Government Contract RFPs: 12 Red Flags To Ignore At Your Own Peril

Posted by douglasburdett

Most government RFPs are lost before one word of the proposal is written. Address these 12 red flags beforehand and you can win with flying colors.

government contract RFP red flags

Jim McCarthyThis guest post is by Jim McCarthy, Principal Owner and Technical Director, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI), a federal contracting proposal and business development consulting firm. Since 1983, KSI has helped clients win over $130 billion in federal contracts. 

Is Your Company Ready For The Proposal Or In Denial?

The RFP finally drops. Is your company “proposal ready” or in denial of the facts? A rigorous Bid/No-Bid Process helps companies make definitive bid decisions. Many contracts are lost before one word of the proposal is written. This is because many companies avoid the hard questions and ignore “red flag” warnings. Next time, before rolling the dice, consider these bid assessment elements.

Bid/No-Bid Element:

  1. Pre-positioning. Do you know the customer? Does the customer know you? What is the customer buying? Do you know the preferences, concerns, issues, agendas, biases, and “hot buttons” of the decision makers and influencers? Have you pre-sold your company and your proposed solution?
  2. Preparatory Assessments. Have you performed a rigorous gap analysis to identify your holes? Do you know the competition? SWOT analysis complete? Is the contract wired?
  3. Win Strategy. Is there a clearly elucidated, persuasive win strategy? Does it include a competitive pricing strategy with target pricing?
  4. Teaming Partners. Are teammates required? Have work scopes and levels of effort been adequately defined? Are signed teaming agreements in place?
  5. Technical/Management Solution. Do you have a compelling technical solution and management approach? How about proofs to support your assertions?
  6. Themes/Discriminators. Do you know precisely what you are selling? Do you have a mature set of themes and discriminators? .
  7. Value Proposition. What are the benefits to the Government in choosing your company? Have you articulated your competitive edge in a compelling and authoritative manner? Have you provided sound reasons to warrant your selection?
  8. Key Personnel. Have you identified a qualified, available, and committed Program Manager and key personnel team? Has a defensible organization structure been developed?
  9. Past Experience and Performance. Do you have successful contracts of similar size, scope, and complexity? Do you have good contract references? Have references been vetted?
  10. Timeframe. Did you get a late start? Is there adequate time to prepare a winning response?
  11. Risk Assessment. Do you know the major business, financial, performance, and cost risks? Are these risks acceptable? Have these risks been mitigated in whole or in part?
  12. Corporate Commitment. Have you allocated the necessary personnel, resources and budget to mount an effective proposal development effort? Are proposal staff and SMEs identified and committed?

If the answer to one or more of these elements is “no,” take corrective action now. Get objective outside help. Rally your teammates. Or stop and consider whether to proceed at all. The stakes are high – hope is not a strategy.

 Jim McCarthy from AOC Key Solutions can be reached via email or by calling 703-868-8263. For the latest government contracting news, watch his show, Government Contracting Weekly on Sunday mornings at 7:00 on WUSA-TV9 or online 24/7 at

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 photo credit: Blockupy 2013 | Block EZB 1 via photopin (license)

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