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Blog | 04.13.21
By Kyle WilliamsKyle Williams

Is It Better to Have a Best-in-Class Solution or the Best Priced Solution When Bidding on Government Contracts?

There’s a wide-sweeping emphasis on “modernization” at all levels of government, and agencies are constantly evaluating ways to refine their solicitation and contract award processes to maximize the value of every dollar they spend. But, perhaps ironically, there are many situations in which it no longer benefits you to have the lowest priced solution or even the most innovative solution, unless you can demonstrate that it is indeed the best product, service or solution for the customer’s specific situation.


Agencies Aren’t Abandoning Best-Price Bids…

There are many instances in which agencies will award contracts to vendors with the lowest-priced bid, as long as they meet the minimum criteria. “Best price” is typically used for commodity and service category purchases, such as office supplies or janitorial services. On other occasions, securing the “best price” will be the goal, but additional evaluation criteria such as technical expertise and performance records will be considered to ensure the best priced-solution or vendor is also delivering the “best value” overall. So, don’t always assume the lowest price will make you the top contender.

 

However, Many Government Agencies are Starting to Prefer “Best-in-Class” Solutions for Bigger IT and System Buys… 

More and more public sector entities are showing preference for solutions that are market-proven and mature, especially when it comes to IT and other major systems. 

Agencies need to make fast, effective changes to improve the efficiency of government business and accomplish their missions. They can’t afford to disrupt operations, add complexity to already challenging processes or risk having to rip-and-replace systems multiple times to find the “right” solution. That would be wasteful. Plus, the government is contractually locked in with certain vendors, systems and services for a year or more in most instances. So, if they pick the wrong platform or service – if they choose the most impressive technology system based on simulated demos and find later in real-world deployments that it’s not suitable for their workflows or compatible with their other systems – then they are stuck. The last thing they want is to fail their internal agency or constituent stakeholders.  

A couple years ago, Nevada’s procurement administrator Jeff Haag articulated the reasoning behind changing definition of “best-in-class” when discussing the state’s efforts to improve the procurement experience for both buyers and suppliers. When Nevada first solicited for a new eProcurement technology system, state leaders thought that they could benefit from the cool flashy eProcurement solutions being used in the private sector. But, after careful evaluation of those solutions’ capabilities, they started to question whether the architecture and toolsets of these “latest” platforms could be the “greatest” for the public sector environment. Although they may have proven to be “best-in-class” solutions for Fortune 500 organizations, at the end of the day, Nevada decided that it needed something that was proven to deliver the exact functionality and user experience that the modern government business model dictates. State leaders just weren’t confident those private sector solutions would translate well to the public sector or be truly compatible with Nevada’s existing business system frameworks.  

Based on conversations we’re having with other state and local procurement leaders across the U.S. and headlines we’re seeing nearly every week now, it’s clear that government agencies at all levels are increasingly choosing to favor “best-in-class” solutions. Many just can’t afford to be solution “beta testers” to help prove new systems or services, especially at the state and local levels.  

Now, that doesn’t mean the government is going to completely abandon incubator or small business-stimulating programs such as SBIR that encourage innovation. Nor are they going to automatically disregard the latest and greatest IT systems and service architectures. Innovative new technologies may prove to be the most valuable solution to ongoing problems or the best approach to achieving better outcomes, as long as they’re proven to deliver best-in-class results in the public sector setting.  

Tip: If you’re pursuing a contract that prioritizes “best-in-class” evaluation criteria, be prepared to…  

  • Provide tangible references and performance records validating the impact that your product or service for other government customers. You can’t just say that you have a “best-in-class” solution or promise in a sales pitch that your offering will be better. It must actually be demonstrated in similar public sector environments and applications to be better.
  • Prove that you, as a partner, have demonstrated success in government. Show that you are someone who has been able to anticipate agencies’ challenges, aid with integration to each government’s unique business systems, help with business process re-engineering and provide the dedicated resources to tailor the system or service to the government’s nuanced needs in an agile process.

 

Need to "Prove" Your Solution in a Government Environment?  

  • It is beneficial to pursue state and local level contracting opportunities when trying to establish your track record. The local preference programs offered in many states, cities, counties and municipalities can be a boon for first-time bidders, assuming you meet the solicitations’ requirements and offer either the best-in-class solution they seek or the best price, depending on their primary evaluation criteria.
  • Beyond responding to the traditional RFP, IFB, RFI or RFQ solicitations that over 100,000 agencies post on Periscope Supplier to Government (S2G) each day, it may be valuable to become a vendor on a statewide and/or co-op contract. Have the best price on computers, phones, office supplies or other commodities and services? Those charged with soliciting and awarding the co-op and statewide contracts definitely value volume pricing discounts. Their customers will collectively generate bulk buys. The discounted pricing available from these “open” contract vehicles often entices state and local agencies to shop for their desired products or services there first versus issuing new solicitations each time. Plus, statewide and co-op contracts are pre-negotiated, meaning you only have to submit a proposal once – and go through the contract award and negotiation process once – to become a preferred vendor for dozens or hundreds of agencies, depending on the contract’s reach. It’s a win-win. Agencies can more quickly secure what they need, and you can more quickly close sales. Plus, you’ll be able to get your foot in the door with more agencies, which is the first step to proving you have the best-in-class solution. More sales, more deployments, more documented successes.
  • Take advantage of “disadvantaged” entity programs to gain additional preferences. Are you a small business? Consider joining the 8(a) or HubZone programs. Are you a woman-, minority- or veteran-owned business? Ask every agency you want to do business with – or who has posted a solicitation to which you want to respond – about its certification requirements. Some allow you to self-certify, others use third parties. Either way, the sooner you can register as a vendor and verify your disadvantaged business entity (DBE) status the better. The average solicitation is only “on the street” for about 21 days. You could find yourself consistently scrambling to qualify and prepare proposals or, worse, missing deadlines if you aren’t proactively preparing for bid opportunities. (Conduct this pre-bid assessment and review this guide to writing winning proposals to set yourself up for success.)

     

The Takeaway  

Private sector businesses bidding for the public sector’s business need to be ready and able to adapt government marketing and sales strategies. Understand what customers value most right now and stay apprised of new evaluation criteria guidance to ensure you’re showcasing the right strengths for each opportunity.  


Kyle Williams

About the Author

Kyle Williams

Executive Vice President, Supplier Operations

As Executive Vice President of Supplier Operations, Kyle is responsible for overseeing all supplier facing aspects of the business including customer on-boarding, sales growth, revenue growth, customer retention and innovation within our suite of supplier products and services. Kyle also serves as the executive site leader for the American Fork, UT office, driving transformational change and collaboration to align with Periscope’s core values. Kyle has been with Periscope since 2018 and brings over 12 years of valuable leadership experience in building and growing high performing teams for both inside sales and SaaS based software organizations. Kyle is continually focused on implementing scalable processes that maximize efficiency and has created a culture that models integrity, is team centric, passionate and accountable. Prior to joining Periscope in 2018, Kyle served for 4 years as Sr. Sales Manager for AvidXchange, a hyper growth company providing best of breed AP automation solutions. Prior to that, Kyle served as Sr. Sales Manager at SettlementOne, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of mortgage data for financial institutions and consumers. Kyle earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and his multi subject teaching credential in Liberal Studies from Notre Dame de Namur University.