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How the Right Past Performance Helps You Win the Contract

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It is often said that successful Past Performance can be an indicator of future performance. Performing work well gives new and experienced government contractors credibility and provides some level of assurance with a new customer. Past Performance is one of the factors considered when selecting the GovCon who will be awarded the contract.

Why is Past Performance So Important?


Most solicitations include a Past Performance volume or section. Usually, the RFP instructions detail a specifically formatted synopsis of a contract that either your company (as the prime contractor), or one of your major subcontractors has performed within a specified period of time. A typical RFP might stipulate at least three past performances references, which may also be called past performance citations, or Past Performance Information, for work performed within the past X years – usually 3 to 5 years. It may stipulate a page limit on the citations, it may give a minimum and a maximum number of citations allowed and may state whether all or some number must be from the prime contractor, and how many may be submitted by subcontractors or teaming partners.

The Government provides Evaluation Criteria for Past Performance Citations (Section M) and assesses if the offeror’s citations are relevant to the technical requirements and performance standards of the RFP.


Major processes/events in the Past Performance Process


Create Template for Past Performance Citations

Pull Previous past performance write-ups for the same or similar NAICS. Use the PWS as a starting point for your template. Use the major section headings and numbers, and the lower-level headings to ensure you can accurately capture the data you need. It is much better to break a template into 60 separate PWS sections and know that the information you collect is accurate and relevant so that you can correctly map it.


Write Past Performance Citations

Always map a Past Performance Citation to the bid’s PWS/SOW. A PWS/SOW may look very similar until an expert carefully evaluates each PWS/SOW reference as it relates to proposed Past Performance Citation PWS/SOW elements. This mapping is crucial and can save many hours of rework later in the proposal process.

After mapping the PWS, have a technical expert write bullet points for each PWS element mapped to the RFP in the template. Be specific and use good action verbs. For example, “Used current FAR and DCMA-compliant purchasing system to purchase over $2M worth of goods and services for XXX.”


Assess Potential Past Performance Citations

After the potential Past Performance Citations are drafted in the template, assess each citation against the RFP. Complete a thorough evaluation early in the capture process.

A review team of experts should meticulously review every potential Past Performance Citation and select the very best ones to present in the proposal. This also means that any subcontractors past performance examples need review and evaluation.

An ideal Past Performance Citation is recent and relevant to the solicitation and shows experience in the same industry, type of work, or NAICS. Evaluation factors include similar in size, scope, complexity, and contract type. Explain the relevance of the Past Performance Citation in terms of size, scope, and complexity; substantiate each claim with a proof point.

As the prime offeror, the capture and proposal team need to evaluate multiple past performance examples and find the very best ones. One example may be identical in terms of scope, but the size or contract dollar value is only a fraction of the dollar value of the proposed bid. However, if the scope is highly related, and the size is not, check for other similarities. Is the complexity similar? Is the NAICS the same? Is the Past Performance reference and proposed bid for the same agency? Draw as many parallels as possible and record that information.


Rank Potential Past Performance Citations

After technical experts assess each Past Performance Citation, rank them in order of how high each scores against the Evaluation Criteria.


Select the Best Citations

Check the Gap Analysis of which PWS elements each Past Performance Citation covers to ensure all PWS elements have been addressed by at least one citation.

A winning Past Performance section is one that the Government evaluators deem low risk. The Government is very risk adverse since it cannot afford for an agency to shut down due to contractors unable to provide the agreed upon products or services, when they are needed. As a government contractor, you need to ensure that the proposal you submit to a Contracting Office in response to an RFP, is evaluated as low risk, and ultimately selected as the contract winner. To do this, you must have an excellent technical approach, management approach, and past performance proof that supports a low risk assessment.


Improve Past Performance Citations

After the citations are selected for the proposal, revise them to make them as strong as possible. It is a good practice to have the Capture Manager and/or Proposal Manager review the citations for areas that need improvement. One or two internal reviews can strengthen the citations and ensure that your team’s past performance is evaluated as low risk.


Contact the Past Performance Citation POC

After you select, revise, and strengthen the Past Performance Citations, contact the Citation POC, which may be the CO, COR, or COTR. This is the person or persons who receives a Past Performance Questionnaire (PPQ) to complete and return to the RFP Contracting Officer. They may also receive phone calls or email to validate the company’s performance on the citation contract. You want to let the POC know that they will receive a PPQ on a specific date. You may also want to offer to send them general information about your performance on the contract. The citation information that you have completed is a good summary to send to the POC(s).


Past Performance Questionnaires (PPQs)

Complete required PPQs and send to citation contract POCs. Thank them in advance for completing the PPQ and be sure to put the due date for the PPQ and the CO’s email address in the enclosure email to the POC. Hopefully, the POCs use the great information on your past performance in their response to the Contracting Office.


Follow up with Past Performance POC

Follow up with POC to ensure the PPQ is completed on time. A reminder email is a good idea, as people can get very busy. Often, POCs email the PPQ requestor and let them know they have successfully submitted the PPQ to the RFP Contracting Office. Be sure and send a follow-up thank you email or call them and thank them for assisting your company.


Release of Adverse Past Performance Information

Subcontractors who provide a Past Performance Citation complete a Release of Adverse Past Performance Information form or letter. This allows the CO or other members of the Evaluation Board to notify the prime offeror that a subcontractor's Past Performance Citation has a weakness or issue. Without this release letter, they cannot discuss any subcontractor past performance information with the prime contractor. This would be done in a notice of strengths and weaknesses, and possibly a request for additional information. This letter is included in the Past Performance volume.


References Validated

After Proposal Submission, members of the Source Evaluation Board may contact Past Performance Citation POCs to ask questions about the citation and validate that the PPQ aligns with your submitted citation.


Evaluation Board Evaluates Past Performance

The Source Evaluation Board evaluates Past Performance including provided performance information, completed PPQs, Federal Government Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) database records, and other performance information known to the Evaluation Board.



This is the 11th in a 13-part series focused on learning about Government RFPs and your response to RFPs as a government Contractor. Be sure and download our complete guide, Government RFPs: What you Need to Know. Check back each week for another installment in the series. Happy Bidding!

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