Expert Advice

8 Key Factors in Deciding to Submit a Proposal

Starting to submit government contracting proposals can be very daunting. Fear can arise when you are uncertain, which in turn makes you question your capabilities and the value of your business. You may start asking questions like, “Can I do it?” or “Is this project worth it?” 

I always advise clients that you can’t expect to win the lottery if you do not buy a ticket. The same considerations apply for small business owners deciding to participate in government contracting. You have to learn when to say “Yes, this is in our alley let’s go for it” or “No, this is not worth our time and effort.” 

Here are 8 key factors to consider when deciding to submit a proposal or not:

1. Do you meet the minimum qualification requirements?

The minimum requirements are normally on a pass/fail basis. Failure to pass in any one element may result in the proposal being found unresponsive and, therefore, excluded from further consideration. It is best to understand the qualification requirements and see if this is a good fit for your business or not. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements, you are wasting your time in submitting a proposal.

2. Have you reviewed the solicitation schedule?

Review the expected schedule for the solicitation and determine if you have time to respond. It normally takes a week to prepare a draft and you may have to postpone some of your current tasks or pull some staff to help you review this proposal and prepare a draft. Decide if you can fit proposal development into your workload, including researching the agency and making sure you have ample time to finish before the submission deadline.

3. Do you have the capacity to deliver this project?

If you have a couple of projects that you are working on, you need to determine if there is an overlap or if you have the capacity to take on another project. Is there another possibility of a task order being issued to extend your current work? Are you free to take on another project to keep your business sustainable? Lots of things to consider.

4. Do you have the necessary resources?

In many cases, there are opportunities for small businesses to partner or to hire subcontractors to assist with the delivery of the project. Decide on your project approach and project management plan. Identify the team’s role and responsibilities and assess if you are ready to perform the work required of the contract.

5. Have you conducted a risk analysis?

It is always important to consider the risks involved in submitting a proposal. Failure to complete the project and/or termination for cause can have a significant impact on your business for many years. It is important to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to evaluate your company’s competitive position and to assess internal and external factors, as well as current and future potential risks to your business.

6. Is this project profitable?

Profit is your main goal. Review the scope of work and key deliverables and ask yourself if you are going to make a profit after considering labor, overhead rates, indirect costs and subcontractor costs. You also need to take into consideration that Government agencies normally make payment within 30 days from the date of submission of a complete invoice and if there is a discrepancy, they will make a request for additional information and delay payment.

7. Consider the chances of winning.

Review the selection criteria and determine your chances of winning. Have you submitted proposals on similar RFPs and won? Review who your competitors are and attend pre-proposal meetings. If this RFP has been issued before, you can even request the incumbent’s proposal through the Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) for federal or the California Public Records Act (PRA). Do your research to help you determine your chances of winning.

8. Is your business certified?

Take advantage of the certification programs that help small businesses compete and level the playing field in government contracting. There are various types of certifications available from local, state, and federal agencies. You can benefit from being certified and take advantage of the programs meant to help small and disadvantaged businesses. In most cases, there may be contract preferences for small businesses and/or local business enterprises. Even though your cost proposal may be higher, your small business preference in the proposal can help you win contracts.

Government contracting can be a very daunting process, from getting started with your certifications and registrations to figuring out what opportunities to go after. But you don’t have to do it alone, that’s why we are here, ready to help you along your contracting journey.

If you are looking for help with government contracting or want no-cost help to find contracting opportunities, please contact your Norcal APEX Accelerator counselor for assistance or apply for services today!

If you have more questions, please contact us at or 707.267.7561

Authored by: Liz Brazil, Norcal APEX Accelerator Procurement Specialist