Proposal Writing for Novices

Your boss has just assigned you the job of writing federal proposals. The company is new to the federal market, has lost several proposals, and no one wants the job. You like to write but are a bit apprehensive about entering this strange new world. Your boss sends you a federal Request for Proposal (RFP) and says: “This one is made for us. Let’s go with it.” You try to read the RFP, and your mild apprehension increases to a level of fear. You read the RFP again, and the fear elevates to panic. Where do I start? Maybe Google can help.

You luckily found this White Paper in the sea of proposal writing advice, books, and assist products.

An inexperienced proposal writer’s greatest fears should be:

  1. Missing a one-sentence requirement buried in the RFP and being rejected for missing the requirement.
  2. Being blamed for a loss resulting from your company’s lack of experience, personnel, or technical capability; all of which have nothing to do with your work in developing the proposal.

Federal proposal writing is inherently messy and fraught with difficulties. Proposal preparation instructions in Requests for Proposal (RFPs) are not standardized. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) define 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 for the writer and, more importantly, for the federal evaluator. The content and structure of the compliance matrix should dictate the proposal organization structure. The matrix forces you to write exactly what evaluators want to score and gives them a roadmap to where they can find what they asked for in the RFP. Evaluators can’t score extra information beyond what is requested in the RFP so the “world class puffery” and extra content designed to make your company look big and powerful can actually reduce your evaluation score.

Fedmarket’s Recipe for Writing a Compliant Federal Proposal is different than any other available proposal writing products. The Recipe teaches inexperienced writers how to write a compliant federal proposal using a “clean” RFP. Inexperienced proposal writers should repeat the clean RFP procedure as many times as necessary to understand the basics of filtering an RFP to produce a compliance matrix.

Part 2 of 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:

  1. Untangles an RFP into a compliance matrix and then uses the matrix to set up the proposal volumes to meet the government requirements.
  2. Supplies pre-written materials and guides writers on how to provide compliant technical materials to complete the proposal.
  3. 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 the technical content in the draft proposal.

In summary, 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. Applying the Recipe to writing a federal proposal may, at first, seem difficult for inexperienced writers, but the Recipe is a training tool which will reduce your RFP learning curve. And, most importantly, the Recipe makes it possible for an inexperienced writer to write a compliant proposal.

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