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1 To Ask or Not to Ask? What is The Question and The Answer. Breakout Session # Eric Gregory Senior Vice-President Capture and Proposal Development, CACI.

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Presentation on theme: "1 To Ask or Not to Ask? What is The Question and The Answer. Breakout Session # Eric Gregory Senior Vice-President Capture and Proposal Development, CACI."— Presentation transcript:

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2 1 To Ask or Not to Ask? What is The Question and The Answer. Breakout Session # Eric Gregory Senior Vice-President Capture and Proposal Development, CACI Date: Thursday, December 9, 2010 Time: 1415 to

3 2 Prologue

4 3 Prologue 2

5 4 4 Agenda Asking and answering questions on the RFP. Who, what, when, where and how. Secrets of avoiding the dumb, irritating, obvious, and strategy compromising questions and answers How to avoid the three sins of asking and answering questions –The inane –The insane –The profane Word association –Inane= Stupid –Insane= Illiterate or Unintelligible –Profane= Obnoxious

6 5 5 Getting Started 1 (Industry) Objectives –Think rationally about when and how to ask questions that clarify requirements and eliminate ambiguity. –Think about how potential questions might drive the creation or elimination of A’s and C’s instead of posing questions directly to the Government. –Offer specific guidance on phrasing questions to achieve simple goals of clarity, precision, definition, and solution. –Obtaining internal company support in asking questions (Contracts is my friend)

7 6 6 Getting Started 2 (Government) Objectives –Think rationally about when and how to answer questions that clarify requirements and eliminate ambiguity. –Think about how to positively answer questions to help achieve solicitation objectives –Offer thoughts on the advantages of answering vs dismissing questions –Offer some ideas on how to answer questions when you have to (industry is the Government’s friend)

8 7 7 The Big Question For Industry Whether or not to ask a question! The industry myths associated with asking questions about RFPs, RTEPs, TORs, DOs, and other solicitations………… –We’ll give away our strategy. The competition will learn something important and will be able to beat us. –We’ll look stupid to the customer and they’ll just tell us to “Read the RFP.” –The answers won’t make any sense and will be more confusing so we better go with what we got. –If they can’t write an RFP better than that, what kind of answers do you think we’ll get? –What if we make them mad by asking questions? –Maybe somebody else will ask our question and we won’t have to. –We can’t stand the answer!

9 8 8 The Big Question for Industry 2 The reality associated with asking questions on the RFP, RTEP, TOR, DO or whatever……… –If you don’t understand it, you will by definition screw it up! Ask the question. –If it doesn’t make sense to you, the answer you give in the technical or price proposal will probably be bad. Ask the question. –If you can’t stand the answer, you better find out early. Ask the question. –If you have to guess at an answer, you will always guess wrong. Ask the question. –If you want to look stupid, submit a technical or price proposal that is wrong when you could have asked a question. Ask the question. –If the strategy you give away is that you will submit a compliant proposal, give it away. Ask the question.

10 9 9 When not to ask questions for Industry There are times when questions are inappropriate………… –If you can turn the question into an assumption without risking proposal rejection, and the assumption may provide greater advantage and flexibility. Don’t ask the question. –If we can make sense out of an ambiguity, the answer may become obvious. Don’t ask the question. –If the question would expose ignorance of the customer, the requirements, or the acquisition strategy, do your homework.. Don’t ask the question. –If you are trying to negotiate with the Government by asking a question, forget it. Don’t ask the question. –If the question would reveal that you never even attempted to read the RFP, you might want to think about it. Don’t ask the question. –If you are trying to give the Government ideas you should have given them when they asked for comments on the DRFP, think about it first. Don’t ask the question.

11 10 10 Establish a clear hierarchy for questions Must ask- cannot bid or bid effectively without a definitive and clear answer to this question. Should ask- failure to get a definitive or clear answer to the question increases proposal or performance risk. Can’t ask- would like to have an answer, but asking the question could compromise our position or expose a weakness we are uncomfortable with.

12 11 11 So what are the types of questions we should ask? Clarifying questions. “Could you please clarify……” Admission questions. “We aren’t certain we understand…..” Probing questions. “Do you intend……..” Error and correction questions. “We think the following might be an error……” Inconsistency questions. “We think L.X and C.X as well as M.X are contradictory. Could you please clarify.”

13 12 12 The Big Question For Government Whether or not to answer a question! Government myths associated with asking questions about RFPs, RTEPs, TORs, DOs, and other solicitations…….. –We could interject unfair competitive advantage into the procurement depending on how we answer the question. –The contractors just need to read the RFP and they will be able to answer their own question. –Contractors just ask questions to irritate us and to attempt to gain competitive advantage or protest positions. –We spend months working on this RFP so there are no ambiguities, inconsistencies, mistakes, or issues. –What if we answer a question wrong? –Answering questions will just add more time to the procurement cycle. –Answering questions could increase probability of protest. –Answering questions just makes us do more solicitation amendments.

14 13 13 The Big Question for Government 2 The reality associated with answering questions on the RFP, RTEP, TOR, DO or whatever………… –If you don’t answer the questions and release associated amendments, you will by definition get screwed up proposals! Answer the questions. –If the question doesn’t make sense to you, give the answer you want that relates to the question asked but stipulate what you are really answering. Answer the question. –If the question is a tough question and might cause some to drop out of the competition, answer the question forcefully and save contractors time, money, and energy. Answer the question. –If you have to guess at your answer, you will always answer wrong. Think it through thoroughly. Answer the question. –If you want to look stupid, don’t answer the question. Answer the question. –If you think you might give away source selection sensitive information, think it through and recast your answer. Answer the question.

15 14 14 When not to answer questions for Government There are times when answers are inappropriate………… –If the answer really would reveal some source selection sensitive information, stand your ground. Don’t answer the question. –If the answer is so clear in the RFP that it is beyond questioning and shows the contractor really didn’t read it, give them the RFP reference. Don’t answer the question. –If the answer really would provide some unfair competitive advantage or unfair disadvantage to a competitor, state why a question won’t be answered. Don’t answer the question. –If the answer requires you to plead diminished capacity because the original question was so stupid that no one would believe it was actually asked, fake it. Don’t answer the question.

16 15 15 Establish a clear hierarchy of answers Must answer- industry cannot provide us with compliant, responsive, high quality competitive bids unless the question is answered. Should answer- compliance, responsiveness and competitiveness would be somewhat compromised without a good answer to the question. Can’t answer- the answer to the direct question would compromise source selection sensitive information or would place a competitor at an unfair competitive advantage or disadvantage if answered,

17 16 16 So what are the types of answers we should give? Clarifying answers. “Allow us to elaborate or clarify………” Admission answers. “What we intended is…..” Error and correction answers. “The following was an error……We have corrected it by…..” Inconsistency resolution answers. “L.X and C.X as well as M.X are contradictory. We have corrected this by……….” Factual answers. “ L states…..the RFP is correct. Direct answers. “No.” “Yes.”

18 17 17 Question Process and Etiquette Always be polite with a tone indicative of being helpful. Always have a team develop the questions and a team review the questions for appropriateness. Make sure the capture manager, proposal manager, contracts manager, production manager, and pricing manager read and understand the entire RFP, and ask pertinent questions. Make sure the responsible line executive and proposed program manager read and understand the entire RFP, and ask pertinent questions. Ensure your contracts manager makes the final cut at questions and submits them to the Government.

19 18 18 Answer Process and Etiquette Always be polite with a tone indicative of being helpful. Always have a team develop the answers and have a team review the answers for thoroughness and accuracy. Answer questions in a timely fashion to avoid last minute proposal preparation issues for industry which will result in an inferior product. Get experts to help answer questions you are unsure about (proposal production). Ensure answers get incorporated through amendments to the solicitation as appropriate. Ensure that answers really answer the question and eliminate ambiguity. Have some one (anyone) really in charge and responsible for answer and amendment quality.

20 19 Final Observations Questions and answers are an essential part of the procurement process Industry has the right to ask questions and expect helpful answers to those questions. Government contracts and acquisition professionals have a right to expect professional, well thought out, and insightful questions. Cooperation will yield better solicitations, better proposals, and ultimately better award decisions So…..ask the question and give a good answer. Now the test……. 19

21 20 20 The Test Can you read? Do you know how to write? Can you understand the concept of “We are all in this together.”? Do you believe in Procurement Reform miracles and the tooth fairy? You all pass…………………………………


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