5 Things to Check to Win Your Recompete Submission Federal Proposal

  |  October 27, 2019

recompete submission

Editor’s Note:The author of this article Nigel Thacker is arguably the leading authority in the world on recompete proposals. Nigel specializes in recompetes. He has trained OCI personnel in his unique techniques, such as administering the Recompete Workshop.

In this article, I explain how to greatly enhance a recompete submission. Of course a recompete has to be responsive, provide a good solution, etc. However, in this article we address five areas in which an incumbent can make his proposal far exceed the competition.

1. Are you using evidence from the contract?
Bidders often fail to use the advantages of their incumbent position in their proposals. Sometimes this is because the proposal team doesn’t know the contract and doesn’t obtain the information they need from the operations team. Virtually all incumbents have a mountain of evidence from the existing contract to use in their recompete submission. This includes information about workflow, staffing, KPIs, customer satisfaction, and the like.

2. Are you using the evidence to support your new solution?
You need to use evidence from the existing contract to prove the new solution is good and you can deliver it. For example if you know work volumes vary from day to day, how do you use evidence to show that your new solution will successfully address these variations? This is the type of detail the competition may not have.

3. Are you recognizing the customer’s culture and strategic goals?
Understanding the customer’s culture and strategic goals should be one of the advantages you have as the incumbent. My research shows that customers expect incumbents to demonstrate a better understanding of the group culture than the competitors.

4. Are you taking into account changes in the new contract?
Even if the customer has not changed the SOW from the previous bid, the market, technology, and best practice will have advanced. Whatever the level of change, you must address it effectively in your solution. Doing so is especially important for you as the incumbent. This is because you must overcomes any fear in the evaluator’s mind that you are just focusing on ‘business as usual.’

When we work with incumbents prior to the bid writing phase, we usually ask them to list two sets of changes they need to address in the recompete submission:
• Firstly the external changes in technology, competitor approaches, best practices that have been introduced over the contract period, and those changes they are putting into their latest new customer bids;
• Secondly the changes the customer has asked for, both in their pre recompete conversations and specifically changes from the customer recompete documentation.

5. Are you delivering anything new?
One of the issues incumbents face is that their existing delivery and solution can act as a ‘drag anchor’ on their thinking about change. Unlike competitors, they aren’t thinking from first principles.

Ideally during the recompete preparation stage, you will have completed a ‘ground up,’ or as we call it, ‘Green Field’ solution. This is a review that ignores the existing assumptions from today’s contract and focuses only on creating a solution delivering what the customer is now asking for.

On a simple level we look to see what proportion of the solution benefits, discriminators, and differentiators are based on new ideas vs. those that are taken from the existing contract. And we want to see evidence of new ideas from outside the existing contract experience (perhaps from other contracts, industry data or other work). The exact balance between innovation and experience will vary from recompete to recompete.

Our customer research has identified four common areas the evaluators want to see to provide the highest score on the technical proposal:
• Understanding – they want to see clear evidence you understand the customer and how your solution will meet their needs;
• Confidence – they want to be confident your solution will work and that it is low risk;
• Evidence – they want to see substantial, clear, and well-founded evidence to back up your solution and assertions about its benefits;
• Added Value – they want you to be offering benefits over and above the basic specification or KPIs they have provided.

As the incumbent, you should be well positioned to show the evaluators that you have a highly responsive level of understanding, confidence, and evidence. Added Value: — something new and above the norm — is what incumbents often miss. To be clear – your existing solution is not added value. And describing what you are already doing in detail will not get you any credit for added value. This is especially a challenge now in the era of PTW. Because you probably have to use your best ingenuity to discover added value that can be provided for little or no additional cost. Most customers want to see change, innovation, and fresh approaches. You must not fall into the trap of only being the safe option.


The best recompetes are those where all the information is already available to the writers about the (hopefully great) performance on the contract. We usually see this when the incumbent has completed a full recompete preparation process. But even if it’s too late to do this and you are in the latter stages of reviewing your recompete submission documents, you can still make a difference. Take a look at your recompete and use our headings to check whether you are making the most of your incumbency. You might be able to make some simple adjustments that will improve your chances of success.

Editor’s Note: The author of this article Nigel Thacker is OCI’s business partner. Nigel specializes in recompetes. He is arguably the leading authority in the world on recompete proposals. He has trained OCI personnel in his unique techniques, such as administering the Recompete Workshop.

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