Create your first pipeline

Building a stream of positioned bid opportunities

  1. What is a Pipeline: A pipeline:
    1. Is your list of promising government contracts
    2. Organizes the contracts by maturity
  2. Why the pipeline is important: Your pipeline:
    1. Tells you if you are on track to hit your revenue goals
    2. Helps you manage your list of promising opportunities
    3. Helps you work proactively rather than reactively
    4. Helps you engage in the bid process early to influence opportunities in your favor
  3. What’s in a (traditional) pipeline: Typically a pipeline consists of:
    1. RFPs: Active government solicitations that you can bid on immediately
    2. RFIs and Sources Sought: Things that the government is thinking about buying soon. Responding to RFIs and Sources Sought gives you the opportunity to influence the eventual RFP in your favor
    3. Forecast & re-competing items: Items that the government is planning to buy in the future. You have months to influence these purchases.
  4. What FedScout adds to the pipeline: We think that the pipeline should also include:
    1. Marketing activities
    2. Customer relationship building
    3. Partner relationship building
  5. Internal process pipelines: While not typically a pipeline FedScout has built in tools to help you manage:
    1. Your hiring pipeline
    2. Business maturity projects (like applying for set-asides or getting important certifications)

Building you first pipeline

  1. Balance: Your pipeline should include opportunities at all stages of maturity
  2. Go light on RFPs: As a new vendor it’s tempting to focus on RFPs, since, in theory, they are your fastest path to revenue, but we recommend going light on them because:
    1. If you pursue an RFPs, but you didn’t respond to the RFI/Sources Sought that preceded the RFP your win rate is going to be low
    2. If you win the work you might not be ready to:
      1. Hire and staff the people you need to perform the work
      2. Cover contract start-up costs
      3. Leave your job to work the contract (assuming you are going to work the contract)
      4. Manage the contract (if you aren’t ready to leave your job)
    3. The best reason, we think, to track RFPs is so that you can bring them to potential primes that you want to work with (if you bring an opportunity to a prime it’s good practice to ensure the finder gets some of the work)
  3. Focus on RFIs and Sources Sought: For your first pipeline we recommend going heavy on RFIs, and Sources Sought because responding to them:
    1. Is generally easier than a full proposal, making if more likely that you actually do respond
    2. Allows the customer “gets to know you” through your responses
    3. It’s easier to get a partner to collaborate on an RFI/Sources Sought than an RFP
    4. Increases your chances of winning the RFP that comes after the RFI/Sources Sought (assuming you are effectively influencing through your RFI/Sources Sought response)
  4. Go light on Forecast items: All the positive things about RFIs and Sources Sought apply to Forecast items. However as a new business you can’t wait a year for the RFP to come out. You need rapid feedback and lots of “swings at bat” to mature your proposal skills

Adding things to your Pipeline

  • Open FedScout contract search
  • Select one of your saved searches or create a new one
  • Filter by maturity (RFP, RFI, Forecast, etc)

Which ones should go in your pipeline

  1. Qualifying: We have a course on evaluating whether to pursue on opportunity but for now we recommend searching, reading the titles and adding the promising ones to your pipeline
  2. How many items: It’s better to add two items and actually respond to them than identify 20 items, feel overwhelmed, and respond to none. But in a perfect world I’d shoot for:
    1. Two forecast items
    2. Four RFIs or Sources Sought
    3. Two RFPs

Quick overview of your pipeline

  • The opportunity section of your pipeline has four sections:
    • Forecast items
    • RFIs and Sources Sought
    • RFPs
    • Submitted proposals pending award decision
  • Each pipeline section has sub-sections to help you track opportunities through the acquisition process

What to do with the items you’ve found

  1. Get stuff into your pipeline: Right now we are building the work plan that leads to your first contract win, and we don’t want to derail you by diving into any one piece of work right now. So when you find something that looks interesting add it to your pipeline
  2. Maintaining your pipeline: RFIs and RFPs are only live for a couple weeks so there is a chance that all the items you identify now will expire before you have time to respond, and that is fine. FedScout will prompt you to add new things to ensure you have a full and balanced pipeline

Rants and Reflections

My unscripted thoughts after coaching hundreds of small government contractors over the last 10 years

Video Transcript(s):

Next, let's lay the foundation for your sales, and we’ll start by setting up an alerting system so that you get an email whenever a new contract in your strike zone comes out. If you’ve been using FedScout your alerting was set-up automatically, in fact you may have been getting alerts already. But if not, see the video below on setting up a search.

Next, we want to identify contract opportunities that you can pursue now, in the near term, and that are a little further away and in the industry this is called your pipeline

There’s a button below that’ll take you to FedScout’s contract search and a video that’ll help you find contract opportunities at each stage of maturity and we recommend finding and adding 

  • 3 to 5 RFI or sources sought 
  • 1 or 2 Forecast opportunities
  • And 1 or 2 RFPs

And we think that you should focus on RFIs and Sources Sought because:

  • The responses tend to be shorter
  • The full solicitation probably won't come out for a few months which gives you time to get ready
  • By responding to the RFI or Sources Sought you increase your chances of winning
  • And typically partners are more open to collaborating with a new company on an RFI or Sources sought than a full RFP

The same basic logic applies to forecast items, but forecast items take a long time to mature and as a new business you need to get shots on goal fast

As you add opportunities to your pipeline FedScout will organize them, break them into bite size tasks, and help you track your progress, so right now just get some promising stuff into it.