Before we dive into the key approaches to developing winning Past Performance proposal sections, it’s useful to remember that most Government customers use Past Performance as a way of gauging the risk to the success of the program. This means you should write your Past Performance proposal sections to give your customer confidence that you know how to do the work and have done it before with success.
A subtlety—Past Performance is different from Corporate Experience. If a solicitation includes a requirement for a Corporate Experience response, the customer wants you to demonstrate that the company has done similar work before. Past Performance is used to demonstrate how well you did that similar work. Again:
Corporate Experience = Have you done similar work before?
Past Performance = How well did you do that similar work?
Steps to Writing a Winning Past Performance
The first step is to canvass a larger set of candidate contracts to determine which contracts are the best to include in your Past Performance section. You want to pick contracts that are similar to the one you’re bidding on, and for which your company’s performance was good. It’s smart to define what “similar” means—yes, it means mapping the technical requirements of the new proposal to the technical work done on the candidate contracts. But it also means selecting contracts that are of a similar nature to the one you’re bidding on. Is it an IDIQ with task orders? Is the workforce geographically dispersed? Is there a requirement to use an Earned Value Management System?
Once you’ve selected the high-performing, highly relevant contracts to include in your Past Performance section and you’re ready to develop the Past Performance write-up for each contract, consider these tips:
- Create a consistent, repeatable format for each Past Performance contract citation (often done in a table format)
- Provide the information required in the citation in the order in which it is requested in the solicitation’s proposal instructions
- Check and validate customer contact information
- Check and validate the latest contract data, such as contract values and dates
- In the narrative description of the work performed:
- Organize the narrative to line up with the technical requirements of the solicitation to which you are responding, to demonstrate clearly how the work you did is relevant to the requirements of the new contract
- Quantify the outputs and outcomes of the work on the contract you’re citing
- Use key words from the solicitation in your narrative to highlight relevance
Pro-tips for Getting the Best Score Possible from your Past Performance
Here are some pro-tips for getting the best score possible from your Past Performance evaluation:
- Validate performance with the Program Manager: for active projects, check in with the current Program Manager to make sure there are no surprises or recent issues
- Manage the Past Performance Questionnaire if required: if your customers have to fill out a questionnaire, assign someone to stay in touch with the customer and make sure they fill out and submit the questionnaire on time
- Don’t try to hide bad performance—create a lesson learned: if there is a requirement to specify any performance issues on the contract, don’t say, “none.” Be honest about any performance issues, then say what steps were taken to correct those issues; those steps become proof that those issues will not occur again
- Dig into the performance of other contracts you did not cite: customer evaluators may do their own research beyond the contracts you provide in your Past Performance section
- Manage the CPAR process: for Federal contracts, keep track of your customer’s performance evaluations and work with your customers to correct any inaccurate performance reports
Past performance is often not the most important evaluation criterion. But done poorly, a Past Performance section can sink an otherwise stellar bid. Use Past Performance to prove how awesome you are, and to kill any lingering doubts about your company’s ability to do the work.