Formal “color coded” proposal reviews are frequently overdone and can have a negative an impact on profits. Too often people are taken on billable time and they have nothing to contribute.
Involve just the key people (writers and project people) when the proposal manager and chief technical person sees the need for a review of the draft proposal. Send each person the draft proposal and request that they add content and edit content in the draft proposal itself and do not use track changes. Send the changed draft proposal to the proposal manager before the review meeting. The proposal manager should color code all suggested changes in a draft proposal before the meeting use the new draft as the basis for the meeting. Consider dis-inviting any prospective attendees that do not have time to make comments in the draft proposal.
Evaluate proposals from the government’s perspective and answer theses questions:
- Have you redounded to Section L with insights and creativity?
- Is all of your content in sections that will earn evaluation points?
- Have you broken up the key points in the Executive Summary into sections that earn points.
- Have you made unsubstantiated sales points and claims?
- Have you made it easy for the evaluators?
- Can you reduce your price?
Finish all of your proposal reviews several days before the due date.
An RFP amendment can throw a proposal out of compliance with a couple of words. Track amendments and filter the words like they were the RFP itself. And then update the proposal outline for any requirement changes. The consequences of missed requirement changes in an amendment can be financially disastrous and demoralizing.
Organize to Win
The evaluators tell you how they want the proposal to be organized in Section L of the RFP; that’s the way they want it. Don’t dream up your own organization structure because you think it’s better. Your better organization structure can be the kiss of death.
Don’t Write to the Statement of Work
Writers new to proposal writing often think they have to write technical approaches to tell evaluators how you are going to meet all of the work requirements. This is impossible if the statement of work is 200 pages and the page limit for the Technical Approach is 20 pages.
Proposal writing projects invariably turn into a crisis. Involve top management in an effort to minimize the crisis.
Management typically assigns the project and then goes into hiding; except for the final review on the last day before submission. Management must stay involved in the proposal scheduling and review process and make a focused effort to support proposal managers.
In particular, management needs to make sure the proposal manager is getting the required support from technical writers. Most technical writers hate writing proposals will avoid proposals like the plague. Again, management must stay involved and make sure that technical people know the importance of proposals, acknowledge their efforts, and if possible provide monetary incentives for wins.
Loses are demoralizing; “I worked all weekend and we lost”. The key to minimizing demoralizing loses is to bid wisely.
Use an Executive Summary as a tool for win theme development. Write the Executive Summary first using customer insights, your experience with similar work, and contract performance and management insights. Then refine and rewrite it as the proposal progresses.
Again, start the Executive Summary on Day 1 of the proposal project. Many of Fedmarket’s customers say; “we can’t do this.” But you can; it depends on who is writing it; ideally a project person, a unit manager, someone who knows the technology required or the customer. And if you can’t then maybe take a pass on the opportunity.
Break the Executive Summary up, when you think its complete insert all of its content in scored Section L responses if an Executive Summary is not asked for in the RFP (has no evaluation points assigned to it). Move:
- Technical content into the technical approach
- Experience points into the experience volume
- Personnel points into the personnel volume
- Management points into the management volume
You may have to change the context a bit to make it fit each win theme in the right place.
Try it, it works.
Evaluators tell you what they want in the RFP. That’s all they want.
They want a practical, low cost solution as reflected in the RFP technical proposal requirements. More sophisticated solutions are not wanted and may in fact result in a reduced technical score.
They don’t want more than they requested in Section L including:
- Sales pitch about how great you company is.
- More corporate experience summaries and resumes than they asked for.
- Management plan information beyond what they requested in the RFP.
- Fancy formatting and graphics.
- They want you to make their job easy and save them time
Evaluators also want clarity and conciseness to make their job easier. Government proposal evaluators do not like evaluating lengthy tomes and demand clarity and conciseness.
- Use simple declarative sentences and short paragraphs.
- Explain how your organization will meet each and every requirement in a clear, concise manner.
- Describe why your organization is unique, but only when you can be convincing and the uniqueness stands up to scrutiny.
- Use appendices for detailed material.
- Use simple, easy–to-understand language.
- Avoid long-winded sentences. Use simple, declarative sentences. Keep paragraphs concise and short.
- Avoid subjective adjectives that sound boastful.
Avoid letting your CEO throw in self-serving sales pitches without backup and clear evidence relevant to the requirements. An example of this: “ABC Co is a World Class or Best of Breed Company.” Proposal evaluators laugh at such statements; they are the polar opposite of clarity and conciseness. Avoid the “You have got to be kidding pile” – the trash pile – for proposals that start with such language as: “Our firm is a world-class, best-of-breed company that is eminently qualified to serve your organization.”
Complete compliance with every requirement of the RFP is a necessity because any compliance flaw in your proposal can cause an immediate proposal rejection. This makes their job a lot easier if they have 20 plus proposals to review by tomorrow at its already after 11 pm.
Most evaluators want to make the trash pile large and the “read completely” pile as small as possible. The evaluator typically will read just as much as necessary to put a proposal in one of the two piles.
Don’t end up in the wrong pile!
Proposal writing is the Achilles heel of federal proposal writing. Most companies wish there was an easier way and evaluators dream of it going away altogether. The recent trend of “project experience based” Multiple Award Contracts (MACs) is a start on an easier way but are far from the solution. Proving project experience through contract documents and corresponding performance evaluations can complicate RFPs even further than a traditional RFP. But they do solve the technical writing requirements that plague many small businesses.
The art of proposal writing consists of providing a compelling solution that addresses all of the requirements specified in the RFP. And then avoiding the trash pile by being completely compliant with every requirement in the RFP. Don’t try to think for the customer. Give the customer everything asked for in the RFP, down to the minutest of detail. Write to each and every solicitation requirement, even if it appears to be meaningless on the surface. Evaluators love to eliminate proposals to save time and effort or, sometimes, to help their favorite organization,” and not addressing all of the specified requirements can deem a proposal destine for the trash pile.
Give evaluators precisely what they asked for in the simplest, clearest and most compelling way.
OK. Let’s Write! Your boss has tried hard to establish relationships without much luck. And he finally says let’s go for this one because we will perish if we don’t get a contract soon. Ideally, he saw something that could cause your company to stand out from the pack of proposals received by the government.
Writing a Complaint Proposal
A compliant proposal is one that meets every requirement in the RFP and provides evaluators with precisely what they asked for in the RFP. No frills, no extras, no sales puffery.
Your proposal must be compliant to win, but even compliant proposals often lose because they are not good proposals.
Writing a Good Proposal
A good proposal is a compliant proposal that provides all of the information requested in the RFP; namely:
- A solid technical approach and management plan
- Pertinent experience summaries
- Responsive resumes
- A good price
Good proposals sometimes win but not always.
Writing a Winning Proposal
Winning proposals can come out on top based on superior content.
- The technical approach differentiates itself from the pack by innovation, creativity, great writing, etc.
- A management approach that show how you will minimize the government’s risk.
- Highly tailored and responsive resumes.
- Highly tailored and pertinent experience summaries.
- A competitive price.
A proposal may have one or more or all of the above content but still lose for any number of unpredictable reasons.
- Someone doesn’t like you.
- They wanted someone else.
- They wanted the incumbent back to minimize risk even though their performance was a B.
- The winner low balled the price and the government was so cheap that they let them get away with it.
- Your benefactor switched jobs.
- Or ………….
The government has all the cards and they win the game for many reasons.
An effective proposal system must have procedures for the following three major steps.
Step 1 – Filtering (deconstructing, reverse engineering) an RFP. Filtering has to be performed by an experienced proposal writer because proposal requirements can be buried almost anywhere in a hundred page plus RFP. Miss a requirement and its all over but the shouting and gnashing of the teeth.
Step 2 – Use the results of filtering to produce a compliance matrix and an outline based on the compliance matrix. The filter will extract precisely what the evaluators want to read in the proposal and what volumes or chapters required, sections/subsections in a required volume, and the evaluation scores associated with each section/subsection. Using the compliance matrix to produce a proposal outline results in proposal that provides exactly what the evaluators want to read; nothing more, nothing less. When the evaluator starts to read a compliance matrix driven proposal they say: “these people know what they are doing. Maybe I better read on.”
Step 3 – Add to the outline:
- Instructions for writers
- Color coded RFP requirements and evaluation criteria to guide the writers
- Any technical and/or management content from a proposal library of old proposals.
Most small businesses don’t have a proposal library. Start now and build on containing legacy content, up-to-date resumes, and up-to-date experience summaries. An up-to-date library can cut proposal writing costs in half.
The result of using a proposal system is a 100% compliant proposal containing what the evaluators asked for in the RFP.
Form Your Joint Venture Now for Alliant 2 GWAC; the Largest Federal IT Contract of the Next 10 Years
The Final RFP for GSA’s Alliant 2 GWAC will be released in the next several months.
The Alliant 2 contract is projected to be a huge federal IT services contracts; the Large Business RFP has a $50 billion ceiling while Small Business has a $15 billion ceiling, both over 10 years.
In the draft RFP GSA is telling companies that pricing is an important consideration only at the task order level. Experience will be the primary factor is winning.
The 60 large companies with the highest scores will be selected for Alliant 2 Large Business. The top 80 small business scorers will be selected for Alliant 2 Small Business. Companies can expect billions of dollars of task orders from all agencies. Winning an Alliant 2 award is crucial to a small business success in the IT market.
The $1 million-dollar project experience size requirements for small businesses will force many small businesses to form Joint Ventures. Joint Ventures are complicated legally so start now if you can’t meet the project experience size requirements.
Get a head start on your proposal for a complicated RFP and save days of proposal writing time by using Fedmarket’s Alliant 2 Model Proposals and Full Proposal Writing Services. Call 888 661 4094, Ext. 2 for more information.
Federal proposal writing cannot be automated for one simple reason: the proposal preparation instructions in Requests for Proposal (RFPs) are not standardized. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) defines the basic content of RFPs, but broad section definitions are not enough. To compound the problem, a significant percentage of RFPs do not even follow the section standards specified in FAR. And even worse, proposal instructions can be scattered throughout an RFP, and if you miss a one-sentence requirement, your proposal can be rejected.
All proposals should start with a compliance matrix to make proposal evaluation easier and more efficient. The content and structure of the compliance matrix should dictate the proposal organization structure. Accordingly, a standard RFP template with a standard compliance matrix would clean up the scattered RFP mess and make proposal writing easier and much cheaper for bidders. It would also make proposal evaluation easier and less costly for the government.
Don’t lie awake waiting for a standard RFP template. The irrationality of the federal bureaucracy is legendary. Even the Department of Defense doesn’t follow standards for posting a bidding opportunity at FBO.gov.
Commercial proposal products currently available are all over the map including:
- Database products assisting in organizing and accessing proposal content
- Proposal scheduling and management products
- Products featuring proposal writer collaboration
- Products telling you how to write win themes and selling points
- Products that tell you how to organize a proposal
- Products that claim to automate the proposal writing process (dream products).
All of these products provide some value but are not the answer to the “make it easy” dream. Proposal writing is not easy and never will be. A winning proposal has to be written by experienced proposal writers.
Fedmarket’s “Recipe for Writing a Compliant Federal Proposal” is different than any other available products. The Recipe teaches inexperienced writers how to write a compliant federal proposal using a “clean” RFP. Then the Recipe provides writers with detailed procedures for filtering messy RFPs (the norm) and using the resulting compliance matrix to produce a draft proposal ready for technical input.
Procedurally, the Recipe:
- Untangles an RFP into a compliance matrix and then uses the matrix to set up the proposal volumes to meet the government requirements.
- The Recipe then supplies pre-written materials and guides writers on how to provide compliant technical materials to complete the proposal.
- The Recipe does not provide required technical content in response to a Statement of Work but sets the organization for the technical response (if there is a technical response requirement in the RFP) and provides instructions on where and how to insert technical content in the draft proposal.
In summary, the Recipe is the closest an application can come to automating federal proposal writing. Applying the Recipe to writing a federal proposal is difficult for inexperienced writers, but the Recipe provides a training tool that reduces the learning curve. And, most importantly, the Recipe makes it possible for an inexperienced writer to write a compliant proposal if time is spent using the training tool.
Unfortunately, the dream product that writes technical content for you doesn’t exist. The Recipe gets as close to a complete draft proposal as possible in the unpredictable and messy world of federal contracting.
Read about Fedmarket’s Recipe for Writing a Compliant Federal Proposal at http://www.fedmarket.com/l/proposals/proposal_tools/recipe_for_writing_a_compliant_federal_proposal_/
Questions about proposal writing? Call Richard White at (301) 960 – 5813.
They don’t really want new contractors and there is too much competition.
They want to know who they are doing business with and have confidence that they will perform and know how to play the paperwork game.
So how do they accomplish this without taking sales calls?
- By getting referrals to buyers from other federal buyers.
- Asking their colleagues who they are contracting with.
- Taking calls from prime contractors (the ultimate insiders) and favoring them in many ways.
None of these things happen without having contracts or relationships with buyers.
Contracts beget more contracts.