Can you make money from government RFPs?

In short, yes, there is business to be found in this arena. Here's how.

By Kora Cameron, NAA Content Developer

Because of the nature of the industry, auction professionals usually look for multiple sources of revenue to bring in consistent money.

NAA member Chris Vaughan, CAI, AARE, AMM, says one good, stable revenue source can be government requests for proposals, and he offers advice from his own experiences on finding business through government RFPs.

A government RFP is a request for private companies to submit business proposals when a government agency is in need of a certain product or service, according to

Auction professionals can find opportunities in this when government agencies request proposals for the selling of both tangible and intangible assets – tangible assets, meaning government surplus (vehicles, computers, office equipment extra materials and government-owned real estate, etc.) and intangible assets meaning the selling of leases (oil drilling, mineral extraction) and wave spectrum (television, radio, cellular).

Getting started

The first step to success begins before the RFP is issued. Vaughan recommends getting to know the public officials you could be working with ahead of time.

“Be proactive. Get to know the procurement people the staff people so that they know you before the RFPs go out.,” Vaughan says. “When the proposals go in, the procurement people look first and qualify them, but the review of the proposals is done by the staff people who you would actually going to be working for.”

Vaughan gives three suggestions for effectively acquainting yourself with public officials:
  1. Ask them about their future needs concerning surplus property. Some jurisdictions may or may not have a need for your specific practice as an auction professional.
  2. Leave company brochures, collateral materials and business cards at their office.
  3. Offer to help write their RFPs. Vaughan says to keep in mind that some agencies will allow you to do this, which will give you an advantage, but others will pay you for your help and disqualify you from bidding on the contract.

How to find government business

Auction professionals can find opportunities for business in each level of the government – federal, state and local.

Federal government
Agencies which employ RFPs include the Treasury, Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior HUD, GSA and BLM.
  • RFPs can be found at
  • If you want to do business with the federal government, you must register as a vendor under the system for award management.
State government
Agencies which employ RFPs include the state version of GSA, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation and land trust agencies.
  • RFPs can be requested through the state version of GSA, state procurement or purchasing division.
  • Register your company as a vendor with the state and include in your registration which categories of business you participate in by selecting the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing codes that apply to you. Once you complete registration, the agency will contact you about contracts you may be interested in.
Local government
  • Agencies which employ RFPs include housing authorities, redevelopment authorities, school districts and state colleges or universities.
  • RFPs can be found through the purchasing or procurement department.

I found a good RFP. What do I do now?

Once you find an RFP you are interested in, it’s time to begin the process of putting the proposal together. Vaughan says this process takes some time, attention and resources, but the work can pay off if done well.
  1. Read the RFP
  2. Download and read the RFP and all included attachments. The contents of the RFP are your key to completing the RFP correctly, so take time to note the specifics of the request.
  3. Follow instructions
  4. Each agency requires different conditions for proposals. Paying attention to the details can make or break your chance for success.
  5. Heed the deadlines
  6. An RFP may include more than one deadline for different elements of the process, and the deadlines are strict. Don’t procrastinate and do give yourself (and the mailing system) extra time.
  7. Ask questions
  8. Questions about the RFP must be submitted to the appropriate person in writing before the question deadline. In your questions, cite the specific page, section and paragraph in reference. This makes it easy for the staff person to understand your question.

Once all questions have been collected, the agency will provide the answers to the questions in an addendum prior to the proposal’s deadline. Use the answers to make changes to your proposal and ask for clarification if you need it.

RFPs can be another great supplemental source of income for Auctioneers of varying communities of practice. All it takes is some dedication, attention to detail and patience.

This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2018 NAA International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips regarding this topic? NAA members can access the full audio of this presentation and many others in the NAA Education Portal.