Can’t Get No Information

Trying to get feedback on bid or proposal can feel like hitting a brick wall. So much so, I was channeling Mick Jagger just thinking about it! But, there are ways to find out what happened in that black hole your proposal seemed destined to land, especially if the bid was to a government agency.

It is almost impossible to get information during the submission period, except for the official question and answer process. If you are responding to a published request for proposal or bid (RFP), this process should be detailed in the official RFP documents. Generally this will include: 

  • period during which questions can be asked and the last date questions will be accepted;
  • date answers to all questions will be published and how those answers will be communicated to potential bidders; 
  • the contact person to submit your questions to; and, 
  •  the process for submitting your questions.

In the request document there should be a section that addresses how proposals will be evaluated, how an award will be made, what the protest process is and how an award is finalized. Once an award is made, your window of opportunity for getting feedback opens. Often, the RFP documents will tell you how to request this information.

No matter how public the RFP was, you can’t expect the client to share information about the winning proposal or how your response compared to the winner. Check below for how you might get it later, under a freedom of information request. You can, however, ask for an evaluation of your proposal.

It is best to approach this as a learning process – especially when contacting the customer. We usually make ours a request for a debriefing. You can ask questions that are specific to your proposal and generic as to all the responses, such as: 

  • Was our proposal considered complete and/or responsive?
  • Was our proposal in the correct format?
  • From your perspective did we meet the mandatory requirements? Did we meet a good number of the desired requirements?
  • Was our proposal organized in the manner you expected?
  •  How did our pricing compare with the overall pricing you were quoted?
  •  What suggestions might you have for making our proposal better the next time?

Did you know that you can review wining proposal from previous federal contract bids? If the materials aren’t classified for national security reasons, you can use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to review winning proposals. To learn about the FOIA request process you can review the Department of Justice guide. For principal contacts at other federal agencies, LSU publishes a list. Each state and local government has its own laws about access to public documents. If you’re looking for information about FOIA requests at state and local government agencies, a generic search for “FOIA contacts” gets you a huge list. You can also go to the website for the agency you are interested in to search for FOIA.

Bidding government work can be a long, and admittedly sometimes frustrating, process; however, it can also be rewarding. We have been fortunate enough to establish long-term mutually beneficial relationships with a number of government agencies. This success did not come from our first, second or even third effort. Our willingness to put effort into finding out what our targeted clients wanted from us, using the tips shared here, helped us to foster and cement long-term involvement with our government clients.

4 thoughts on “Can’t Get No Information”

  1. Ahhh, the art of bidding on government contracts seems to be one of the most difficult to ascertain, for any size business – large or small. The government does have its process and you can easily disqualify yourself if you ask the wrong question at the wrong time. The tips you supplied are a good stepping stone and clearly can be further built upon. As you said, it can be very, very frustrating. But you must play by the rules to win. And once you have the rules down and know how to play, it becomes so much easier to approach contacts at government agencies to build those ever-so-important relationships. After all, government employees are just normal people, too. They just have more red tape surrounding them.

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