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Can Do vs. Should Do: Part of the Go – No Go Decision

One of the hardest decisions to make in business development is when to pursue a project and when to let it go. This is especially hard for newer small businesses, who often subscribe to the “throw it up and see what sticks” approach.  There are times that strategic plan may be successful, especially in price-based procurements where the amount of time and money put into the proposal may be minimal.

But more often, the quality of the proposal, past performance and personnel will play a part in the final choice, and so more time and resources are spent in the development of a response that meets the requirements of the solicitation. Those costs can add up quickly, which is why making an informed decision on which opportunities to pursue is important.

The first qualifying factor for a solicitation is “Can we do the work?” The project seems to be a fit: NAICS codes match, it is in the right price range, and the company believes it has the resources and staff (or can get them) to perform.  But just because the company can, it does not necessarily mean it should.

Criteria for a Green Light

Beyond those factors, organizations need to develop more in-depth criteria for an opportunity to meet before saying yes.

Contract knowledge. Is this a contract that the organization has been tracking? Was it on the radar six months ago? If it was, then chances are the company has done some marketing to the contracting officer, or at least made contact and submitted a capability statement before the solicitation was released.

If the first the company has heard of the opportunity is when it was posted on, then you are starting behind the eight ball, and any competitors who have made themselves familiar to the agency.

Agency knowledge. If the contract is a surprise, but the company, or newly acquired key personnel, has performed successful work for the agency in the past, then it may still be a go.

Being able to demonstrate familiarity with how an agency likes to do business can be a differentiator on the company’s side.

Meeting organizational goals. Every organization should have a strategic plan. This provides the direction the company wants to travel. Does the opportunity fit with the overall strategic plan?  For instance, the company provides facility management services and a janitorial contract is posted for the same installation.

Maybe janitorial services have already been identified as a new avenue the company wants to pursue. Given the familiarity with the location and contracting office, and if the current contract is going well, it may be the time to try to win. If that contract were on another installation on which the company has no prior experience, and it also has no prior janitorial experience, then the chances of winning are far less and not worth the resources.

Meeting the requirements.  The company has past performance, marketed to the agency, the right staff and the work is right in their wheelhouse. The RFQ asks for the last three years of audited financial statements, and the company has not had an audit performed in five years. Do you pursue?

It can be hard to turn away when all else fits but a requirement is a requirement. No matter how elaborate the prose and how strong the past performance and team is, a proposal may not even be looked at if the selection committee cannot check off every box on the proforma checklist. Even if it is looked at, it opens the door for a protest should the company win the award.  Choosing to submit is tantamount to choosing to waste time and money.

There are several examples to look at to develop a pursuit matrix or checklist that will help your organization make good “go – no/go” decisions on what contracts to pursue and what ones to pass on for now, while you build the team, capability, resources and internal qualifications to pursue them in the future.