September 7, 2023

Art and Science of the Proposal Q&A Game

Not all questions are created equal in the GovCon world.

Are you constantly disappointed at the Q&A responses you receive in your GovCon RFP responses? As humans, we’re naturally curious. Asking questions is a core instinct, so it makes perfect sense why asking questions in response to a GovCon RFP would be simple. Right?

Wrong. Like, way wrong.

There is an art and science to the RFP Q&A game, and extreme tact and strategic planning are crucial to this often-overlooked facet of the procurement cycle. However, if done correctly, the Q&A opportunity for any GovCon RFP could prove critical to securing a competitive edge and level the playing field when competing against an incumbent.

GovCon RFPs are different from commercial RFPs. If you have a question about a commercial RFP, you may get a response or you might not. Commercial clients are not required to offer a Q&A opportunity for proposing contractors. However, for GovCon RFPs, the Q&A process is a highly-controlled undertaking where clients are required to both provide a chance for contractors to ask questions and also provide timely responses or subject their resultant award to protestation.

And if you’re a small, disadvantaged, or 8(a) business that doesn’t have the luxury of larger teams of experienced professionals on staff, the Q&A opportunity can prove even more valuable.

So here are some secrets and key techniques to drive valuable responses:

  • Follow Q&A instructions – Be on time with requested deadlines. Don’t stray outside of the instructions for how to ask questions and by what medium. Failure to do so could negate any response you receive or even get you kicked out of the competition. And if they don’t provide a template, build one to demonstrate your organization right off the bat. Remember, their interview starts with your first communication.
  • Simplify by being direct and specific – Don’t allow the client a chance to reply with “we cannot provide that information” – include the assumed answer or suggested response and ask for confirmation. (e.g., Not “Who is the incumbent contractor providing the requested services?” Instead, “We understand that Company XYZ is the current incumbent for the requested services. Please confirm.”).
  • Include reference information – Cite the document, page number, and section number which requires clarification. If they can’t find it, they can’t address your concern. Make it easy where you can.
  • “Ghost” your competition – Should you uncover a deficiency amongst the incumbent contractor or your competition, ask for clarification in a way that forces the client to emphasize that such a deficiency will be disqualifying or detrimental.
  • Be confident – We’ve all been told “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.” And you’re smart. If you find it confusing, others will as well. And most often the client will appreciate you asking a question that serves the good of the group.
  • But don’t be ignorant – You’re smart, but you still need to be thorough. Make certain the RFP doesn’t already answer a question you’re asking. Doing so wastes the client’s time and could create the wrong impression of the type of partner you’ll be in the future.
  • Don’t give away your “secret sauce” – Always remember your questions and corresponding answers will likely be seen by all interested bidders. Don’t give anything away! Be it a differentiator you offer or insider knowledge you’ve gleaned as a result of your capture efforts, keep those distinctions to include as part of your unique strategy.
  • Review your questions prior to submitting – Double-check your questions being careful to only include those that will add value and credence to your response while helping to optimize your evaluation score. If they don’t, re-word the question until it will, or delete the question. Questions should always be designed to swing the bid in your favor.

With this framework in mind, you can ask laser-focused questions that give you the information you need to write a rock-solid proposal. The more you can lead agencies toward providing the information you want, the more well-crafted your response can be.

That’s the basics – now go and get inquisitive! Still need help stepping up your GovCon RFP game? Reach out and we can set up some time to gain valuable insight into what questions to ask or anything else that’s got you scratching your head. Contact us today to see the new heights your business can reach with Summit Strategy.

Krystn Macomber


There’s magic in disrupting the ordinary. This is the philosophy Krystn brings to working with and empowering her clients. With a 20-year track record of helping global professional services enterprises, Krystn is redefining what’s possible for companies looking to elevate their marketing, pursuit, and business development operations. She is an industry leader, award winner, mentor, coach, and highly sought-after speaker.

Previous Blog
Next Blog
April 29, 2024
From Clueless to Closing: Conquering Kickoff Meetings

Strategic Kickoff Mastery: Ensure thorough preparation, align team expectations, and set the stage for a successful proposal effort

Read More
March 6, 2024
The Secret Sauce of Success: Integrated Marketing + Proposals

Aligning for Impact + Growth By connecting these two, your marketing and proposal teams can complement each other, build up the other, and move your company forward.

Read More