How Not To Win A Government Contract [SlideShare]

Posted by douglasburdett

What if we lived in an alternate universe where, to win a government contract you had to lose it worse than anyone else? Here's how you'd win.Winning Government Contract Proposals


Jim McCarthy

This 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. 


Let us imagine for a moment that we inhabit an opposite universe.

One where left is right, up is down, in is out, and good is bad.

Now suppose we wanted to win a government contract in this strange world. To win a government contract there, we would have to lose.

How would one go about it? Do the following:

  1. Jump into the fray late
  2. Rubber stamp your bid/no-bid process
  3. Assume that the job is yours to lose
  4. Perform no advance marketing or positioning whatsoever
  5. Demonstrate that you have absolutely no understanding of the mission
  6. Be blissfully ignorant of your customer's needs, wants. and challenges
  7. Stuff your proposal with exorbitant and unsubstantiated claims
  8. Tell your "story" instead of complying with RFP instructions
  9. Propose what you are selling instead of what the government is buying
  10. Select proposed key personnel only from among those sitting on the bench
  11. In so many words, tell the Government that its requirements are all wrong
  12. Bash your competition by name so as to make your company look good
  13. Bid a program manager that is unknown to the customer
  14. Claim exceptions and deviations to RFP requirements
  15. Make them search long and hard for your technical solution, if you even have one
  16. Assemble a jumbled team of subcontractors each vying for more work scope and FTEs
  17. Include contract references that are dissimilar in size, scope and complexity
  18. Blow the dust off and submit resumes sitting on the shelf
  19. Submit key personnel references but fail to inform them first
  20. Bring key personnel into the loop only after proposal submission
  21. Use only amateurs to prepare your proposal, especially SMEs who can't write
  22. Forget benefits to the customer, focus on features only
  23. Let writers invent their own themes
  24. Or better, have no themes
  25. Or better still, have too many themes
  26. Smatter conflicting data throughout the proposal
  27. Misspell the customer's name
  28. Ignore, camouflage or downplay existing conflicts of interest
  29. Include a top-heavy, clunky, and expensive-looking organization chart
  30. Price to lose – ridiculously high or ridiculously low
  31. Mitigate your risks, not your customer's
  32. Rely on boilerplate, the more the better
  33. Forget that diversity thing
  34. Imply that it is the customer at the root of all of its problems
  35. Write your proposal after hours and on weekends using part timers
  36. Engage the cheapest consultants money can buy
  37. Don't sweat details such as font size or page limitations
  38. Populate your review teams with those who don't know the customer
  39. Ensure review teamers do not read the RFP
  40. Offer nothing of value to your customer
  41. Be sure to use technical jargon, buzzwords, and undefined acronyms
  42. Use every inch of white space on a page
  43. Submit your proposal late, the Government won’t care.

Fortunately, we live in a universe where we don't have to lose to win. Yet, see if the any of the above strategies resonate. Why is it we so often seem hellbent on doing what we know we should not do in this universe? Can you think of others that I have left off the list?


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