At a very young age we’re taught simple life rules like Share, Play Fair, Put Things Back, Flush, Follow Directions.
Easy enough, right?
In the proposal world, “Follow Directions” is synonymous with “Be Compliant.” Good writers start with an outline (preferably an annotated one) that follows RFP Section L and incorporates Section M, and good managers enforce adherence to that outline throughout draft development. But … along the way, teams may be tempted to stray, and if not committed to holding each other accountable to that outline, a slight change here, another there, can put all your good work in jeopardy.
Why is it so hard to follow the Government’s proposal requirements? Here are three theories:
- Sometimes the RFP looks like a Kindergartener’s collage – either written by several different people or by one person who cut and pasted from several other RFPs. “Their organization just doesn’t make sense,” laments the CEO/BD Director/other senior company leader. “We’ll ‘fix’ it for them.”
- The page limitations are too strict. I once had a client who tried to skirt a 15-page page limit by including a 45-page Executive Summary (the Executive Summary was excluded from the page count, and the Government didn’t assign a page limit to it).
- Companies often want to include “facts” they believe are “must haves” for a win, but RFP Sections L&M don’t allow for those facts. “We need to include them anyway,” asserts the CEO/BD Director/other senior company leader.
All three theories, based on real proposal experiences, have one theme: A company’s tendency to think they know what the Government wants better than the Government. If acted upon, this tendency can be a fatal proposal mistake. After all, who wants to work with a company that can’t do something as simple as follow directions?
Always resist the temptation to deviate from Sections L&M
- If the RFP is a jumbled mess, ask the Government a clarifying question, but don’t re-organize your proposal so it “makes sense.”
- If you’re page constrained, write concisely (or get an editor who can!). Never attempt to sneak in text in areas not included in a page count. That information won’t be scored, so it’s not worth your effort – or the risk in irritating evaluators. Remember that evaluators have a score sheet that mirrors the RFP. Make it easy – not hard – for them to score you.
- Don’t add extraneous technical details, marketing language, or non-relevant experience blurbs just to tout greatness. Focus on your strengths relative to the current procurement. Put the customer’s needs first and respond only to those needs in a way that matters to the customer.
When you’re tempted to stray from what the Government wants, think like a Kindergartener – always Follow Directions.
by Luanne Smulsky
The RFP’s SOW/PWS is 30 pages, and the Government wants your technical solution to address all requirements within 15. You must be compliant, persuasive … and concise.
Easier said than done? Indeed! But with the right outline, time to prepare, and skilled writers, your proposal can comply and be convincing – even within tight page limits.
ClientView helps SMEs prepare concise drafts with annotated outlines. We often recommend addressing each SOW/PWS task as follows:
- 1-2 sentence Task Understanding – without using the words “we understand”
- 3-5 sentences about the Solution – HOW you’ll accomplish the tasks with process, tools, and people, NOT what you’ll do
- Proof – brief (maybe 3 sentences), but replete with quantitative results your solution provided other customers
Focused writing is challenging. If you’re struggling, give us a call. We have plenty of examples and are adept at drawing out scoreable information from SMEs.
Are You Preparing for SDI-NG2?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has an ongoing requirement for software development and integration professional IT services.
Software Development and Integration – Next Generation 2 (SDI-NG2) is the USPTO’s $1.7B follow-on contract for software development and integration services for Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) products with customized software applications, database applications, and other solutions. Continue reading “SDI-NG2 Draft RFP Coming Soon” »
Part 2 – Planning Your Slides
Last November we blogged about CV’s approach to oral proposal development – how our Plan, Organize, Practice process makes your presentations POP. In this blog, we expand upon the Plan phase.
Typically, your PowerPoint Slides serve as your oral proposal’s official record. So, it’s essential they convey your skills, capabilities, and understanding, and, most importantly –establish that your company is the superior choice for the bid. Continue reading “Oral Proposals: Presentations that POP” »
You’re a good proposal writer. You’ve been trained, understand the process, know how to analyze an RFP and organize your response, and can turn your SMEs’ input into compelling proposal language. So when the VP of Marketing drops an RFP for an oral proposal on your desk, you’re not worried – ‘No big deal – I’ll just write the proposal in PowerPoint slides instead of Word.’ You soon find out it’s a bigger deal than you thought. Continue reading “Oral Proposals: Presentations that POP” »
Helping Government Contractors Solve Top Business Development Challenges
Have you seen Deltek’s recent results from its 2015 Top Business Development Challenges for Government Contractors survey?
Of the top five challenges, two are critical to a firm’s ability to win:
- #1 – Limited Business Development (BD) Resources
- #5 – Not Enough Time to Assemble High Quality Responses to RFPs and RFIs
Continue reading “Helping Government Contractors Solve Top Business Development Challenges” »
The Value of Debriefings – for Winning Teams
So you’ve just won that $500M Single Award Task Order Contract. Your team is celebrating, and rightly so, and you’re preparing for the kick-off meeting.
The furthest thing from your mind is asking for a debriefing. Why bother … you won! Debriefings are for the losers.
Or are they?
In truth – you need a debriefing when you win just as much as when you don’t. Continue reading “The Value of Debriefings – for Winning Teams” »
Features and Benefits – Don’t Just Tell…Sell
Writing a proposal is like telling a story – a story about how your solutions to the Government’s problems are better than your competitors in a way that matters to the Government.
The key phrase in that sentence is “in a way that matters to the Government.” You may be able to tell a good story, and even ghost your competition, but unless your story “matters to the Government” it won’t matter at all.
So how do you that?
Continue reading “Features and Benefits” »
Complying with Proposal Requirements – So Easy a Kindergartener Can Do it, Right?
The famous “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” is a list of simple, common-sense “rules” for leading a successful life … one of which is “Follow Directions.” Seems easy enough, something we all can do and have done (just ask anyone who uses Google Maps).
In the proposal world, “Follow Directions” takes the form of “Be Compliant” – and the majority of companies for whom I’ve consulted always agree, in theory, that organizing the proposal according to RFP Sections L&M is non-negotiable. So I go along my merry way and prepare an annotated outline that does just that. Nine times out of 10, during the course of proposal development, that outline morphs mysteriously – a slight change here, another there – and we’re fixing non-compliance issues discovered by Red Team or Gold Team reviewers at the 11th hour.
Continue reading “Complying with Proposal Requirements” »
Color Blind: Conducting Valuable Proposal Reviews
My 12-year-old son recently overheard a conversation I was having with a Client and asked “Mom, what’s a Red Review?”
Me: “It’s a process in which a bunch of people who didn’t write the document read it and comment on whether the people who did write it, wrote it well.”
My son: “Why is it ‘red’ though?”
Me: “The color indicates the level of the review, how far along the document should be developed. ‘Red’ means all sections should be written and graphics included – kind of near final.”
And then I chuckled to myself … “And this one is NOT ‘Red’ ready.”
Continue reading “Color Blind: Conducting Valuable Proposal Reviews” »