The five C’s required to write a winning proposal are: customer knowledge, creativity, compliance, clarity and conciseness. All five C’s are needed to maximize proposal evaluation scores.
Newcomers to the federal market underestimate the importance of the five C’s and typically think that slapping together a quick proposal is enough. Proposal evaluators love quick and dirty proposals because they can reject them within minutes and cut down on the work of proposal evaluation; they can get on with evaluating the others in the huge pile of responses. Evaluators hope that many proposals in the pile will lack the five C’s.
Customer Knowledge: The federal buyer must know you and what you can do to solve their problem. You probably should not waste valuable resources writing a proposal without customer knowledge beyond the Request for Proposal (RFP). Advanced sales and customer contact provides (1) the federal buyer with the comfort of reduced risk in selecting you for an award, and (2) you learn what the buyer really wants in order to create a tailored and creative solution to the buyer’s problem (the most critical part of the proposal).
This is what the insiders do (companies with direct federal contracts). They live with the customer and can’t help but understand their needs.
Compliance: Complete compliance with every requirement of the RFP is a necessity because any compliance flaw in your proposal can cause an immediate proposal rejection. Any missed compliance requirement, however small, can relegate you to the reject pile.
Creativity: Once you know the customer, you must creatively present your solution to their problem. A creative technical approach seals the deal. A winning technical approach emanates from (1) customer knowledge and (2) a highly structured proposal writing system. A structured system can take various forms, but the essential element is that the system should produce a detailed proposal outline containing legacy content and instructions before any writing begins.
Most technical writers (the people on the firing line) need structure and guidance to write a clear and concise technical content. Without a system, chaos usually results, particularly if there are several technical writers involved.
Clarity and Conciseness: Your English teachers probably taught you that clear and concise writing begins with a tight outline (organization structure). Government proposal evaluators do not like evaluating lengthy tomes and demand clarity and conciseness. Your proposal evaluation scores will suffer without it. A structured proposal writing system enhances clarity and conciseness.
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.