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.
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.
Knowing who has the cards and playing the contracting game the way the government wants it played can more than offset the government’s inherent power.
You can offset the government’s edge by:
- Understanding that they are under a spotlight by the public, the press, and even the Congress who gave them all the power. They do not like using their power publicly.
- Yet if you make the waves on paper they will slap you down in a number of ways, i.e., putting an informal line thru your name, denying a protest, taking you to court, etc.
- If you embarrass them by cheating they will put you in jail
- Understanding that intense scrutiny causes buyers to be exceptionally risk averse. Heads do roll when contracts mess up publicly. (e.g., Obamacare web site)
Insiders (companies with contracts):
- Play by the rules and help buyers justify contract awards and performance ratings on paper.
- Stay out of trouble by performing at a B level or better.
It’s a paper game with the paper showing that (1) awards were made in the best interest of the taxpayer and (2) contract performance was adequate. (What the paper says may not reflect reality.)
Don’t cross them by protesting or making waves.
They want you to play the game by their rules and if you don’t watch out.
In short, by playing their game and being a stellar business partner, i.e., these people know what I need and help me in any way they can.
Unfortunately, you can’t learn to play the game without a contract.
Proposals requirements for an OASIS award include 6 volumes of red tape, experience, references, certifications, and prices. No technical approach or management plan is required.
No original writing is required; just insertion of company information in many, many forms and formats. As a result, a model proposal is comprised of formats, forms, and instructions.
Most importantly, a model approach ensures compliance across 6 complex volumes, and keeps the proposal from being thrown out due to a technicality.
For more information go to:
Fedmarket predicts that federal contracting officers will use the OASIS Unrestricted and OASIS Small Business Government-wide acquisition contracts extensively for the following reasons.
Contracting officers are using multiple award contracts (MACS) extensively because they eliminate the staff heavy requirements and excess lead times of single source public bids.
A government-wide MAC has never before been available that allows:
- A wide scope of almost any professional service
- Task orders of any contract type including fixed price, time & material and cost reimbursement contracts
For more information go to
“Capture Planning” in the federal market usually involves opportunity identification, plan of how to “capture” the opportunity, and write the proposal in response to the solicitation.
Some federal contracting companies are finding that the capture planning process is not as effective as hoped. Most, often the company lacks a company-to-customer sales process.
Selling is hard. Most technical staff members and subject matter specialists are good at performing contract tasks. But few are good at selling a customer and at the same time appearing like they are not selling, but solving the customer’s problem.
The second reason for the consolation step is the lack of an effective proposal writing capability. A winning proposal documents the solution that you have already sold the customer. You must sell it first and write the solution in a clear concise, and convincing manner. These two critical elements are often missing in a capture planning process.
Learn more about capture planning and the federal sales process at http://www.fedmarket.com/contractors/Sell-It-Then-Worry-About-Capturing-It
Or call me directly, I’m happy to answer your basic federal contracting questions.
301 908 0546 (cell)