Can you win without past performance?

The answer? It depends…

The government is extremely risk averse. For that reason they rely heavily on past performance in making award decisions.

What can a company without past performance do to win a contract? Is it even possible?

Maybe. Like everything else it depends on getting all the dominos lined up just right to win.

Here are a few things to thinks about.

What do you sell? Is it a commoditized product or service where there
is very little difference between you and everyone else who sells the same thing.

In this instance, you may be able to win on price because there shouldn’t be a basis to pay a price premium. If that’s you – ok use it to your advantage. But beware that you’re only a winner until the next newcomer with no past performance undercuts your prices.

Who knows you? Do you have relationships with government decision makers or those close to decision makers? What about relationships with other government contractors?

The more people you know – and who are willing to advocate for your competency – the easier it will be to overcome the government’s skepticism about awarding contracts to companies without past performance.

What have you done – in past careers, businesses or jobs – that might make the government sit up and take notice? The regulations allow agencies to consider similar success in a past performance evaluation.

However, they are NOT required to do so. This means that you will likely need an insider advocating for you – or a very compelling story.

Can you partner with a subcontractor and use their past performance to alleviate concerns about the risks of awarding to you?

Again, the answer is it depends. There is a new SBA regulation at 13 C.F.R. 125.2 says:
Capabilities, past performance, and experience. When an offer of a small business prime contractor includes a proposed team of small business subcontractors and specifically identifies the first-tier subcontractor(s) in the proposal, the head of the agency must consider the capabilities, past performance, and experience of each first tier subcontractor that is part of the team as the capabilities, past performance, and experience of the small business prime contractor if the capabilities, past performance, and experience of the small business prime does not independently demonstrate capabilities and past performance necessary for award.

As you can see, this regulation is rather limited. It applies only when four factors are met: (1) the prospective prime contractor is a small business; (2) the prospective prime does not independently demonstrate the past performance “necessary for award; (3) the subcontractor is a first-tier sub; and (4) the subcontractor is itself a small business.
Limited as it is, this regulation can be very helpful to small businesses in appropriate cases. Like the joint venture regulations we discussed in #2, Contracting Officers aren’t always aware of 13 C.F.R. 125.2(g), so small businesses should be prepared to raise the matter if necessary.
Source: Small GovCon

How can I use this information?

Engage in the “so what” test. It goes like this.

Ask: “If I were the government decision make that had to justify that I was confident that this company would succeed by delivering on time in a compliant way, would facts would I present?”

Your job is to make sure they can confidently give answer much like these.

1. Cost is the only factor that matters because this is not a complex contract.
2. I’ve met with this company and so has my technical team. We grilled them and they answered every question factually and convincingly. They haven’t performed to this magnitude – yet. But here’s why I know they can do it based on facts and figures. They also work with XYZ company/agency as a subcontractor and they were able to prove in our meetings that we could trust them.
3. The project team lead had work at these impressive places. We have to consider this fact because iit really does distinguish them from the other competitors.
4. Look who they have on their team. Do you really think that top ACE contractor number 1 would risk their reputation with an incompetent partner?

Use the rules and the risk averse culture to make it easy for them to make a good by giving them the facts they need to have the confidence that YOU are the best choice !