Proposal Go/No Go with Louis Orndorff (Podcast Transcript)Aug 24, 2022
[01:11] Richard C. Howard: Hey, this is Richard here with Richard C. Howard and associates. And this is the government Sales Momentum Podcast with Louis Orndorff or part two. You may have heard our first podcast where we really got into some of the specifics of a government contract, what you need to watch out for and be careful with when you're on contract with the government. We decided to get into part Two of this podcast to talk about, before getting into the contract, some of the things that you want to look at in an RFP or Solicitation from the government, which you are then going to put a proposal together on and we've split it into a couple of different areas we wanted to talk about. Without further ado, I'm going to hand it off to you Lou, because we weren't going to talk about the evaluating an opportunity piece and then where you make the go no go decision and then once you make the go decision, there's part Two, which is then really getting into some of the parameters there. What can you tell us about evaluating solicitation or an opportunity and making that go no go decision?
[02:12] Louis Orndorff: Well, there's a long road up to the point where you are looking at a proposal or an RFP, whatever that looks like, request for a quote or request for bid or request for proposal. Let's talk about something and kind of put it in the framework of a proposal so something you have to formally respond to that has multiple sections and it's kind of a pretty big target. So one of the things that I think is really important and every company knows this, when you're evaluating whether or not to submit a proposal, you have to think about some very important things for your company. The number one thing that I always advise clients about is how does it fit into your business strategy, your business plan. Because just because you can do an effort doesn't mean that it's really in line with your long-term strategy and goals. And if you haven't really thought that through, you might want to think that through because you can get a really good contract and it may derail your entire business organization operations. It may completely put you off balance either financially or resources or you have your limited very smart people who now are being asked to do three different major efforts. So you really need to be careful when you think about do we want to do this proposal? So I think every company who's taking a look at that has got these basics. But sometimes your appetite gets big, your eyes get big and you say hey, we could do that, let's go do that.
[03:45] Richard C. Howard: Right?
[03:46] Louis Orndorff: But the things you want to think about is your bid no bid. First of all, there's a cost to putting the proposal together. The cost is in time and in some cases money. To put together a proposal means that you have to go through and really understand what's required, which takes some time. And then you have to actually generate a response to that, which again, takes some time. So if you've got your key players in your organization and you say hey, we want you to carve out everything you're doing, we want you to continue doing and then on the side we want you to put four or 5 hours a day together for a period of time to generate this proposal that we're trying to go after. You really need to think as a team. Is it worth that effort ultimately? Is it in line with your business strategy? Does it meet your future objectives and make that bid no bid decision? Not from a can we make the money, but how does this help our company do what we want to do and can we absorb the cost or do we want to pay somebody to do that? It's a time and money conversation. So I think that bid no bid is kind of the first block, if you will.
[04:52] Richard C. Howard: Right. And if I could just interject here for a second, just talking about kind of aligning with the mission because especially companies, maybe it's their first contract, they're trying to get their foot in the door and they may be tempted to kind of go off of what the company mission is. I think we've all done work that we haven't necessarily been passionate about in the past. Right. So I could see a company lands a contract on something that doesn't kind of fall in line with what their mission and values are. They're trying to execute that. And you mentioned this in the other podcast. Now they have an eye out there for other contracts that maybe do line up with their mission. Right. It could be easy not to do work to the level that you normally would if the contract is something you're not really that interested in, or maybe it's not there. You mentioned reputation.
[05:39] Louis Orndorff: I got to tell you a story. I'm sorry.
[05:42] Richard C. Howard: This is perfect.
[05:43] Louis Orndorff: One time we wrote a contract we needed to move a C 130 from one base to another base, and it was a static display, so that means it couldn't fly anymore. Basically, it had to be disassembled and moved.
[05:59] Richard C. Howard: It's basically a huge model airplane.
[06:01] Louis Orndorff: Basically, yeah. And now it goes from being an operational aircraft to being up on a pedestal out in front of a base somewhere or something like that. It's a big aircraft. So the company that we ultimately selected and they fit the criteria they convinced us that they could do it was a house moving company. This company was outstanding movie houses. They had a good track record of moving houses. They moved big things. They knew how to move things down the freeway, and they convinced us that they knew what to do and they had the right experts to come in and do the job. Well, the first thing that happened is they went out there and they looked at and said, wait a minute. We don't know how to remove the wings from a C 130. Because when we started removing them, all this fuel and oil and lubricant spilled all over the place, and now the base is mad at us, and we got to clean it up. We got a hazardous spill, so we're done. So they realized that while they thought, hey, it's moving large objects, it's moving large objects. They went after this contract, and they want it. And then immediately just figure out, we absolutely have no idea what to do here.
[07:13] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[07:15] Richard C. Howard: That could affect their reputation. Right? Yeah, exactly. You mentioned that in the last podcast. Just how doing good work on the contract because your reputation will get out there. Everyone kind of talks to each other, and inevitably, if you do walk out, walk away from a contract, that can have pretty negative consequences on you doing business with the government in the future.
[07:34] Louis Orndorff: Yeah. In that case, we spend a lot of time making their life miserable.
[07:40] Richard C. Howard: Yeah. Those hidden details like how to remove a wing from the C 130 can definitely come to bite you.
[07:48] Louis Orndorff: I know that's off target, but good story.
[07:51] Richard C. Howard: That's great. That's evaluating a proposal, right. Kind of going through the bid no bid process and how important that is. But let's say you've decided to go forward and put the actual proposal together. I know you've called it a science project in the past. What would your advice be to a company that has made that decision? Is putting that proposal together? What are some of the things that you would look at as a former contracting officer?
[08:17] Louis Orndorff: Well, I've evaluated hundreds, if not thousands of proposals. I've been part of the decision process at every level. And I'll tell you the number one thing that I just cannot emphasize enough is read the question. Answer the question. Don't get cute. Don't get fancy. Don't get elaborate. But if you have a requirement and the government says show us how you're going to do this. Tell us how you're going to do this then answer the question. So without fail I have contractors who come in and say effectively while government is clear you don't know what you're talking about. Let me tell you what the right answer is and let me tell you the question you should ask and we'll answer the question you should have asked. Fail. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if they're absolutely right 100%. If you don't read the question and answer the question then the evaluation that will get you the win will give you a zero or a lower score on that. Even if you don't think it's right, it's read the question. Answer the question.
[09:23] Richard C. Howard: Yeah that's excellent. What I find interesting we could talk about this a little bit is this is when the solicitation is out right? And those questions it's really important to answer those questions directly and not to add or kind of suggest new things. What I would say is that probably the place to suggest requirements or suggest questions they need to ask is during.
[09:45] Richard C. Howard: The RFI process or the source of.
[09:47] Richard C. Howard: Thought process where the solicitation isn't out yet and now there are questions that are being asked. What do you think about that or what are your thoughts on kind of the RFI and their ability to legitimately influence an opportunity?
[10:00] Louis Orndorff: Yeah, I will tell you when we put an RFI out or source of thought we are truly hungry for somebody to come back and say look here is the most efficient way for you to solve this problem. Here is the best contract type. Here's the best contract structure. Here are some technical parameters that you need to consider. The government most of the time just really doesn't know. It's not just a requirement. It's honestly, those few times I had contractors really come back and say hey this is best as a fixed price contract. Or this type of contractor these parameters they almost always influence the contract because we really honestly wanted that input. Now every once in a while you can tell when a contractor is trying to influence something specifically to their advantage. And we'll look at that. We would look at that but for the most part take advantage of that. That's a legitimate spot to influence the whole solicitation. After that's done you need to be really careful how you try to influence what's going on because it's your proposal. What's in your proposal is pretty much it right? And I'll just pull that thread. One more answer. The question is the key. Don't try to interpret what are they thinking? What do they want to see? What is it that they're going to like more than something else. You know your business, you know the whole point. If a person is evaluating your answer and it's clear that you know what you're doing, you're answering the question, you're going to get max points for that. Now, if you have a better solution, it's all based on you answered the question. Don't try to influence the mind of the person who is evaluating. At the end of the day, most of those don't really go that well.
[11:56] Richard C. Howard: Yeah, that's great advice. And once you're at that RFP point, like you said, just answering the questions as they're presented, there are some things not to do that we talked about, like buying baseball. I think the example you gave me off camera was the company should not be trying to buy baseball uniforms for the baseball team in an effort to influence anytime you try to spend money to influence you. You're probably walking down a road that's illegal.
[12:24] Louis Orndorff: Yeah. Be careful because you keep the government people in trouble and derail an entire acquisition, and it can be pretty dire.
[12:33] Richard C. Howard: Sure. No, that's great. That's great advice. This is just a short podcast, but I think one that's needed to talk a little bit about proposals and what they should be looking at. Any parting words before we end it for today?
[12:44] Louis Orndorff: Yeah, I do. I think it's important if you're going to put together a proposal, that you find your team of people who are going to answer the questions. And before you start answering the questions, read from beginning to end what is required and sit down together and have kind of a roadmap or an overall strategy of how you collectively want to answer it. Have a vision of what your collective answer is going to be so you don't have a whole bunch of individual solutions that may not necessarily fit together. It's hard to do at the end. I've seen it. And you can tell when you're reading a proposal that they jammed it together with band aids at the end and tried to make pieces fit together that weren't quite lined up. You can also tell when somebody thought through it and just said, okay, holistically in the round. Let's approach it this way. You guys take this quarter, you guys take this quarter, and we’ll take this quarter. And then let's make sure the seams meet up as we put this together. So go through it a couple of times. Just make sure that you haven't missed anything. Once you write your framework, it's useful to go through and read it again. And it's a step I think a lot of people miss.
[13:56] Richard C. Howard: Sure.
[13:56] Louis Orndorff: And that's where you really catch the part where, hey, let's make sure we answer all these questions. And you can tell when somebody didn't read the proposal after they got started as well. There's just holes in it.
[14:08] Richard C. Howard: Sure.
[14:09] Louis Orndorff: So kind of working as a team and coming together, it comes through in the product. And that is exactly what the government wants as a cohesive team that actually has a high probability of working well together, not only with themselves, but with the government.
[14:25] Richard C. Howard: Okay, no, that's great. Thanks again for coming on. If anyone listening wants to talk to Louis about have some contract questions, proposal questions, we'd love to answer them. You can reach out to us here and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks again for tuning in and yeah, we look forward to the next episode with Lewis.
[14:43] Richard C. Howard: Hey, guys, Ricky here. I hope you enjoyed this episode of government sales momentum. If you did enjoy the episode, please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review. It's very much appreciated. If you're interested in selling products and services to the Department of Defense, I have something for you that you're not going to find anywhere else in the world. The team and I created a program that takes everything you need to win defense contracts and put it into one place. Up until now, only large defense companies and a small amount of people in the know have had access to how products and services are really sold to the Department of Defense. I've taken all of that information and put it in a step-by-step training module that shows you how to consistently sell to the US. Military. You join our membership, not only do you get the model, but you get weekly sessions with former DOD acquisitions officers for training guidance to answer your questions. In a community of like minded business owners that want to partner on different opportunities to bid for subcontracting and teaming, or just to discuss general strategy on how to sell to the DOD. You'll have access to every course I've created, every coaching session I've ever recorded in every interview with an acquisitions professional that I've ever conducted, and we cover topics that range from defense sales planning and competitor analysis to SBIR and STTR born military sales. The list goes on. Go to Dodcontract.com if you are interested, and I would love to see you in the membership.
If your interested, you can also check out my Interview with Ron Ben-Zeev of World Housing Solution, Inc to know how his company has dealt with government contracting and their vision. Thanks.
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