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When you are ready to write your proposal, there are two situations that you should be prepared for: writing a proposal when the solicitation is an Invitation for Bid, and writing a proposal when the solicitation is a negotiated bid, such as a Request for Proposal.
When the solicitation is an Invitation for Bid, which is the case most of the time for small businesses, writing your proposal will consist of filling out the forms that you received from the government in the bid package and sending them in.
But it's not as simple as that sounds. Even though all you basically have to do is fill in some blanks on forms that the government has provided and send back the bid package, you must still be very careful. As we pointed out earlier, when you send back the bid package, the government will look at it as if you had put it together yourself and as if they are seeing it for the first time.
To give you a first-hand look at some of the standard forms that you can expect to see with an IFB, we are reproducing some of the more common ones, along with a line-by-line explanation of how to fill them in.
The examples we'll look at here are completing DD Form 1707 and Standard Form 33.
The first form that we will look at is DD Form 1707, Information to Offerors or Quoters. This is the cover sheet that accompanies the solicitation itself and is mainly informational. One of its main purposes is to gather information on why a company does not want to bid. This form is used for most Department of Defense (DoD) large dollar solicitations, which are those over $100,000.
Let's start with the cover page and proceed block by block.
Block 1: Solicitation Number: We are using the example number SP0700-00-Q-HE22. This is the number that will identify this specific solicitation throughout the life of the buying action. Any amendments to the solicitation will use this number plus the amendment number as the identifier.
SP0700, the first six alpha/numeric sequence, identifies the buying office where the order originates. The second grouping, 00, is the fiscal year the solicitation was issued. The single alpha character Q indicates what type of solicitation it is.
The last alpha/numeric sequence, HE22, is the sequential order number for that solicitation.
Block 2: Type of Solicitation: As previously mentioned, there are three types of bid packages:
Block 3: Date/Time Response Due: This information, supplied by the buying office, tells you when you need to have your offer into the buying office.
The next section titled "Instructions" contains information about responding.
Block 4: Issuing Office: This is the office that issued the solicitation.
Block 5: Item To Be Purchased: This is a brief description of what is needed.
Block 6: Procurement Information: This is where you will find out which, if any, restrictions or set-asides apply to this solicitation. It will be marked either "restricted" or "unrestricted." If it is marked "unrestricted," that means that any business, large, small, or in between, can bid on it. If it is marked "restricted," that means it is earmarked as a set-aside for either Small Business or Hub Zone Concerns, or restricted to 8(a) firms.
Block 7: Additional Information: In this block you will usually find any additional information needed to bid on the contract, such as where to send the bid, when it has to be received, who to contact or what website to visit.
Block 8: Point of Contact Information: Here will be listed the buyer's name, address and telephone number. We should also add that, these days, you may only get an e-mail address for the buyer, and it's likely that the buyer might accept inquiries only in that form.
Block 9: Reason for No Response As previously mentioned, if you are not going to bid on the solicitation, for whatever reason, be sure to fill out this block and send the form back to the buyer. This is very important! If you don't, you will probably be dropped from the buyer's bidders list and have to start all over again.
Most forms include a "Reason for No Response" section or block. (For example, in the case of DD Form 1707, this section is in Block 9.) If you decide not to bid on a solicitation, for whatever reason, be sure to fill out the "Reason for No Response" section of the form and send the form in anyway. The government buyer will thank you and, better yet, you will not be dropped off the bidders' list the next time an opportunity comes up. Some buyers give you only one chance. If you don't send in the form to indicate that you are not responding to a bid, you go back to "Go" and start over.
If the buyer gives you an e-mail address, you may send in your response that way, but remember to identify your company with your name, the company name, and your CAGE Code.
Block 10: Mailing List Information: Here you indicate whether you want to be left on future mailing lists for an item. Respond either yes or no.
Block 11: Responding Firm: This is you! This is where you fill in your information, including your bid price.. Review the Bid. You need to read and understand all the applicable sections. Remember that the sections of Block 11, when taken together, make up the whole solicitation and resulting contract.
Back Side of Form: The back side of the form is set up as a fold-over mailer. Just address it, put your stamp on it, and drop it in the mail.
Standard Form 33: Solicitation, Offer and Award is the form that is used to solicit offers and award contracts. It is referred to as a bi-lateral or two-signature document. You sign the form in Block 17, and the government signs the same form in Block 27. That establishes a binding contract.
Among the Tools & Forms are Standard Form 26. It is an Adobe PDF (.pdf) file.
Before you start going through our line-by-line explanation, this may be a good time to peruse reviewing the bid, and go over how to read a contract and the general layout of the SF 33. The top portion, Blocks 1-11, is the Solicitation area and is filled in by the government with information about the solicitation. Blocks 12-18, the Offer area, are filled in by you before returning the offer to the buying office. The last portion, Blocks 19-28, is the Award area and is completed by the government and sent back to you, if and when you are awarded the contract.
Note the paging format "Page 1 of ##." Check your page numbers and if there are any missing, call the buying office immediately. You can't submit an accurate bid if there is information missing. More than one company has been caught in this situation. When sending out millions of bids a year, as the government does, these things can happen.
When filing out Standard Form 30 in order to satisfy an Invitation For Bid (IFB), the first section is filled out by the government.
Block 1: Contract Is a Rated Order: A rated contract is one that has a specific classification for how "hot" the need is. Although these days you will hardly ever see activation of rated procedures, it is there in case the need arises. About the only time you might see a rated bid is during time of national emergency or war.
Block 2: Contract Number: The government will not fill in this number until it awards the contract. The numbering will be similar to the number in Block 3, the Solicitation Number, but it will have a "C" instead of an "R" in the number sequence.
Block 3: Solicitation Number: We are using the example number SP0700-00-Q-HE22. This is the number that will identify this specific solicitation throughout the life of the buying action. Any amendments to the solicitation will use this number plus the amendment number as the identifier.
SP0700, the first six alpha/numeric sequence, identifies the buying office where the order originates. The second grouping, 00, is the fiscal year the solicitation was issued. The single alpha character Q indicates what type of solicitation it is. For example, B = Invitation for Bid, P = Purchase Order, C = Contract, Q = Request for Quote, R = Request for Proposal, etc. The last alpha/numeric sequence, HE22, is the sequential order number for that solicitation.
Block 4: Type of Solicitation: This block will identify whether this is a Sealed Bid IFB (Invitation for Bid) or an RFP (Request for Proposal).
Block 5: Date Issued: This is the date that this contract "hit the street" and became a live requirement.
Block 6: Requisition/Purchase Number: This number is an internal document number used by the requisition people for tracking the item or service to be purchased. This is the original number for that "need," and there might be multiple requisition numbers against a solicitation number.
Block 7: Issued By: This block identifies the government office that is doing the buying. Make special note of the information here. Remember that you might be dealing with a "buying agency" that is physically located very far from the actual end user. You can spend a lot of time with the end user, convincing the user that you are the answer to all their problems, and still lose the whole deal by not checking out where the buy is going to be made.
We heard of a company that was talking to the end user every week, had developed a one-on-one relationship, but never thought to ask where the buying office was located. The company missed the issue date and only found out that the bid had gone out when it came through a distributor. The company did not lose the contract, but by going through the distributor, it had to pay a commission it wouldn't have had to pay if it had gotten the contract directly.
Block 8: Address Offer To: This block gives you information on where to submit your offer.
Block 9: Additional Info: This block will tell you whether the buying office wants additional copies of the offer for evaluation purposes and where to bring the offer if you hand-carry it to the buying office. This block also tells you the time and date when you need to have the offer in.
If the solicitation says that an offer needs to be in by 10:00 p.m. on a particular day and you show up at 10:01 p.m., you are out of luck! It's your responsibility to be there on time.
Block 10: For Information Call: This block identifies the person that you will contact for information on this specific bid, including phone number and e-mail address, if available.
Block 11: Table of Contents: This should be the same as the "TOC" page, but without the "Appendices." Some buying offices will do both, some will not. Make sure they match. This section will also give you the page counts for each section. If it says that there are 25 pages in Section C: Description/specs/work statement and you have only 23 pages, you had better call the buyer and find out what's missing. Don't assume that you will automatically be sent the missing material. And, again, keep in mind that the sections of Block 11, when taken together, make up the whole solicitation and resulting contract.
The second section of Standard Form 33, the Offer Section, is filled out by the bidder.
Block 12: Acceptance Period: This block will give you the opportunity to mark how long your bid will be good for. If you don't put in a specific number, it will default to 60 days.
If you give the government too long an acceptance period, prices can change and so can your costs. Make sure you don't get bitten: Be competitive, but set your limits.
Block 13: Discounts for Prompt Payment: This block is where you will put the size of the discount, if any, that you will give the government if it pays you promptly.
The government passed the Prompt Payment Act in the mid-1980s, which requires the government to pay small businesses within 30 days if the business completes its end of the contract! Check to see whether your competitors are offering a discount. If they are, then you should do so as well in order to be competitive. If they aren't . . . why leave money on the table?
One important catch with the Prompt Payment Act: The clock on this Act starts only if your invoice, when received, is correct. If your invoice is not correct, it gets kicked back until it is corrected and received by the government. Therefore, the definition of "prompt" under this Act is directly tied to the accuracy of your invoice.
Block 14: Acknowledgments of Amendments: In this block you will let the buyer know that you have received all the amendments that it sent out. If the buyer mailed out four and you list only three, the buyer will throw out your bid as non-responsive if the omitted amendment impacts on the material aspects of the solicitation.
Block 15a: Name and Address of Offeror: Here is where you will enter your company name, address and, in the little box marked "code," your Cage Code and your facility code, if you have one.
Block 15b: Telephone Number: Enter the appropriate phone number.
Block 15c: Remittance Address: If you want the government to send the check for payment to an address different from the one you provided in Block 15a, mark this box and enter the address on the schedule.
Block 16: Name and Title of Person Authorized To Sign Offer: In this block enter the name and title of the person "authorized" to sign the contracts. Please don't have someone sign the contract if they are not listed in CCR (Central Contractor Registration) as the "authorized signor." You will lose the award.
Block 17: Signature: This is where the authorized person must sign the contract.
More than a few companies that carefully prepared their bid lost out just because the contract was not signed. Don't forget to sign the contract.
Block 18: Offer Date: Enter the date on which you are sending the contract.
After you fill in Block 18, you have completed your portion of Form 33.
If you see the SF 33 coming back in the mail with the Award section filled in by the government, guess what? You won the contract! You are now a prime contractor!
Block 19: Accepted as to Items Numbered:Government will identify which specific items have been awarded to you.
Block 20: Amount: This is the dollar amount of the contract. The cash!
Block 21: Accounting and Appropriation: The government will fill in the appropriate accounting and appropriation codes. (In general, you don't have to concern yourself with this information.)
Block 22: Authority for Using Other Than Full and Open Competition: This field is informational only.
Block 23: Submit Invoice to Address Shown in:: The government will tell you where to look in the contract for the appropriate address.
Block 24: Administered By: This is the office that will administer the contract. Note that the office listed here may be different than the one putting out the bid.
Block 25: Payment Will Be Made By: This is the paying office, the office from which you will receive your money.
Block 26: Name of the Contracting Officer: The name of the Contracting Officer is typed here. You will see this person's name only if you win the contract.
Block 27: United States of America: This is the block where the Contracting Officer will sign that you have an active, actual, real government contract.
Block 28: Award Date: This is the date the government contracting officer signs the award.
The award can be made on the SF 33; on another form, such as the SF 26; or by any other authorized official written notice. Be watching for it, check on who won, for how much, and what the details of the award were. Ask questions . . . that's how you find out what you did right or wrong. There are two ways to do this: Either call the buyer and ask for the information or get award notices from the BidNet site.
When there is a need to change or modify the quantity, specifications, delivery or any other part of a solicitation, or if there is some part of the solicitation that is defective or incorrect, those changes will be made by an amendment to the solicitation using Form SF 30,Amendment of Solicitation/Modification of Contract. The form itself is completed by the government and sent to prospective bidders.
Among the Tools & Forms is Standard Form 30. It is an Adobe PDF (.pdf) file.
You will be asked to list any and all amendments that you have received on the bid form before you send it in. If you fail to do this or if you omit an amendment, your bid will be considered non-responsive. That means that your bid could be thrown out, even if you are the low bidder. Therefore, if you received Amendment number 0001 and 0003 and you have not received 0002, you need to call the buyer and find out what the missing amendment is.
If there is a change that will affect the bid opening, the government will extend the bid opening date (BOD) and send a notice to all prospective bidders. And, again, you must acknowledge this amendment in your bid.
If the solicitation is an Invitation for Bid, you must bid the requirement as presented. To do otherwise will probably result in your bid being "kicked out." If you think a change is necessary, call the buyer before the bid opening date and explain why it needs to be changed. If the buyer agrees, the bid will be modified or canceled and re-bid with the changes. Of course, everyone else will get to bid the change also.
If the solicitation is negotiated, you may be able to bid the changes explaining why this is in the best interest of the government. Read the solicitation carefully to make sure that this approach is allowed. If you are not sure, talk to the buyer to get the answer.
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