7 min read

How to Turn Your Incumbentitis Into a Proposal Winning Strategy

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Winning a federal government contract is a long and arduous process. It takes time, effort, and resources to put together a proposal that meets all the requirements and regulations. If your company is the incumbent on an upcoming contract bid, you may be well-positioned for another win. There are also potential downsides to being an incumbent contractor, including:

1. Complacency: As an incumbent contractor, you may become complacent and assume that you will win the contract again because you "know" what the customer wants or that you know better than the RFP. This may lead to less innovation and effort during a recompete.

2. Limited competition: If you are the only incumbent contractor or there are only a few competitors bidding for the contract, you may not be incentivized to offer the best possible price or service.

3. High expectations: As the incumbent, you may be held to a higher standard than other contractors, and your shortcomings may be scrutinized more.

4. Limited room for growth: If you are the incumbent contractor, you may not have the opportunity to expand your services or take on additional work beyond what is already specified in the contract.

5. Seemingly unfair advantage: Being the incumbent may cause evaluators to have the perception that your company has an unfair advantage over other bidders.

This blog will explain how incumbents can turn these potential cons into actionable proposal winning strategies.


Implement Contract Goals 

One winning strategy you can implement is to develop broad contract goals in line with customer needs. Then detail improvements you have already implemented on your incumbent contract, AND address the improvements you are proposing on the new or re-compete solicitation. Identify 3 to 5 big goals for the contract, and then determine HOW you can accomplish those goals in the various areas of the PWS. Eventually, you map these to your proposal outline to ensure their strategic citation throughout your technical and management proposal. 

Work with the current contract management team and the key employees to refine these Goals. Determine the implementation plan, features, benefits, innovations, discriminators, and then align these to the Contract Goals.

The table below contains examples of overarching Contract Goals and subgoals or WHY you will implement them. Current (incumbent) contract achievements are shown on the left side, and proposed innovations and improvements for this solicitation are shown in the right column.  Always map everything to the PWS, and if it applies to the entire PWS simply use ‘All PWS.’  


Table-contract goals and subgoals


This is a powerful graphic if you have put the time into thinking out every detail. Evaluators can pull information directly from this chart for the award letter.


Map Contract Goals to the Proposal Outline

After you have developed this graphic, be sure you use this information to the fullest. Include the innovation or improvement as a feature with a corresponding benefit in the approach narrative. Then use your achievements as incumbent in the technical PWS sections as proof points of how you have successfully performed the work.  

The contract goals exercise also helps lay out themes for the various proposal sections – Invest in Personnel becomes a theme of the Recruiting and Retention section in the Management Volume. Culture of Quality and Safety can be a theme of the Management and Technical sections. This method helps you think through the work, what you have accomplished, how you use that as proof points, where you want to continue to improve, and shows the evaluators your commitment to improvement. 

You are more likely to win the contract by ensuring that your customer’s top needs and evaluator hot buttons are addressed more clearly and thoroughly in your offering when compared to your competitors’. The bidder must ensure that these components of a winning strategy are effectively presented in their proposal themes.


Make Your Incumbency Work for You

Don't rely on your incumbency to win the contract for you, but also don't ignore the value of your incumbency. Approach the recompete process as if you are competing for the contract for the first time - you are just now better prepared than you were the first time you won the contract.

Put in the same level of effort and dedication as you did before. This means thoroughly researching the requirements and regulations, understanding the agency's needs and goals, and crafting a proposal that addresses all of these factors. Here are a few good reminders for crafting a winning strategy as the incumbent.


Use Facts and Statistics 

  • Remind them of who you are and what you have accomplished. 

  • Focus on showing depth of expertise. 

  • Focus on showing results of your work. 


Substantiate the Approach 

  • Show you understand the customer’s needs. 

  • Prove you can meet their needs.

  • Show them the value of your company/team and discriminators.

  • Hit their hot buttons head on.


Use Subtle Sale Method 

  • Don’t overemphasize your incumbency.
  • Strategically use proven past performance.
  • Use graphics and tables to create visual images of data.


This is the 4th blog post in the 11-part series, "Playing to Win: Strategies to Scoring Higher and Winning Federal Government Contracts". There is a companion download, which includes editable customizable PowerPoint and Word graphics based on each blog post topic. 

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OneTeam is a complete, secure, cloud-native collaboration platform for GovCons to track, qualify, capture, propose and win more contracts with fewer resources by streamlining and automating processes. Our experienced team writes extensively about business development topics and best practices.

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