Thinking about responding to a government RFP or solicitation?
Your written Proposal is the “first impression” of your organization with a potential contractor and/or client. It is the voice of your organization that articulates its mission, strengths, and technical capabilities. Essentially, it acts like the Preamble of your firm’s constitution.
A proposal is a written response to an RFP that clearly articulates the government needs (tasks that the government is trying to accomplish through the solicitation), and demonstrates your firm’s/company’s approach to address those needs. For a successful proposal, you must substantiate your claims through instances or references from the past experiences of contracting on similar scope of work. It is, thus, a selling tool and the proof point designed to make a persuasive case to win the contract award. Now here’s the big question: How to write a winning proposal?
Writing a Winning proposal is not an easy task, but necessarily an important one. It is all about doing your homework well, preparing and responding clearly and appropriately, aligning your proposal with the government’s needs and articulating what makes you the best solution provider.
Still Wondering? Find some incredibly useful tips that can help you Win right now! Preparation is the key – You must be fully prepared. Read the RFP thoroughly; carefully examine all sections, schedules, clauses, and the required attachments; and understand the regulations (FAR Parts) governing the explicit solicitation you plan to respond to. Understand the government/agency’s Problem-Do an extensive research into the requesting agency’s mission, values, capabilities, incumbents, and its current problems. The federal government announces its opportunities in a series of solicitations. For an effective proposal, you need to read, reread, and understand the nature of the government’s problem. Instead of an elaborate eloquent document, the government wants to know whether you understand their problems and have the technical capabilities to address those and provide additional value through your services. Align Your Proposal with the Government’s Needs-An effective proposal will visibly articulate how the bidder can solve the problem or fulfil the needs outlined in the government’s solicitation. It is very critical to convince a government review panel that your proposal solves their specific problem and provides the best value. A proposal may look very good and promising, but if it does not talk about government’s needs, it will even fail to reach the evaluation table laid with other more substantive, solution-focused proposals. Don’t just claim “we can do the work.” Substantiate your claim by saying how you have performed similar tasks for other agencies. Develop a differentiation strategy– “If you don’t differentiate, you will lose,” says Carl Dickson. Because most of the proposals offer excellent track record, you must highlight your Discriminator; articulate how your track record is quicker, better, economic or more robust than your competitor. To cut short, give the reason why the government should select you over other bidders. It gets better when you say……. “Why You are a Better Solution Provider”.
Create an Outline compliant with the evaluation factors from the RFP– A lot of proposals get rejected because of compliance issues. To avoid this, read and revise the RFP thoroughly to clearly identify the compliance requirements. Your outline will work as the backbone for your proposal, and help ensure that all important requirements are intact. Use a Compelling Capability Statement– Prepare a comprehensive-yet concise-capability statement that clearly identifies your, technical and management capabilities, and general business acumen. Your statement should indicate specific capabilities and skills, excellent track record, performance awards and acclamations, and resumes of key management personnel. While issuing a capability statement, keep in mind that a contracting officer has limited time and plenty of to-do-evaluations at hand. A one-pager capability statement is more likely to catch his attention as it is just to set off interest in your firm, while a bulky document just sits on the evaluation table. Present an Executive Summary– Begin your proposal with an executive summary that includes the basic issues/problems of the government, the solution proposed by you, and the expected outcome. Follow a structure like this: Problem, Proposed Solution, Solution overview, Our Experience and Expected Results. Describe your Management Approach as the ‘horsepower’ running your business – It is very critical to write effective resumes for federal RFPs. You should provide in-depth information about the bigwigs of your company. Though Technical volume and Past performances are critical evaluation factors when bidding on government contracts, you should not ignore talking about your key personnel, their experiences and how they will drive the government project.
Needless to say, Get Your Basics Right! -Check your proposal for spellings and grammar! The government is looking for areas where you are not compliant, which will help them skim through the pile of proposals lying at their table. If you make one silly error in your document, the government will not trust you with a complex project; thus, providing a fair chance to your competitors. So, proofread what you have written. Follow the RFP instructions for any particular format that may be asked for. Focus on clarity– Do not use long words, industry jargons and lines of discussion that only ring a bell to subject experts. You’re selling technical solutions that are already very complex and difficult to understand. The government typically wants only enough detail to make their award decision. They do not want proposals loaded with complex sentences and jargons surrounding each and every task that you intend to perform for them.
Use plain language, short and simple words, only enough to provide the required methodological insight into the approach that will be utilised to execute the project. Apply realistic Proposal Pricing– For a successful pricing strategy, stay within the allowable percentages depending on the industry. Substantiate your pricing proposal by associating critical processes and the applicable costs. Never let the government guess why your pricing is high or low. If you are quoting a lesser price than your competitors, explain why and how your firm will perform at such low prices using header assumptions. Learn from past contracts; contemplate all costs — contingency requirements; apply best value analysis; loop in bidding costs; and keep room for necessary overhead expenses and income. Remember, Your Indiscriminate Pricing can throw you out of business!
Follow a time-bound review cycle -Employ a contradictor/reviewer who can mercilessly edit and find issues with your proposal that could have led you to lose. Include multiple review cycles before charting out the final draft.
Last but not the least, Write your proposal as a Sales document!
The government does not want an information booklet on your company’s product and services. Rather, they want you to understand their problem and produce a feasible solution.
So, here’s the kicker……………. “Write to Sell”.