What is the biggest differentiator in contract and project awards, other than price? Operations. We completed over 100 proposals in 2013. When asked “What is the biggest barrier to proposal success?” my immediate answer is, “Other than the price proposal, the past performance ratings.” Imagine your surprise in a debrief when you have done everything right — high technical ratings, highly relevant project experience, competitive pricing, but the government has rated your past performance section as “Unacceptable” due to one of your client’s unsatisfactory ratings.
I reiterate to contractors every day that proposal success is a holistic approach — success is related to the operations of the Company. Past performance ratings are solely an evaluation of the company’s quality, safety, schedule and subcontractor management on past projects. Yet, it affects a technical proposal rating in a very big way.
Past Performance sections of a proposal are typically the first or second highest weighted section of a RFP. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to collect past performance questionnaires and ensure favorable ratings. With the ability to submit team partner and key subcontractor information, past performance ratings become one of the main methods for the Government to differentiate between contractors.
While the past performance rating process is by no means perfect, we must learn to manage the process effectively. Below are just a few tips for collecting your past performance ratings in time, while ensuring they are favorable:
- Conduct a litmus test: Contact your Government point of contact and ask, “If we were to request a past performance questionnaire, how would you rate us?” If the answer is that you would be rated unfavorably, either pursue a better point of contact, or don’t submit the project in the proposal. Seriously, don’t do it!
- Stay in contact with your Government points of contact: If you have a good reference for a project you continuously write-up for your project experience, stay in contact. Government personnel move around!
- Ask for a Formal CCASS, ACASS or PPQ-0: As would I, the government points of contact will become annoyed if tasked with continuously filling out questionnaires for the same project. Show your point of contact there is a better way! Ask for a formal CCASS (if the project is over $500,000), ACASS or the now accepted PPQ-O form, as these can typically be used in lieu of a questionnaire.
- Get questionnaires out to your point of contact immediately: Give your point of contact adequate time to fill out a questionnaire. Provide a deadline and instructions. Follow-up with a phone call. I am a firm believer in “courteous” communication. Calling your point of contact two days prior to a proposal deadline probably won’t help boost your rating, or with collecting the questionnaire in time.
Remember, just one poor rating could be the only differentiator between you and your competition!
If you would like more information on how to manage your past performance ratings, please contact us at www.strategiccreations.com/contact.