Shaping Bid Requirements

Mar 12, 2024 3:11 PM
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Shaping Bid Requirements

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Author: Len Miller, Hinz Consulting

  • CEO/Account Lead at Hinz Consulting
  • 40 years of leadership in BD and program management for US GOVCON and commercial programs
  • Experienced capture manager, proposal manager, business developer and proposal writer on bids valued in excess of $20B
  • Have been in the trenches helping to find the right opportunities and to shape them
  • Involved in guiding the capture and proposal efforts for opportunities we shaped
  • Saw the benefits of having made the right decisions and lessons learned from the wrong decisions.
  • You can find me at 540.718.4929, or

What is “Deal Shaping” or “Shaping of Requirements”?

✅ Shaping is:

  • Accomplished before release of Draft Solicitation/Tender
  • Steering an acquisition to a contract vehicle/type that benefits You and your Customer
  • Positioning your Company’s offerings in a manner that benefits your Customers
  • Suggesting language for any/all RFP sections that will result in your services and
  • solutions offerings receiving a most favorable evaluation
  • Ensuring the Customer and you remains within the Law, Regulations, and Ethics
  • Ensuring acquisition benefits Customer and your Company
    • Resulting in a Company “win”
    • Receiving a Sole Source Award
    • Receiving a current incumbent contract extension (new procurement cancelled)
    • Receiving the Full/Open Competitive Award

❌ Shaping is NOT

  • Responding to Requests for Information/Sources Sought or Market Surveys
  • Providing questions and comments to draft and final RFP documents
  • Attending pre-solicitation conferences, site visits and industry days
  • Meeting with “competimates”
  • Meeting your potential customers for lunch, dinner, drinks, or golf
  • Responding with a proposal

What is the MARS Methodology© ?


The MARS Methodology was developed by Hinz a few years ago.  It provides a plan of how, what, who, when and where to shape requirements. This is done in 4 parts:

The “MUTUALLY” part. All the personnel, companies, client agencies working together in a positive, ethical, and legal manner within the acquisition processes, rules and regulations becomes the foundation upon which all parties work together toward a common set of objectives...the requirements…this is the first part of the Plan where we start to consider the Who, When, and Where. We also start determining the How by focusing on fostering a collaborative environment with our Client and their Stakeholders.

ASSURED is when we get all parties actually working together to develop requirements that benefit all, not just one side or a limited few with clear benefits to the CLIENT.  This also is part of the Planning where we are again determining/clarifying the Who, When and Where.

REQUIREMENTS – trying to control the various things we can shape (the What)…more on this in a few minutes.

SHAPING – the application of the set of tools, processes, techniques and people (HOW/WHO) at the right time (WHEN/WHERE) against the items we want to shape (WHAT)

MARS: Mutually – Creating a Collaborative Environment for Shaping

Produce a Program Plan and Budget
Appoint Source Selection Committee
Draft SOO/SOW/PWS, Acquisition plan, evaluation plan and standards
Meet with prospective offerors and release Draft RFP
Collect questions, finalize RFP, get approval to release final RFP, and release final RFP
It is absolutely critical that you start early!  If you wait until the draft or final RFP is released, then you are way behind and will have little to no chance in being able to get any extensive shaping accomplished.

MARS: Assured – Working Together to Develop Benefits

MARS: Requirements – What Can We Shape?

  • Specifications
  • Contract Types
  • Contract Line-Item Types
  • Labor Category Qualifications
  • Inputs to PWS, SOW, or SOO
  • Contract / RFP/RFQ clauses
  • Proposal Instructions
  • Evaluation Factors/Criteria

MARS: Shaping – When and How

  • Work quickly after qualifying the opportunity to create a detailed customer call plan for specific contact objectives
  • Look at points within your BD Lifecyle where information gathering, collaborative customer meetings and solutioning should occur and where/when you can submit unsolicited white papers
  • Set up points where you initiate your overall capture plan and start you customer and competitive intelligence gathering and assessments
  • Use your executives, technical staff, and teaming partner personnel at various levels along the way to help shape requirements as part of your customer call plan
  • If the opportunity is your recompete, then shaping begins the day you start contract performance
  • Participate in customer industry days/pre-solicitation conferences, respond to RFI/Sources Sought notices, provide helpful review comments/questions on draft and final RFPs

Shaping – Tools, Techniques, & Processes

We apply all sorts of tools, techniques processes and people during the time we are attempting to shape the requirements.

  • Do your homework/research on the opportunity, customer, and competition….you can use Generative AI to help in the open source research as well as other tools.
  • We use every meeting (planned and unplanned) as an opportunity to shape. It could be a 15 sec to 5 minutes unplanned conversation with the client, or it could be a planned/by invite meeting where we meet with the client and have a prepared set of questions and ideas for a discussion….this could go on for 30-60 minutes. But be prepared, have an agenda and understand/respect the clients time constraints. Be prepared to have some type of leave behind material and book a next meeting…hopefully to come back with ideas on potential solutions based on the probing questions and answers from the client and hoping a request for more details. We can use “trusted” teaming partners in this area as well to do this in parallel or in synch with us.
  • We can submit unsolicited white papers, responses to RFIs, Sources Sought, Market Surveys and Pre-solicitation notices. You can use Generative AI here.
  • Submitting thoughtful comments and questions to draft RFP/final RFP documents is also helpful. These will take some research, so hopefully your company has some type of Knowledge Management support system/database. Using a Knowledge Management Repository to store submitted whitepaper/RFI, Source Sought, Market Survey responses and Proposals is a really good idea so maybe you don’t have to do everything from scratch…but tailor your response carefully if reusing material. You can use Generative AI here as well.
  • Some companies even use their teammates and lobbyists to convey messages and help shape requirements.

Shaping to the GovCon Acquisition Cube©


One of our partners, Skyway Acquisitions, has developed what they call the GovCon Acquisition Cube. Even though this Cube Approach was developed for the GovCon space, it can also apply to State, Local and Commercial bids as well. The cube has six equal sides and this is why they chose it to represent the elements which need to play a part in shaping an acquisition and each side or element is of equal importance:

  1. The SOLUTION is the base and the is what the Customer Agency is buying…that is the product or service which will meet their requirements.
  2. The SCHEDULE is when the SOLUTION will be delivered to the Agency
  3. The LOCATION is where the place of performance will be and where the end product or service will be delivered.
  4. The PROVIDER is who will be developing and delivering the SOLUTION
  5. The PRICE is how much…that is what will the budget be.
  6. The ACQUISITION STRATEGY is how we are going to buy the product or service including what type of contract vehicle, type of procurement, and what the evaluation strategy will be.

When you are able to work all six elements of the Acquisition Cube in a equal manner this helps the Procurement Team to be able to successfully pull together the solicitation package, get it approved and out to their industry partners.

The GovCon Acquisition Cube is a Skyway Acquisition’s LLC copyrighted idea (listen to the Contracting Officer Podcast, Episode 331)

When you are able to work all six elements of the Acquisition Cube in a equal manner this helps the Procurement Team to be able to successfully pull together the solicitation package, get it approved and out to their industry partners.

Shaping – Involving the Right People

Regardless of the size of the capture/proposal team, it is absolutely critical that each member of the team understand their roles and responsibilities.

Shaping – How?  By Roles & Responsibilities

Business Developer & Sales Lead
Opportunity identification/qualification, intelligence gathering, customer knowledge, and messaging
Capture Manager
Manages strategy, deliverables, schedule, budget (aka PM for capture)
Terms & conditions, legal, OCI, contract-to-contract messaging
Lead Executive(s)
Supplies funding and ultimate decision-maker/referee
Line/Operations personnel
Opportunity identification, intelligence, customer knowledge, support shaping & solutioning
Business Intelligence
Dedicated personnel focused on company’s growth initiatives
Solutions Architect
Develops, works, guides development of solution with the team and messaging to be “tested” with customer(s)
Staff recruiting, direct hiring/job fairs, social media outreach, onboarding and compensation planning.
Pricing strategy, PTW, and pricing development
NDAs, teaming agreements, RFIs to teammates
Program Manager
Operations/Line Lead for program being bid or recompeted
Proposal Operations
Supporting RFIs/SSNs/White Papers as available, editing, reviews, production.
Other Supporting Staff
Teammates/consultants to support shaping and solutions
Remember, BD is a Team Sport….not a game of “Me, Myself, and I”…even if you are a very small business and just don’t have the internal resources…..find trusted advisors with whom you can bounce ideas off of and get objective advice.

Shaping - How? Play Offense & Defense

As the Incumbent
As the Competitor
Areas of Focus
Current Systems/Techniques
New Technology/Techniques
SOW/PWS, M, L, others
Current deliverables and processes
New reports, more detail, automation, real-time
Key Personnel
High Number, unique skills, education, certifications at proposal
Low number, experience for degrees, certifications at transition
L, M, H
Past Performance
Depends on Current Performance
Depends on Criteria, eliminate, or increase weight if incumbent performing poorly
L, M
100% Day 1
100% end of transition
L, M, H
Must have facility day 1
Ability to obtain a facility, or transition Incumbent’s facility
Included in evaluated price
Not included in evaluated price
L, M
Low weighting What is included (Plugs)
High weighting What is Included (Plugs)
L, M

Shaping - Anecdotes from Real Efforts

💬 Language Training Contract recompete:

Shaping =

  • Whitepaper prior to draft RFQ
  • Small Business Set-Aside/Single Award
  • Recommended key RFQ changes
  • Recommended labor rate controls

Result = Win (after 3 protest rounds)

🔋 Energy Savings Contract recompete:

Shaping =

  • Performance prior to draft RFP
  • Calls with acquisition office
  • Worked Technical, Management, and Past Performance early

Result = Win

🕵️‍♀️ Intelligence Community Project new:

  • Higher weight on PP,& Technical
  • High # of key personnel resumes
  • Alll incumbents on exclusive teaming agreements

Result = Win

👩‍🏫 Aircrew Trainer Contract new:

  • Meetings with acquisition office
  • Early responses to RFI/Sources Sought
  • Focused on Technical Innovations

Result = Loss (on price)

Example of Shaping Requirements

  • We have a Training Academy that we can say is a discriminator when bidding certain types of training or similar work.
  • How would we get the customer to put the “hook” in the RFP/PWS to require proposers to describe the approach to meeting that “hook” requirement.? The “hook” in the RFP/PWS could be as benign as: “3.1.4(a): Describe your understanding and approach to keeping a relevant and ready workforce”.. we would, in detail, describe our Training Academy as a relevant and ready training system that is in place day one, no risk, with performance out metrics, etc.
  • To make that approach relevant we would need criteria in Section L & M so our ready approach, that the customer already loved and is expected to see is evaluated. Hopefully evaluated with multiple significant strengths.
  • Section L would then need instructions to make sure that “hook” is responded to: “Offeror shall provide its understanding and approach to meeting the requirement of RFP section 3.1.4.(a).”
  • And then Section M could be: “Offerors relevancy and feasibility of approach to meet mission requirements of PWS section 3.1.4(a)”

Shaping – Recompetes vs New Business Efforts


Shaping – Identifying Potential Improvement & Innovations Which Exceed Requirements

  • Most companies can meet the minimum requirements, but minimum rarely “cuts it”
  • When working an effort and performing well, you want to exceed the status quo.
  • Always look for places where potential improvements can be made which create efficiencies and add value and addresses the client’s issues and hot buttons.
  • Look for places where innovations can be applied which is something new.
By doing this, you create a sense of value which the client fears they might forfeit should you not win the effort.

Shaping – Identifying Potential Competitors’ Offering to Challenge Your Proposal

  • Remember, gathering competitive intelligence and assessing it is a critical step in the overall process.
  • As a bidder, we must be on both the defense and the offense. You need both an offensive and defensive playbook. You must know your competition to the point of understanding what they will attempt to offer that challenges your offerings. You must be able to counter their strengths by neutralizing them with your strengths.
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Using Black Hat and Gate Review

  • Black Hat Review
    • Competitive Assessment of your competitions’ strengths and weaknesses
    • Collect and validate competitive data throughout the BD lifecycle
    • Use the SWOT methodology to capture data for the review, which uses known or anticipated RFP evaluation criteria to score your company versus the competitors
  • Gate Reviews
    • Provide a methodical process of opportunity assessment
    • Look to see PWIN progression from gate to gate
    • There are tools which help companies develop an analysis around PWIN at gates or between gates based on the opportunity, competitive, customer, and company data.
    • image
    • Gate 1 – Opportunity Identification (Unknown Position/Opportunity Identified)
    • Gate 2 - Opportunity Qualification (Known Position/Opportunity Qualified & Competition Researched)
    • Gate 3 – Pursue/No Pursue (Improved Position/Customer Influenced)
    • Gate 4 – Initial Bid/No Bid (Favored Position/Ready to Bid)
    • Gate 5 – Final Bid/No Bid (Favored Position/Bid in Progress)
    • Gate 6 – Contract Readiness Review (Favored Position/Bid Submitted)
  • Shaping of a business opportunity never really stops and should occur at each contact with the customer in some manner.
  • Create a plan of how, what, who, when, and where to shape.
  • Shaping is a Team sport. Pull together toward the objective, know/understand each other’s roles and responsibilities and continuously communicate.
  • Shaping a winning strategy and ultimately a winning solution is comprised of many parts, but like a puzzle, they must be integrated with the customer in mind.
  • Learn everything you can about your customer, so you know their needs/wants, issues, and hot buttons.
  • Learn everything you can about your competitors so you can play both offense and defense and counter their offerings.
  • BD is nearly impossible if not supported by strong past performance. Maintaining customer satisfaction and documenting it is critical to supporting BD.
  • Don’t flounder….if you need help, ask for it!

📄 Training PDF

Deal Shaping v3.pptx15402.9KB