Writing Winning Proposals

In order to win federal contracts, your company will have to write proposals in response to those Requests for Proposals (RFP's) in which it has an interest. The proposal-writing process is laborious, tiring, and expensive. Proposals are what some might call a "necessary evil" in the government market. You may have the best service organization in your industry or sell the very best product but the quality of your product or service means very little if your proposals aren't of the highest quality. Unfortunately, many businesses don't put the proper emphasis on the proposal's preparation and the end result is often a quite shoddy product.

Keys to Proposal Writing

The keys to success are simplistic and are as follows:

  • Try to avoid writing proposals. In order to do so, obtain a GSA schedule contract and close your deals using your schedule contract.
  • Write as few as possible. To achieve this goal, focus on writing proposals on only those bid opportunities you have pre-sold in advance.
  • Win as many as you write. To improve your success rate, put great emphasis on producing the very best proposal possible. Assign the project to your best personnel and consider increasing the allocation of your resources to this process.

Some Important Considerations

  • Avoid negotiated procurements (those with the requirement that applicants provide a technical proposal) unless your company is prepared to make a total commitment to proposal writing.
  • In choosing those RFP's you intend to bid upon, make bid decisions only after careful and prolonged deliberation. Bid on only those opportunities your company has a realistic chance of winning.

Corporate management frequently takes a shotgun approach to proposal writing. Upon finding a possible bid opportunity, management often makes a hasty decision that "this RFP is made for us" and it assigns the task to the proposal-writing department and then disappears. Management should have instead considered some of the following factors:

  • Is our company the right one for the project? If it is, are we capable of preparing a thorough, responsive and highly professional proposal?
  • Did our sales staff pre-sell the opportunity? If it did not, don't waste your time on preparing a proposal.
  • Did we devote sufficient resources and time to deciding on whether to bid on the proposal? It is far less costly to spend the time and money up front than spending it on losing proposals.
  • Do we have sufficient experience and background information to prepare the proposal? Consider creating "proposal libraries" which include templates and other forms that document your corporate resumes, experience, capabilities, etc. Don't wait until proposal crunch time to create such documents.
  • Do we sufficiently and completely understand the customer's needs and requirements? An important part of your research should include instructing your sales staff to gain an intimate understanding of the customer's expectations. During this process, the sales staff may also sell the customer on your company and its capabilities.

Winning proposals are written from the customer's perspective. Your proffered proposal must demonstrate, among other things, the following:

  • Your business truly understands the customer's needs.
  • Your company can provide the solution the customer is looking for - not necessarily the one you think is best.
  • Your business is uniquely qualified to provide those benefits that the customer is expecting.

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