Secrets to a Winning Point Score on CIO-SP4

  |  July 29, 2020

Dave Goulla and Russell Smith–

Note: The authors have collectively helped prepare over 100 similar proposals.

It began with GSA OASIS and GSA Alliant. Since then, we have seen a growing trend of Government agencies emulating and using the point scoring construct introduced in these GSA RFPs to evaluate proposal responses. The most recent example is CIO-SP4 where the NIH is using hybrid evaluation criteria that include both the GSA scoring construct and traditional adjectival rating across each of ten specific Task Areas. Consequently, bidders are faced with the challenge of achieving both a “Highly Acceptable” grade and getting as close as possible to the maximum 10,000-point score.

But the CIO-SP4 contract as with the GSA contracts do have two obvious attractions:

(1.) A high number of winners, and

(2.) Not necessary to have an existing customer relationship or to curry favor through an advance BD effort.

So, under these circumstances, how does a bidder garner both the required points and adjectival score to win? Here are some suggestions in responding to CIO-SP4:

  1. Claim It – How do you know if you qualify for points for a Task Area? Give it your best shot. The criteria for each task area are broadly defined. The Government will only deduct points you claim if they think you do not meet their criteria. They will not add points for areas where they think you qualify but you fail to claim it. Be reasonable, you don’t want to submit trash that will have a negative halo effect on your document.
  2. Substantiate It – Take the scoring sheet and substantiate the points you claim. Just make sure it is reasonable and prove it with an audit trail that the Government can easily follow. For CIO-SP4 the NIH has not yet defined how they want the substantiation documentation packaged. This will most likely be cleared up in subsequent Q&A responses. In the meantime, consider how you want to present your case.
  3. Organize It – There are no specific tools. You will most likely compile your information and evidence in huge spread sheets, a pain-staking yet necessary effort. However, personnel who are very well organized will do the best work.  A team of two is ideal.  One does the science of finding and organizing the proof points and establishing an audit trail to justify points IAW sections L and M. Then the other uses the right key words and presents your case in the most favorable language. In the case of CIO-SP4, this is for both the yes/no binary decision to award points and the adjectival rating.
  4. Present It – Developing and presenting your proposal content is both a science and an art. By putting a customer hat on, the proposal person increases the probability of getting a “yes”. This is the art, and this art can make a big difference on scoring.  Further, organizing your information in a way the follows the spec and is logical is critical.  Because it must be easy for the reviewers to follow your audit trail to get the “yes”. A good Proposal Manager / Volume Manager who knows how to organize information can do the science part of compiling the evidence.  Some previous experience doing such an evolution is valuable.  The hard part is the art of writing the answers.  This is a Capture Manager / Tech Writer.  Again with previous experience helping a lot.

Points to Win – We have extensive experience in developing models to predict the minimum point threshold for a winning hand on point-based proposals. Each model must be tailored to the opportunity. For CIO-SP4, such an undertaking may not be useful because of the combined point and adjectival evaluation criteria. But, we can still help you accomplish independent due-diligence to make a confident pursue decision and develop a winning proposal.

Take a look at our past CIO-SP4 article: Win a Mine of Gold: CIO-SP4

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