Tag Archive for federal proposal

The Difference between a Compliant Proposal and a Winning Proposal

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.

Winning Proposals Are Based on L and M and Are Easy to Read

Federal RFPs are supposed to show Proposal Writing Instruction in Section L and Proposal Evaluation Criteria in Section M of an RFP. Many do and some don’t. Proposal instructions and requirements can sneak into other parts of an RFP even in RFPs that follow the Federal Section L & M Standards. That’s why filtering the RFP is so critically important.

Proposal evaluators want:

  • Just what they asked for in Section L. Other content that you chose to write beyond the requirements in Section L will not be evaluated
  • Succinctness, clarity, easy to read text, with no frills. Write at a high school level.
  • Quick ways to get through proposals; less is better, clear tables of content, compliance matrices.
  • 100% compliance, any less will result in a rejection.

Evaluators hate:

  • Sales puffery like: ABC Co is a world class service firm with collective experience exceeding 100 person years. Tone down your CEO’s sales pitches. Limit graphics that say nothing, company logos, and fanciness in general. Do not try to impress except in the compelling content you write in response to Section L.
  • Evaluators typically say: “the sales pitch and formatting beauty is clearly done to avoid telling me the low risk solution in simple terms”.

Do not develop your own proposal organization structure because you think that’s its better than the structure shown in Section L.

It can be the kiss of death.

Proposal Writing for Small Businesses

Learn about the proposal game, the importance of proposal writing experience, and how to write winners by reading Fedmarket’s 10-part installment series on federal proposal writing.

Writing Compliant Proposals: The Way for Small Businesses to Grow in the Federal Market

A majority of small service companies seeking federal contracts lack proposal writing capability.  Proposal writing capability is a necessity for small service contractors because RFPs and RFQs (1) require relatively complex proposals and (2) are usually poorly written and hide the compliance requirements. Small businesses usually do not have the experienced proposal writing personnel to write clear, concise, and compliant proposals.

Fedmarket is offering a complimentary 10-installment primer on Proposal Writing for Small Businesses. The series is comprised of the following installments, watch your email weekly to read the latest installment.

As the titles suggest, the 10-installments in the series tell readers why proposal writing is so crucial to growing a small business.

  1. Non-compliance Is the Way Proposal Evaluators Survive
  2. Overview of an Effective Proposal System
  3. Winning Proposals Are Based on L & M and Are Easy to Read
  4. The Difference between a Compliant Proposal and a Winning Proposal
  5. Proposal Writing Strategies and Mistakes
  6. Win Theme Development
  7. What Evaluators Want in Your Proposal
  8. Proposal Management Considerations
  9. Conducting Proposal Reviews
  10. Conclusion: Compelling and Compliant Wins

1. Non-compliance Is the Way Proposal Evaluators Survive

A typical RFP/RFQ in the federal market will receive 5 – 50 responses; sometimes even more. Evaluators have full-time day jobs and have difficulty wading through the responses; typically, after their child’s soccer game. The first pass through the pile of responses is usually “whoops you missed the page count, we asked for a single key person resume and I don’t see one., etc.; that’s it for you.” Seven more to go and its already midnight. My evaluation scores are due tomorrow; there has to be a better way.

The federal contracting press delights in the stories of a $50 million-dollar contract lost because the proposal exceed the page count requirement in the RFP. Guarding against non-compliance requires an experienced proposal writer supported by an effective proposal system. Non-compliance is the biggest reason why proposals are rejected.

The three critical elements of an effective proposal system from a compliance perspective are:

  1. Carefully filter the RFP for proposal requirements.
  2. Complete a Compliance Matrix based on the results of the filtering process.
  3. Use the Compliance Matrix to develop a draft proposal.

Fedmarket can write proposals for you and assist you in improving your in-house proposal writing capabilities for the 2017 season.  We will provide you with a fixed price quote to write a proposal for you. Send RFP link or the RFP document to sgluck@thefederalmarketplace.com.

We write proposals on a fixed price basis for:

  • Companies with limited proposal writing capabilities
  • Proposal organizations that are overloaded with RFP responses
  • Companies responding to GWACs and IDIQs; using a model proposal coupled with services for building the model into a compliant proposal.

We use the proposal systems and procedures described in this series of installment to write proposals for companies. Many of our customers have us write the first proposal and then use the results to write subsequent proposals.

Fedmarket can also provide you with proposal tools and templates to ease the pain and complexities of completing a compliant federal proposal:

Questions? Call us at 888 661 4094, Ext. 2.

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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.

Proposal Writing Tips

Federal proposal writing is misunderstood, frustrating, expensive, and demoralizing. You must have an experienced federal proposal writer (commercial experience doesn’t count), hire someone with experience, or use an outside service.

Most federal insiders consider proposal writing the Achilles heel of the business but know how to play the game and keep their proposal costs within reason.

Secret 1 for newcomers: Don’t write proposals for customers to whom you haven’t sold, or at a minimum, who at least know who you are. Bidding opportunities galore may appear wide-open to all, but invariably they have already been pre-sold by one or more companies well before the opportunity becomes publicly announced.

Secret 2: Some federal contracting officials may imply to newcomers that pre-selling is “naughty” when in fact it is encouraged by federal regulation. How could they buy things without knowing what they are buying? Do you buy software without knowing what you are buying and its value way before you spend the money?

Secret 3: Requests for Proposal (RFPs) are made purposely complex to justify contract awards to aggrieved losers, federal auditors, or the public and press, if they ask.

Essential Elements Federal Proposal Writing

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.

OASIS: Small Businesses Can Still Make an Offer

OASIS FBO Notice of October 7The OASIS Program Office fully intends to establish the proposal due dates 10-14 calendar days from the date that the Government shutdown is resolved. While we foresee no changes to this plan, if there are any changes, the OASIS Program Office will update Offerors here on FedBizOpps.

Most people are predicting that the shutdown will end mid next week which would make the OASIS due date around November 1.

Companies that are primarily information technology (IT) service companies may qualify for OASIS if they have:

  1. Two (2) professional service that carry NAICS Codes that are not IT codes.
  2. Minimum of three (3) and up to five (5) primary projects (contracts), each as a prime contractor, and the combined annual value of all primary projects must be equal to or greater than $750,000. And no individual project can be less than $150,000 per year.

By qualifying for OASIS, IT companies have the opportunity to expand their capabilities into other professional service disciplines like management consulting, engineering, and finance. Everyone needs broader capabilities in the current federal market

Our OASIS Model Proposal Template saves companies 4 – 6 billable days of proposal writing time and gives you a head start if the proposal writing deadline is tight.

Read more about Fedmarket’s OASIS Model Proposal and call us to view the template.

Fedmarket also offers full-service proposal writing services for OASIS, call 888 661 4094, Ext. 2 for more information.

OASIS Due Date Extended Indefinitely

On 10/3 GSA issued an Amendment to both the Small and Large Business OASIS Solicitations at FBO.gov. Fedmarket published the OASIS solicitation links on our home page. As indicated in the Amendment the new offer due date is unknown and will be published as an amendment at FBO.gov.

In consideration of the Government shutdown and the associated potential impact on the OASIS proposal preparation process, the proposal due date of this solicitation is hereby suspended indefinitely. A definitive proposal due date will be established once the Government shutdown situation is resolved. Offerors are instructed to NOT submit proposals until further instruction. No other changes.

The updated OASIS Quick Reference Guide at Fedmarket.com shows the core qualifications required by GSA for an award. The primary stumbling blocks that most companies are encountering are:

Contract documents for 3 to 5 primary projects meeting the qualifications requirements in the Quick Reference Guide must be submitted to prove the required attributes of the projects. A contact documents means a document from the government, not a document created by you. Subcontracts with federal prime contracts do not qualify (a clarification in Amendment 4).

You must prove through government documents that you have two Pool Qualification Projects performed under at least one of the listed NAICS Codes to qualify for a pool. Each pool you qualify for is awarded as a separate OASIS contract. If you are having trouble finding NAICS Codes in your contract documents, ask the government for a document that shows that you performed the project under specific NAIS Codes(s).

Evaluation points are heavily weighted toward the evaluation of 3 or more primary projects with high performance evaluation scores. 4 projects are better than 3 and 5 projects are better than 4.

Projects not scored in the federal past performance data base must provide a performance rating questionnaire obtained from the government. You must use the government’s standard point scoring table to score yourself based on the subjective rating in the past performance questionnaire. (The table is not part of the questionnaire). The conversion of subjective ratings to point scores in required in order to complete the self-scoring document required in your offer.

Fedmarket’s OASIS Model Proposal can save days of proposal writing time. Not to mention the proposal writer migraines’ caused by an overly complex solicitation.

Read more about Fedmarket’s OASIS Model Proposal and call us to review the template

Fedmarket also offers full-service proposal writing services for OASIS, call 888 661 4094, Ext. 2 for more information.

OASIS Amended and Extended

It’s back to the drawing board for both large and small businesses. GSA has amended the OASIS RFP for the third time.

The newest update to the OASIS solicitation includes 11 updated forms and changes to the instructions for 5 out of 6 volumes, including file naming convention changes. The government has reduced the number of required relevant experience projects and the minimum values. This may enable some small businesses to participate in the OASIS opportunity who thought they were excluded due to a lack of projects.

OASIS is a complicated solicitation, and after 3 amendments, each with numerous updates, many proposal writers are lost in the quagmire. Save yourself the trouble of trying to decipher – not only the solicitation itself, but the modifications to the RFP you begin working with. Fedmarket offers updates to customers who purchase our OASIS Model Proposal product. We are currently up-to-date with the most recent amendment issued on September 11, 2013.

OASIS: More Amendments and an Extension, Yes or No?