In our government sales training courses, we emphasize a wide variety of skills necessary for successful government marketing and contract bidding. Many of these focus on the inter-personal aspects of such sales, as well as how to build a successful contract bid.
However, none of that matters if a bidder cannot get the bid into their agency on time. This would seem like an obvious matter, yet every year, sob stories emerge of contractors who shot themselves in the foot by missing critical proposal deadlines. Let’s look at one recent instance of this, and how to avoid allowing this to ever happen to you.
In a darkly amusing ruling recently, the GAO made it clear just how inflexible FAR rules are when it comes to submissions being received by the deadline. The short version is that the Western Star Hospital Authority waited until the last moment to electronically submit their contract proposal, less than an hour before the 4 PM deadline for receipt. However, due to some electronic variance, the emails containing their proposal were not received until roughly two hours later – after the deadline. So their bid was discarded without consideration.
You probably see where this is going. Western Star lodged a protest with the typical “It’s not our fault the email servers messed up” argument, but the GAO wasn’t having it. Proposals had to be received by 4 PM, and this wasn’t. Protest denied.
It also didn’t help that the agency receiving the submission had their IT backtrack all the logs to verify the emails did not enter government systems until after the deadline. Therefore, whatever caused the delay, it occurred in the private networks outside government control. While this probably would not have made a difference to the ruling, it did ensure Western Star had no leg to stand on.
The moral of the story is obvious, but to spell it out:
As we teach in our government sales training courses, government proposals aren’t like papers in college. The regulations are usually inflexible, and you will not get points for effort. It is inestimably foolish to wait until the literal final hour, as Western Star did.
Further, there is a specific reason you would want to submit at least one day early. One of the only exceptions to the “late is late” rule comes from FAR 15.208(a)(1), which states that a “late” proposal can still be considered timely if it’s submitted via authorized channels and is received within the government’s network before 5PM on the day prior to the deadline.
If you’re 24+ hours ahead of schedule and have the bad luck to see your proposal lost in the government’s network after that, you’re covered. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.