When writing government proposals, whether for a competitive solicitation or a GSA Schedule, your company will almost always need to provide past performance references as a way of allowing the issuing agency to hear how well you performed under a previous contract with another client.

Think of past performance as a way to write your company’s resume for the government. When writing a resume, you want the information you provide to be, above all else, recent and relevant to the opportunity and solicitation requirements.

Before putting together past performance, it is helpful to make a past performance Excel spreadsheet. In each column, write a task outlined in the RFP’s SOW. Make extra columns to list other factors such as whether or not the contract was with the same agency that issued the RFP and whether or not you received any awards or recognition.

Then make a row for each of your previous contracts. Check off the boxes that correspond to columns showing tasks that are the same as, or comparable to, ones performed under the contract in that row. This exercise will help you visualize which past performances best fit the work required by the RFP.

In order to choose which references to cite, identify which past performance references from your Excel spreadsheet best represent the following ranking of the most important aspects of past performance:

  1. Your company has experience performing all or most of the tasks cited in the Statement of Work
  2. Your previous contracts were performed in a size and revenue scope similar to that outlined in the RFP
  3. If possible, you have had previous contracts with that agency or another agency of similar mission and size

Most importantly, even if you have identified many excellent potential references, your proposal must still be compliant-meaning you must not go over the number of past performances allotted in the RFP.

Last but not least, once you have selected your past performance references, call the points of contact to make sure the telephone number, e-mail address, and fax number you have for them is correct. Give these previous clients a heads up that you’ve listed them as references and provide them with a short synopsis of the contract you’re bidding on. You want them to be able to speak as intelligently about you as possible.

Remember: writing past performance is like writing a resume for the government-you always want to put your best foot forward.