to go it alone. Whether your business is new to working with the federal government, or if you’re more established but need help navigating the RFP process, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or at [email protected].


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MYTH: Doing business with the government does not rely on relationships and does not require any marketing. All that is required finding opportunities on web sites and responding with quotes/proposals.

FACT: Having great relationships with government end users can provide more opportunities beyond RFQs/RFPs posted to government web sites. Some opportunities do not even require the government put it out for a competitive bid process so knowing someone could present more chances to do business. Furthermore, relationships also help build positive past performance history which is critical to winning future opportunities.