Frequently when working on writing a government proposal, you will have a few questions arise out of the solicitation. Sometimes these questions might be rather simple clarifications such as clarifying submission instructions, and sometimes they may be more in-depth about the Statement of Work. Whatever your question, you must ask it correctly so that you get a clear response. If your question is too vague of terms, the contracting officer may not give you an accurate answer. A bad answer to a improperly structured question can result in further confusion for your team. If there is only one question and answer period, you may not receive the answer you need to move forward.
Three Tips for Formatting your Question
Some solicitations detail out the exact steps needed to ask your question or even have a form to fill out, but often there is little direction. In those cases, there is a simple format you can follow for any bid questions:
- Stick to email. To start, it is beneficial to ask questions through email, not through a phone call. If you only speak with the Contracting Officer verbally, there is no written proof of the answer. The Contracting Officer does not have to stand by what they said, so to prevent this, stick with email.
- Be specific in your email subject line. In drafting your email, make sure your subject line has the solicitation number and/or title along with the word “question.” This makes it easier for the Contracting Officer to know why you’re emailing and what bid you are referring to. Whenever possible, reference the solicitation when you write out your question. For example, state the page number and paragraph number that you are referring to for clarification, and you might want to directly quote this section. This allows for your question to come across as clear as possible, all but eliminating the chance of confusion.
- Reference specific documents. Should your question pertain to information that appears to be missing from the bid documents, make sure to refer to the exact document and possibly even the section you think that information was left out of. The Contracting Officer can check that document or section to confirm they excluded important information.
When considering asking questions, do keep in mind that the answer will be released publicly to all bidders. This means if you ask questions specific to your company’s capability, you might be revealing more of your hand to your competitors than you’d like. This means it might not be beneficial to ask the Contracting Officer if your unique product or service matches what they want. However, there is a way to potentially knock out competition during the question and answer period. You might ask a question if certain certifications or experiences are required, and if the Contracting Officer answers “yes” to any of those needs, you may knock out another company that no longer meets those requirements.
Always keep in mind the due date for questions, and do not hesitate to ask for clarification if you are uncertain of something in the solicitation. The question period is for your benefit, so be sure to make the best use of it possible.
If you need help with asking bid questions or bid writing, contact our team.