Aug 2, 2022

The Ins and Outs of the Government Bidding Process

There are many factors that go into submitting a bid that can often make the process seem overwhelming. However, if you are prepared and know what’s needed to complete a bid proposal successfully, it helps make the process easier and run more smoothly. A great first step to take on your bidding journey is to subscribe to one of the mdf commerce’s tendering services. These include Merx, an electronic tendering platform for the Canadian public and private sectors, and Bidnet Direct for the US market. By subscribing to these platforms, you will find opportunities that match with the products or services your business sells. This will help transfer the time you would’ve spent searching for bid opportunities to writing winning proposals. 

You may be wondering what comes next and how you should go about getting your business to the point of successfully submitting bids on a more consistent basis. Below we will dive into how the bidding process works and discuss the main things you’ll need to know to start bidding on opportunities. 

 

Understanding the Bid 

When a government agency is looking to make a purchase, they’ll issue a solicitation. Government agencies are required by law to publicly post their bids through advertisements. Once a solicitation is issued, vendors can submit a proposal at the specified due date. Depending upon what’s being asked for, most solicitations come in the form of an RFP (Request for Proposal) or an ITB/IFB (Invitation to/for Bid). An RFP is generally issued in situations where price isn’t the sole factor and the agency is looking for specific details in order to learn more about the project, which will then help them turn the RFP into and ITB. An ITB is generally issued when the lowest price is the sole factor of the award. 

Contracts can be awarded to a single vendor or multiple vendors; it just depends on what the bid is asking for and what a single vendor can provide. Examples of these types of situations include the types of products or services being requested, whether the project takes place in multiple locations, and the time frame that the project needs to be completed in. For example, say an agency is looking to hire vendors for construction projects, something like replacing a stairwell would require only one vendor but a project like repairing roads throughout a state may require multiple vendors in order to complete the work in an efficient and timely manner. 

Typically an agency will start the bidding process a year or so in advance to make sure they are following all the laws and regulations of the bidding process, as well as what specific services they’re going to require from the vendor. Agencies may use an established bidders list to send out bid solicitations. This list of bidders is one that contains approved vendors by the agency and/or vendors they have already worked with in the past and find reliable. But as more and more bid opportunities become available, agencies are always looking for new vendors to bid. This is where being a member of Merx comes in handy. Not only do you receive a summary of available bid opportunities, but you will also receive the accompanying bid documents, making bidding on an opportunity easier than finding bids on your own. 

 

The Bid Package 

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a bid is, the next step is to learn more about the bid package. Bid packages can come in all different sizes depending on the nature of what’s being requested. It’s important to read over everything and make sure you submit all the required documents by the closing date to avoid being disqualified. 

You’ll find that not every bid package is the same, but as you bid on more opportunities, you will begin to become more familiar with the process. Typically, the bid package will be sent out to potential vendors 2-3 months before the bid opening date to give vendors time to fill out all the necessary documents and ask questions about the services they will be providing. Any questions that are submitted are then summarized with a response to the question and sent out to all the vendors in the form of an addendum, to make sure there’s a level playing field. 

 

Documents Included in the Bid Package: 

The Bid Notice 

The bid notice is the first item you’ll find in your bid package. This letter states what products or services the agency is seeking and will also provide you with the date and time that the bid proposal is due. You may be asked to submit the bid in person, by mail, or through electronic submission, if the agency has switched over to eProcurement methods, again the letter will state which form of submission is allowed. It will also provide you with the bid opening date, time, and location, as well as when and where your questions should be submitted. 

The bid notice will also mention if there is a pre-bid conference or site visit. These visits will take place before the bid package is handed out, in most cases, and can be very helpful as you get to meet with the project manager and physically see where the work will be taking place. Conferences and site visits are typically mandatory and if you do not show up you most likely will not receive the bid package as some agencies hand them out at the site visit. 

Procurement Lobbying & Standard Clauses 

The next part of your package will most likely be the Procurement Lobbying Packet. This packet includes documents that explain state laws and will inform you that certain communications between the agency and the vendor may be minimal or prohibited. This, however, may not always be the case; it really depends on the type of bid you’re dealing with. This document must be filled out and signed as confirmation of your understanding of the laws. You will also likely find documents that outline the Standards Clauses for state contracts, which include the rules and regulations that apply to the actual contract that are required by law. 

Small, Minority, and Women-Owned Businesses Questionnaire 

There may also be a questionnaire regarding whether your business qualifies as a small, women, or minority-owned business. Remember, agencies are required to accept a certain number of proposals from certified businesses, so make sure you have your certificate in order to gain these benefits. 

Specifications 

The final and probably the most important part of the bid package are the specifications of the contract, which include the general standards and terms of the contract. The specs typically state exactly what is being requested by the agency and the timeframe they would like the work to be completed in. Depending on the contract, the specs could include specific items such as a list of systems and equipment used by the agency, for example this may be a list of the types of smoke detectors used in a package for inspections on smoke detectors. 

Once you’ve read through the complete bid package and have filled out and signed the necessary documents, you can submit your sealed proposal! Now it’s time for the agency to open the bids and award the contract. 

 

The Bid Opening 

Typically, the bid opening happens on the same day the proposal is due. At this time, all the bids will be opened one at a time, read aloud, and recorded. It’s not mandatory for you to attend the opening, but it may be beneficial to send a representative so they can scope out the competition and figure out what kind of pricing they can afford. 

 

The Bid Award 

Once all the bids have been thoroughly reviewed to ensure all the documents are present and that everything is signed and filled out correctly, the agency creates a bid tabulation of all the bids by quoted price from lowest to highest. An award will then be made to the bidder with the lowest cost and best valued bid and who can successfully meet all the requirements to fulfill the contract. A letter will go out to all the vendors stating whether they were awarded the contract or not. Keep in mind that the winning vendor may be asked to fill out additional documents that weren’t required during the submission process. 

Keep on Bidding! 

The bidding process can be time consuming and overwhelming, whether you’re new to government bidding or not. This article will hopefully help guide you through the basics, so you know what to expect. The potential to win government contracts can prove to be very profitable for your business and is worth the time and energy you put into it. There are many government bids available, it’s just about finding the right one that can turn out to be a great opportunity for your business. With Merx helping you find perfectly matched Bids & RFPs you’ll be one step closer to winning those contracts.