Adhere to the RFP Process! Six Common Misconceptions that Lead to a Losing Proposal

Many a job has been lost due to a simple failure to provide agencies what they ask for from potential business/Government contractors. As proposal consultants, we often encounter attitudes toward the proposal process that are misguided or just plain wrong; particularly from those new to the proposal game. These misperceptions can lead to unaddressed requirements, noncompliant proposals, unrealistic win-probability assessments, and general failure to fulfill customer needs. In short, a losing proposal. Here are some real-life examples:

1. “We don’t need to meet with the customer – once they see our proposal they will be won over.”

It is always worthwhile to meet with the customer – I consider it essential. Face-to-face is much better than a phone call. Assuming the meeting goes well, you will go from an unknown to a familiar quantity, which is a big jump in credibility. Plus, you can pick up valuable information during the meeting. I actually had a customer say during a meeting, “Don’t pay attention to what we wrote in the RFP – this is what we really want.” How can you compete with that if you don’t have the conversation?

2. “We don’t need to follow the RFP religiously, we’re much more creative than that.”

Oftentimes the RFP doesn’t make sense or doesn’t flow well. It is very tempting to get creative and change the order of things so that the proposal “reads better.” What you need to know is that the evaluators already have scoring sheets set up based on the RFP layout. If they don’t find what they are looking for in the designated part of the proposal, then you will get no credit, even if it appears in a different section. Worst case, you may be disqualified for noncompliance and the merits of your solution are never assessed. Remember, there is not just one evaluator but rather a team. Each person is assigned a different section of the proposal to score. You want to make their job easier, not harder. Follow the RFP outline scrupulously.

3. “They don’t really know what they need – we are the experts, so we know better than them.”

You may be the expert and you may know better than them, but don’t say it in the proposal. First, you may come across as arrogant. Second, no matter how much you know, the customer is still going to use the RFP as a yardstick to evaluate you against the competition. Follow the RFP precisely to win the competition – once you have won, then you can talk to them about possibly changing direction. You must first get your foot in the door.

4. “We’ll dazzle them with our credentials and examples of our work.”

You may be proud of your credentials and work, but the customer has seen this from every company and, quite frankly, is tired of it. Almost every company has briefed them on their capabilities and experience. Unless they specifically ask for it in the RFP, it will not be graded and will not count toward your score. Focus on their needs, not your capabilities. They are much more interested in how you will address their needs.

5. “We’ll offer them more than they ask for, to really wow them.”

The evaluation team is going to examine and rate the technical solution against the baseline requirements discussed in the proposal. Sometimes they can give extra points for going beyond the baseline performance (threshold vs. goal) – in these cases the scoring will be spelled out in the RFP. More often than not, they won’t want to pay additional money for added performance. If your solution shows added performance, they are going to ask, “How much is this going to cost me?”

6. “Cost is low on the list of evaluation factors – we can charge more because of our superior technical solution.”

What usually happens during the evaluation process is that the higher-ranking evaluation factors (e.g., technical, management, past performance) are evaluated first. The proposals that pass these hurdles successfully are then evaluated on cost. So even though cost is lowest of the evaluation factors, it can still determine which proposal will win. Cost may be the last consideration, but it is equally important.

There are, of course, many more examples that could be added to this list. Our job as proposal consultants is to guide our clients away from these potential proposal-killing ideas and misconceptions and teach them effective, winning proposal practices.

How to Score When Page Constrained

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. 1-2 sentence Task Understanding – without using the words “we understand”
  2. 3-5 sentences about the Solution – HOW you’ll accomplish the tasks with process, tools, and people, NOT what you’ll do
  3. 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. 

Crunch Time is No Time for Reflection – How Effective is Your Proposal Process?

Not just your win/loss record, but how well does your process support proposal creation and production? Proposal best practices and lessons learned are important enterprise assets that you should be capturing – and leveraging. After all, proposals offer hard and sometimes expensive lessons – and you should benefit from them every time.

Reviewing your internal proposal performance is one step to increasing your win probability. Ask yourself: how well did you handle team mobilization, task assignment, color team output, completion, and submission, etc.?

These are among the key focus areas for what did, and did not, go well.

Continue reading “Crunch Time is No Time for Reflection – How Effective is Your Proposal Process?” »

Take a Fresh Look – This is Not Your Grandfather’s OTA

Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there (Will Rogers)
By Ed Harrington

Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) have morphed over time since their inception to create opportunities that did not once exist for Government contractors. Originally intended to access “nontraditional” contractors, foster increased technology innovation, and expand the Defense industrial base, OTAs continue to evolve in their utility and application to US Government (USG) contracting. Continue reading “Take a Fresh Look – This is Not Your Grandfather’s OTA” »

Going With the Flow(chart): Aligning with the Customer’s Organization

It is important to stand out. It is necessary to demonstrate your unique qualifications. It is vital to show that your company deserves the bid because you can supply something superior — something DIFFERENT than the rest. But, not so different that your proposal alienates its evaluators.

RFPs are released in order to locate a company that can best fulfill a need, i.e., a product or service   that is outside the bounds of a given Government agency’s capabilities, so most sections of your proposal are devoted to selling your company’s distinctive offerings. Yet, there is one section that is your opportunity to strike a necessary chord of familiarity: the Management Volume. Continue reading “Going With the Flow(chart): Aligning with the Customer’s Organization” »

Seeing is Believing, but Make the Call Anyway

We all know that RFPs are tightly scripted, highly-detailed documents. Yet, not everything you need to know can be gleaned from reading the RFP. Talking to the potential customer – well before the RFP is released – is essential  before investing large resources in developing a proposal. Continue reading “Seeing is Believing, but Make the Call Anyway” »

FOIABles Alert!

Competitors Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to Sneak Peek at YOUR Proposals

A growing trend in the federal procurement market exists where competitors are submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for ALL contracting documentation on bids – and specifically requesting the proposals submitted by the winners. Continue reading “FOIABles Alert!” »

ID Please…

Heads up to anyone planning on visiting Federal facilities after January 30, 2017 – if you are from  Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Pennsylvania or South Carolina, then your state issued driver’s license is no longer an acceptable form of identification for access. Continue reading “ID Please…” »

Requests for Information are Your First Opportunity to Make an Impression: The Value of Responding to RFIs

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

Those that wait for a Government solicitation (RFP) to land at their door miss their chance at giving critical input during the early stages of the government procurement process.  Industry feedback advises the Government’s changes and adjustments to RFPs — PRIOR TO RELEASE, perhaps even customizing the solicitation to suppliers who do the job of responding. Continue reading “Requests for Information are Your First Opportunity to Make an Impression: The Value of Responding to RFIs” »