ND APEX Accelerator

A resource for assisting North Dakota businesses in obtaining federal, state, and local government contracts.

May 2021: Solicitation Basics

Reading through a federal solicitation, also known as an opportunity, can be overwhelming, challenging, time-consuming, and frustrating. By understanding a solicitation, you can reduce these feelings, assist with a go- or no-go decision to bid, and improve your bid proposal.

Federal solicitations are organized by sections, which we will cover individually below. The section letter may change from solicitation to solicitation or the sections may not be labeled. Regardless, make the best use of your time by first finding and reading the Statement of Work (SOW) section to determine if you qualify to bid on the opportunity. If you do not qualify, meaning you cannot do the work, move on and do not waste your time on that opportunity. If you qualify and can complete the work, continue reading and reviewing the solicitation.

TIP 1: Most solicitations are word or PDF documents, which can be easily searched for key information. Use this to reduce your time and frustration.
TIP 2: Search solicitation for ‘shall,’ ‘must,’ ‘should,’ ‘will,’ or similar words; these are the words associated with an action you are required to complete.
TIP 3: Understand the industry language used in the document. For example do not use the word car, if the document uses the word vehicle.

If your company qualifies and can complete the work, then review the delivery deadlines. Your company must be able to meet the timeline set in the opportunity. Commercial consumers may allow flexibility to a delivery timeline and deliverables; the government consumers expect you to be on time.

Then move to Section L: Proposal Preparation Instructions and Other. This section provides you a ‘checklist’ of the how and what for your bid proposal. Dr. James N. Phillips Jr., the Host of The Contracting Guy Podcast, talks about two functional categories in solicitations: Administrative and Operational. “Administrative are those related to the form, fit, and function of an offer to a solicitation’s instructions to offerors and is generally universally applied to all solicitations and offers. For instance, how an offer is to be presented, who do you send it to, etc. Operational are those elements that relate to the actual requirement as it is unique to this requirement and is specifically applied. These can be found in the Evaluation Factors and in the Statement of Work. For instance, how you will respond to requirements that are Shall, Will, Must, etc.”

Now, move to the evaluation. Remember you are competing for the work. It is important to understand the evaluation and scoring. If the opportunity gives the highest score for past related experience, make sure you have the relevant past jobs and references. Laying concrete and hanging sheetrock are both parts of constructing a building but are very different skill sets.

Now, it is time to read the ENTIRE solicitation. Then read it AGAIN. Understand the solicitation, context, and requirements. You could have questions; it is OK to connect with the contracting officer who posted the solicitation.

TIP 4: Only ask questions NOT in the solicitation.

A solicitation number, called a Procurement Instrument Identifier (PIID), can be broken into four (4) elements, allowing you to understand where, when, and who is issuing the contract. The PIID is a combination of 13 to 17 alpha and/or numeric characters.

Position Contents Example: 47PJ0021Q0071
Characters 1 thru 6 Identification of department, agency, and office (AAC*) issuing the instrument. 47PJ00
Characters 7 thru 8 Last two digits of the fiscal year in which the procurement instrument is issued or awarded. This is the date the action is signed, not the effective date. 21
Character  9 ** Identifies the type of instrument with an upper-case letter. Departments and independent agencies may assign the letter identified for department use in accordance to their agency policy. Q
Characters 10 thru 13, possible up to 17 Issuing agency assigns a minimum of four to a maximum of eight characters. 0071

Should I submit a bid proposal?*Activity Address Code (AAC) identifies organizations in federal agencies. An office is the smallest organizational unit in an agency with direct responsibility for awarding or funding most of the actions.
**Character 9 letter identifier:
B or I = Sealed Bid

J = Reserved
M = Purchase Order
Q= Request for Quote
R = Request for Proposal
T = Automated Request for Quote
W = Purchase Order awarded based on price & delivery

  • Find and read the Statement of Work
    • Determine qualifications
    • Determine work to be completed
  • Determine deadlines, delivery, etc.
  • Determine evaluation criteria

If any of these are any no’s, consider not bidding and moving to the next solicitation.

General sections for federal solicitations:
Section A. Information to Offerors or Quoters
Section B. Supplies or Services and Price/Costs
Section C. Statement of Work (SOW)
Section D. Packages and Marking
Section E. Inspection and Acceptance
Section F. Deliveries or Performance
Section G. Contract Administrative Data
Section H. Special Contract Requirements
Section I. Contract Clauses/General Provisions
Section J. Attachments, Exhibits
Section K. Representations/Certifications and Statements of Offerors
Section L. Proposal Preparation Instructions and Other
Section M. Evaluation Criteria