Federal Capture | How to Understand the Background on Opportunities

linkedin live sales Mar 30, 2022

In this series of free trainings, Neil McDonnell focuses on the 'HOW' and not just the 'WHAT' – actionable steps that help business owners build relationships and grow their federal contracting revenue. 

In today's LinkedIn "live", Neil McDonnell provided guidance for small business on how to learn about the background of any federal contracting opportunity. 

Understanding the background of an opportunity will help influence bid/no bid decisions.

When you research the background, you may discover opportunities to nudge the buyer's acquisition strategy on an opportunity to your advantage.

 'BACKGROUND' reveals the journey of each opportunity  

  • Why is the government moving the opportunity forward now?
  • How have they procured these services in the past?
  • This is different than Challenges and Objectives. Neil will address those separately in the next few days.


Federal Sales Business development  involves building relationships with federal agencies and identifying opportunities. 

* Attend one of our live webinars to learn more about starting and building relationships

Federal Sales Capture focuses on a specific opportunity. 

What is the difference between opportunity background research and PWS background?  

In the opportunity's performance work statement (PWS), the Background Section relates to the buyer, task, scope or environment, for example.

You want the background the opportunity itself, all the details outside the PWS


  • These tools should all be familiar to you, but let's review what you want to be looking for background research.

SAM.gov – (https://sam.gov/) This is the obvious place to start your research on upcoming opportunities. This is where you can find pre-solicitation notices etc,  But let's dig deeper.

Here you can find detailed information about previous awarded opportunities to analyze against the current opportunity.  Download everything into a research folder, including all the attachments. 

Here are some examples of available documents in SAM.gov –

  1. Original RFI
    • This is the beginning of the process in the previous acquisition life cycle
    • How long was the period between the RFI and the RFP?
      • Was it consolidated or extended?
      • How much time you have to prepare?
  2. Industry Day Notices
    • How does the scope from previous opportunity compare to the current opportunity?
    • Are there any significant changes?
    • Are they going in a different direction?
    • Is there an organization chart? 
    • What was the timeline of the procurement lifecycle?
    • Who attended the event? Are there potential competitors or teammates? 
  3. Draft Solicitations
    • What draft documents were released between the initial RFI and the RFP?
  4. Final Award (previous opportunities)
    • Who won? 
    • What were the important dates?
    • Don't depend on GovWin's dates (ie Wikipedia).  Use the official dates.

FPDS.gov – the Federal Procurement Data System –https://www.fpds.gov  

The next obvious place to start your research on upcoming opportunities. But let's dig deeper for details that will give you important insights.

  1. Offers  
    • How many  were received from competitors?
    • Why so few? Was it wired? Too many?
  2. Contract Vehicle –
    • Was it awarded on Oasis? GSA? Seaport? 
    • Did the vehicle change between RFI and Award phase?
  3. NAICS / PCS :
    • Did the codes change during the process?
    • You can use this information to start dialog with contracting officers​
  4. Were any Set-Asides used? 
  5. Interested Venders:
    • Can find other similar firms that you might reach out to for teaming partners?
    • Would they be willing to share their experience on this past opportunity ?

USA Spending– The official open data source of federal spending information –https://www.usaspending.gov

The 3rd recommended place to start your research on upcoming opportunities. 

  1. Value
    • Compare potential award to current
    • Was it accurate? Is it nearing completion?​
  2. Task Orders
    • if this is a vehicle, how many TOs were awarded?
    • Is one company winning more than any other? Why?
  3. Agency Details
    • is this different from the current awarding and funding agencies?
  4. Incumbent Details
    • Was there an socio-economic status?
    • Small business? Full and open ?
    • Has the awardee status changed?

GovTribe– https://govtribe.com/

Yet another way to research the people and companies who are winning federal contracts. Identify competitors and find teaming partners for a specific bid opportunity, or for a market segment.


Watch related Neil's LinkedIn live video


  Watch the full Neil LinkedIn Live GovCon Sales Training Series on our YouTube playlist

REMINDER: Click the bell icon on Neil's LinkedIn profile to be notified about upcoming strategic sales training



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