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Want to Win a Government Contract? Get to Know the RFP Competition

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In government contracting and in business in general, companies compete for work. The principle: Know Your Competition, is important to determine your strategy for the bid. Last week's topic was finding teammates that help you win. This blog provides resources for finding information on an upcoming Government RFP, so you can identify of your most likely competitors.

When a solicitation is released, it is either requesting services/products that are new requirements or existing work.

Find out if it is existing work or a New Requirement.


For Existing Work


Determine the Incumbent

Existing contracts or follow-on contracts are ones that have been awarded previously – an agency has been purchasing some level of services/products and the period of performance for the existing contract is coming to an end. When the contract name is known, research the contract to determine the incumbent contractor.

Then determine if the incumbent contractor is eligible to bid the recompete. They may have outgrown the contract size standard or are no longer eligible in the socio-economic category. If the incumbent is eligible to rebid the contract as prime, they are probably your top competitor for the bid.

This information can be found using Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) or other commercial search services, such as GovWin. If you still cannot find the information or need more information, search for past press releases, since most companies often announce contract wins.

If the incumbent cannot recompete or has outgrown the contract size standard, assume they are subcontracting to a new prime. This means that the current prime company now teams as a subcontractor to a different prime company for the bid. Current prime contractors rarely give up work! In this case you have to figure out the relationships they have. To do this, see who they partnered with on different opportunities. This may be found on their website, in press releases, or discovered through networking and intelligence gathering.


Use Free Government Websites: FPDS or USASpending

FPDS is a database that provides contract information for government contractors. In FPDS, look up the contract and search for contract modifications. FPDS updates data nightly to usaspending.gov. USASpending can be more user-friendly, and easier to navigate. This website also has some subcontractor data and users are able to search using multiple filters across different agencies, NAICS codes, Contract Recipient, and much more. There is a selection for either Prime or Sub-Awards.

Note which actions were for exercising an option, which provides you with actual data on contract spending.


For New Requirements


Determine who can bid

New Requirements are contracts being awarded for the first time. However, this may mean that there is no incumbent for the contract or that contracts are being restructured and the Government considers this a new requirement. Research the companies that work in the bid’s NAICS code by using an intelligence subscription service, such as GovWin or GovTribe, or use the free service, USASpending.

Also, search for companies that currently work for the customer in a different NAICS. Research SAM.gov or USASpending to see if the company has recently added this code to their NAICS listing.


Is This a Set-Aside?

Another approach is to determine which companies have the socio-economic status to compete as prime contractor. The socioeconomic programs for small businesses are the following:

  • Small Business Set-Asides

  • Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) Program

  • 8(a) Program

  • Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program

  • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Program

  • Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program

As you narrow down the list, try to find out what companies have related work that would make this a good bid for them. For example, if the NAICS is 541620, Environmental Consulting Services, search for businesses with awarded contracts or subcontracts in this NAICS.


Learning About Subcontractors

As the Capture Manager narrows down the list of potential competitors, try to find out what companies have related work that would make this a good bid for them. For example, if the NAICS is 541620, Environmental Consulting Services, search for businesses that have contract awards or subcontracts in this NAICS.

Databases such as GovWin or FPDS usually only provide information on Prime companies – not subcontractors. USASpending does have some subcontractor data, but only that data that is reported by the prime contractors through the FFATA Subaward Reporting System (FSRS).

FSRS is a reporting tool that Federal prime awardees (i.e., prime recipients and prime sub-recipients/ contractors) use to capture and report sub-recipient/ contractor awards and executive compensation data.

To find competitive intelligence or information on subcontractors, the Capture Manager networks at industry-related events, joins professional societies, and gathers relevant information to build the capture strategies for the team.

These steps can help you narrow down the RFP competition (which companies are likely to bid on an upcoming RFP). Knowing the other competitor companies may provide your team with an edge when the RFP drops, and the proposal submission process begins.

From past performance to pricing, knowing the RFP competition can help the Capture Manager tailor all aspects of the proposal so that the customer chooses your team’s solution.

Once competitors and incumbents are known, the Capture Manager can conduct a Black Hat Review with a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – to assess competitor data.


This is the 7th 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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