Before we get into whether you can win an RFP lets talk about the sections of an RFP because they are frequently hundreds of pages long, but here’s the good news:
1) 95% of the stuff you care about is in a couple sections
2) Those sections tend to be pretty short
3) The important elements that are NOT in those sections tends to be the responsibility of the prime, so assuming you are subbing you can focus on the substantive elements that the instructions below will help you find.
Here are the key sections and what I believe is their order of importance: What is below is how the government says they will organize and write RFPs, however THEY FREQUENTLY DON’T FOLLOW THEIR OWN GUIDANCE. So Don’t be surprised when you read an RFP and the sections are totally different
What do you have to prove about yourself “aka show stoppers” (Section M): The government frequently requires that bidders have certain things already in place before they can win. As a rule the government is going to want to see that you have certain credentials, both corporate and for key personnel.
These are binary, if they say you have to have three past performances or have passed a DCAA audit in the last year and you haven’t then you can’t win. You might be able to get around this if you partner with a company that does meet the requirements, but read carefully and if you don’t meet it then you’ll need to come up with a plan.
How are they going to choose a winner (Section M): Not all sections of the proposal are created equal. One sections may count towards 50% of your grade and other sections only worth 10%.
What you have to do (Section C and/or J): This section tells you what the government wants to buy
Formatting requirements (Section L): The government is CRAZY about formatting, if they say Courier New font and you use Arial, or if the RFP says 1 inch margins and you use 0.75 inch margins your proposal will be thrown out un-reviewed. I have a lot of feelings about this policy (both pro and con) but it sort of doesn’t matter, just follow the formatting rules
And all the rest of the proposal: So I hate to say this, but all of the above is just a guideline and will probably get you 80% of the requirements (enough for an initial P-Win go-no-go analysis). For large RFPs the sections above generally hold true, but for smaller ones requirements get stuck into weird places so to get a comprehensive list of what is expected you are going to have to read the whole thing.