How to Successfully Debrief your Federal Bids and Proposals
Learn the steps and key requirements of successful debriefings—to support business development and improve your PWIN (Probability of Win) over time.
Each bid process requires a considerable investment and it is important to learn from each bid, whether you win or lose. Aim to get a debriefing (or post-award conversation) from your Federal buyers and prospects after each bid to (a) continuously learn (b) strengthen agency relationships and (c) improve your proposal ROI over time.
In this blog post, you’ll learn the specifics of debriefings:
- What they are (and are not);
- Why they are so important to long-term success as a government contractor;
- Who can get one – if it’s required or not;
- When and how to get one – the timing is crucial; and
- How to prepare, including who can help.
What is a Federal Proposal Debriefing?
A debriefing is the official opportunity to learn about the selection decision and contract award. It is provided either in writing or orally, in the form of a call or meeting with an agency representative. It is available (and valuable) whether you win the award or not.
Per the FARs Part 15.506: at a minimum, the debriefing information shall include:
- Significant weaknesses in the proposal;
- Cost or price (including unit prices) and technical rating of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror;
- Past performance information on the debriefed offeror;
- The overall ranking of all offerors;
- A summary of the rationale for award;
- For commercial products, the make and model of the product to be delivered; and
- Reasonable responses to relevant questions about procedures, regulations, and other applicable authorities.1
The debriefing shall not include:
- Point-by-point comparisons of the proposals;
- Any information prohibited from disclosure including:
- Trade secrets;
- Privileged or confidential manufacturing processes and techniques;
- Commercial and financial information that is privileged or confidential, including cost breakdowns, profit, indirect cost rates, and similar information; and
- Reference information about an offeror’s past performance.1
Why is the Debrief Important?
There are five main opportunities a debriefing provides:
- Pre-Protest Preparation
- Award Defense Preparation
Debriefing Success Story: Mini Case Study
A debriefing opened the door for Neeld Wilson, Navy veteran aquifer engineer and President of GEAR Engineering in Orlando, when he made his first proposal to replace an underground tank for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He was disappointed when his proposal wasn’t successful. In his debriefing, he found out that the Contracting Officer and Program Manager really liked his proposal. They weren’t able to resolve a couple of small technical deficiencies in the proposal, however, so they had to choose another vendor.
“But listen,” the Contracting Officer said. “We’ve got another project coming up soon that’s a perfect fit for you. Submit a bid for that one!” He did. And, weeks later, he won that contract, worth over $350,000.
Who Can (and Can’t) Request a Debriefing?
Any “offeror” of federal government bids and proposals under a GSA schedule, GWAC, IDIQ or other contracting vehicle may request a debriefing. This includes those who win and lose bids. In some instances a debriefing is technically required. If not, in most cases, you can still request one.
Four things determine whether or not the Federal Acquisition Regulations require your Federal buyer to provide the offeror with a debriefing, and whether or not your company can receive one:
- Method and level of procurement
- Category and type of contract
- Timely submission of your request and
- Your standing
Note: Defense agencies and civilian agencies have different rules.
Right up front, you can start to see why an experienced GovCon attorney is an essential member of your team!
A factor to consider if you do proceed with a debriefing is exactly who should attend?
Depending on the size of your team and any limitations the agency might place on participants, you may consider the following attendees:
- The business owner
- Your team lead(s) for capture, business development, and/or proposal writing
- Maybe your GovCon lawyer—although there are pros and cons to consider:
- An attorney may hear things you might miss
- If you are information gathering, your attorney’s presence may stifle the buyer
- However, if you are prepping for a protest, definitely bring your attorney
- If you do want to bring your attorney, don’t surprise the agency by bringing him or her without telling them first
When Should You Request a Debriefing – whether it’s required or not?
A request should be submitted within 3 days of notification:
- Of being excluded from further competition of an award (a pre-award debrief) or
- Of not being the selected awardee (a post-award debrief).
While there are many variables and each situation must be analyzed individually, a debriefing typically occurs within 5 days after receipt of a written request from the offeror. As part of the debrief you may submit questions. The 5 day countdown technically begins after the answers to those questions are provided back to the requestor. Due to these variables, always confirm your timetable with the Federal buyer.
These details are complex and it’s best to consult someone who understands the subtleties.
Need an introduction to a couple of attorneys I trust? Just give me a call. I’m happy to help.
How Do You Request a Debriefing?
The request itself must be made in writing within three days of notification of your bid status.
The debriefing could occur in person, by phone, or in writing, at the Federal buyer’s discretion. While you won’t always get it, you can request a call, video conference or meeting as briefings in person offer the best opportunity for dialogue and additional questions in real time.
Definitely don’t wing it! Develop in advance, and prioritize the questions you’ll ask during or after the debrief.
More Helpful Resources
To learn more about the debrief factors, timing and logistics:
- Start by reading FAR Part 15.
- Listen to our on-demand webinar Debriefings as a Key Tool in Bid-Protest Analysis and Business Development with Maria Panichelli
- Look into any courses that your PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center) is offering
- Check out resources like the courses offered at Govology.com.
Also check out these Summit Insight resources:
About Summit Insight
Judy Bradt is an expert speaker and author of the Amazon #1 Bestseller “Government Contracts Made Easier.” She has 35 years of experience in federal business development and strategy and provides consulting services helping companies to win government contracts through her company Summit Insight.
When you’re ready to take the next steps to Focus, Connect and be Consistent in order to win federal government bids and proposals, get in touch with Judy.