10 steps to winning a government contract - Step 4
Accessing the bid package
Before we address getting the bid package, read the following. If you believe that you can find one bid – that one special bid – and put all your eggs in that basket, consider this:
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
To get the bid package, you need to:
- Contact the buyer or contracting office.
- Request the bid package.
Sound easy? Here's the hard part – how do you do that?
If you're getting your bids from either a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) or from FedBiz Opps, you usually just need to click on the link to the bid document. Otherwise, enter the solicitation number—for example, DAA456-05-T-9876. Usually it has "sol" or "Sol Number" before it.
Next, download the solicitation and read it. After you read it, read it again. Mark any parts you don't understand.
If you're looking for drawings, visit http://progate.daps.dla.mil/home/, which is the Department of Defense's procurement gateway. On this Web site, you can enter the solicitation number or the National Stock Number and view any drawings that apply to the contract. This Web site is rich in information. In the past the federal government didn't buy technical drawings from suppliers, so now that it wants to break commodities out and make them non-sole-sourced, it doesn't have the technical drawings available for you to see. This is a major problem, but many companies that do their own back-engineering or research are winning many contracts. Remember, even though you may not have the technical information for one specific contract, you still can conduct research for the next five or 10 contracts coming up. To win a government contract, you must do your homework.
You also should know the different types of contracts and pricing arrangements available. You most likely will encounter the following types:
- Firm-fixed Price Contract. The firm-fixed price contract isn't subject to adjustment. The winner must perform the contract at the awarded price and accept 100 percent of the profit or loss of performing the contract within the price quoted.
- Fixed Price With Economic Price Adjustment Contract. A fixed price with economic price adjustment may be adjusted based on the occurrence of certain specified economic changes outside of contractor control; for example, steel prices. If it's a big contract and the lead-time is long, you might request this type.
Because we're dealing with small businesses in the next several editions of this series, it's important to know that most small businesses won't see these types of contracts.
- Fixed Price With Incentive. In a fixed price with incentive contract, the profit is adjusted and the final price established by a contract formula based on the relationship of the final negotiated cost to the target cost.
- Cost-reimbursement Contract. In a cost-reimbursement contract, the final price is determined either when the work is finished or at some other time during the contract performance. Cost-reimbursement contracts can be Cost Plus With Fixed Fee, Cost Plus Incentive Fee, or Cost Plus Award Fee types.
Special-situation-type contracts include time and material, labor-hour, definite quantity, and requirements. Fabricators and manufacturers typically won't see these types of contracts, but you should know about them in case you do. If you see one, contact your local PTAC and request contract specialist assistance.
New Bidding Techniques
You should be aware of new bidding techniques:
1. Auction Bidding. Some government buyers love auction bidding because it gives them the best price. At an auction, some people can get carried away – and in this case, if a business gets caught up in the bidding process, it might bid too low. Be aware of what you're doing with auction bidding. Don't give your profits away just to win a bid – remember that getting a government contract can be a great opportunity or the horror story you've heard about.
2. Contract Bundling. The government can bundle a group of small contracts and bid them out to one supplier. Although this might sound good, these contracts usually don't go to small businesses.
As always, if you need help, contact your local PTAC for expert advice.
Jim Kleckner is a retired acquisition specialist from the Department of Defense and owner of Government Contracting Assistance, 2168 Spaulding Ave., West Dundee, IL 60118-3521, 847-426-7003, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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