There are a number of tools on the market that you can use to search for RFPs to bid. Some are simple databases formed by scraping the data posted on procurement websites. Some use researchers to dig deeper. They are tools that can enable you to search far wider than you could on your own.
But they may not be worth their cost. For starters, in most markets, if you wait for the RFP announcement to make contact with the customer and start your pursuit, you have already lost. If you write proposals based solely on what’s in the RFP, your proposal probably won’t be any better than your competitors. If you sell products or commodities, you might be able to succeed by simply bidding against RFPs as they come out. But for everyone else, you need a tool that can help you identify opportunities before the RFP is released.
Some tools can be used to identify opportunities before the RFP is released. Some will tell you about pre-RFP announcements, such as Requests for Information (RFIs) or other market surveys when customers conduct them. Some keep historical data so that you can look for contracts that are expiring soon and target the recompetes. If you Google terms like “RFP service,” “RFP notification,” “bid database,” etc., you’ll find a bunch of them. Some are specialized, for example targeting construction companies or government contractors.
When you start looking for RFP and bid searching tools and databases, it can be difficult to find something that meets your needs. They all have ways of spinning their features and hiding their limitations that are hard to detect before you sign on to become a customer.
So we’ve put together a list of some of the features that we look for. Not all of them will be applicable to you. Some are specific to U.S. Federal Government contracting. Some aren’t even supported by any tool that we’re aware of. But if you want to understand the limits of a service, or test the honesty of the provider, they can still be worth asking about.
Many of the things on the list are relevant to you even if you aren’t looking for a tool. You can use this list to make sure that you are doing everything you can to research the opportunities you find and pursue on your own.
- Do they target the right customers? (Federal, state/local governments, international, private sector, etc.)
- How far back does the data go? (you need at least 5 years to target recompetes)
- Do they download and keep old RFPs, announcements, etc. for reference and comparison?
- Do they have a reminder function for long range targeting of recompetes?
- Are current releases linked to relevant past contracts?
- What data sources besides websites do they use?
- How do they handle inquiries from competitors chasing the same bids?
- Can you add your info to theirs and keep it private?
- Do they collect info from Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports? If so, how? (Do they do anything more than store a local copy of the documents?) Can they tell you if a company has been mentioned?
- Do they collect protest data and decisions? Can you tell whether a competitor has issued any protests or whether a customer has received any?
- Do they include agency forecasts? If so, how?
- Do they include data from the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS-NG)? If so, how to they reconcile it with other data sources (fbo.gov, etc.)?
- Do they collect information about contract modifications?
- Do they include data from agency budgets? How do they reconcile budget data with procurements? Can they tell you whether an opportunity is funded?
- How do they track the pre-RFP acquisition process? Do they know the steps each agency follows and can they tell you where an opportunity is at?
- What do they do to help you understand agency-level acquisition policies and preferences?
- What can they tell you about your own contracts that you don't already know? (And is any of their data about your existing contracts wrong?)
- How can you export your data? And which data can you export?
- Do they include GSA schedule leads?
- Do they include ID/IQ task order leads?
- Do they include state/local leads?
- Do they include grants, SBIRs, etc.?
- Can you get reports that show how much business a customer does in your NAICs/product codes? (so you know who to target)
- What fields can you search on?
- What search operators can you use (and/or, wildcards, proximity, etc.)?
- Can you limit searches to a region, customer, industry, etc.?
- Do they provide a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request service?
- Do they do make anonymous inquiries on behalf of their customers?
Teaming and Competitive Intel
- How often do they contact contracting officers?
- How badly out of date are the points of contact?
- What do they do to try to keep the points of contact up to date?
- How frequently are websites polled?
- How frequently are notifications sent (daily or real time)?
Anyone care to add to the list?
- What do they do to support your teaming efforts?
- Can they tell you who the subcontractors were on an award or who another company has teamed with in the past?
- Do they collect data on published prices/rates (GSA schedule, ID/IQs, etc.)?
- Can they tell you whether any of your competitors have been involved in legal actions?
- Can they tell you what press releases a competitor has issued?
- Can they tell you about any news articles published that mentioned your competitors?
- Can they tell you what contract vehicles a company has been awarded?
- Can they give you a list of awards to a particular company?
- Can you get reports that show who your competitors are (by NAICS/product codes, customer, geography, SB type, etc.)?
This article started off as a post in our group on LinkedIn. If you want to see what others have posted on the subject, please join us there. We’d like to hear about which tools you’ve used, which you liked, which you didn’t like, what you recommend, and what you need but haven’t been able to find.