Tag Archive for federal proposal writing

Proposal Management – Organize to Win!


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.

Management Involvement

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.

Losses Demoralize

Loses are demoralizing; “I worked all weekend and we lost”. The key to minimizing demoralizing loses is to bid wisely.


Proposal Writing Strategies and Mistakes

Don’t just parrot back the RFP requirements. You should rephrase the requirements and add insights that demonstrate an understanding of what you are proposing to do. Why are we doing it this way? What are the benefits of our approach? Why does it reduce costs and minimize the risk of failure?

Develop, name, and store model text, so you can retrieve and reuse what you have written from previous proposals. Model text is particularly effective for management plans but it can also work for repeatable technical approach content. Don’t reinvent the wheel in each proposal- you want to have a system where proposal writers know what model text is available. Always tailor model text to the RFP requirements. Evaluators can spot untailored model text from a mile away.

Don’t use broad, unsubstantiated claims like “Collectively our company has 100 person-years of experience . . .” or “Our company is a world class . . .” You will make the government evaluators guffaw and they’ll end up subtracting evaluation points. Be subtle and if you are going to boast back it up with evidence. Summaries, the evaluators want three of your best. If the RFP asks you to submit a key person’s resume only, that is what the evaluators want.

Pack the proposal with an understanding of the customer’s needs and with compelling solutions. Write to the evaluation criteria and put the emphasis on sections that count the most. Consider not bidding if you can’t provide point-scoring content that’s clearly based on the customer’s needs. There is nothing wrong with abandoning a proposal in the early stages of writing. Be brutal and get out early if it appears that you cannot score evaluation points.

What it boils down to is this: make it easy on the evaluator. Keep it concise and to the point. Don’t give them more than they asked for in the RFP. Cut out the puffery. Show the customer you understand their problem and present a practical, risk-free solution laden with insights and benefits.