Government Contract Proposals – Tips and Best Practices, Part 3

Government Contract Proposals, Part 3: Preparing Your Proposal

If you are new to government contracting, lengthy, complex Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with tight deadlines, can be overwhelming. A competitive proposal must demonstrate a thorough understanding the RFP and present a clear, compelling narrative as to how your company can provide the best possible solution to the customer’s (agency’s) needs, rising above mere compliance to provide better value than any competing proposals.

This article outlines a process by which to prepare your proposal. By this point, you should already have done your homework with regard to assessing your company’s capabilities, your customers’ needs and your competition and evaluated the specific RFP to determine if the opportunity is a good fit for your company. See our previous articles, Government Contract Proposals, Part 1: Be Prepared – Pre-Proposal Tasks and Part 2: Reviewing the Solicitation and Reaching a Go/No Go Decision

Part 3: Preparing the Proposal

When a “Go” decision is made and actual proposal preparation begins, the following recommendations can guide your process:

  • Starting with the proposal delivery date and working backward, develop a schedule that will support the timely completion of all components, including packaging the proposal, preparing the proposal volumes, proposal reviews, writing, pricing, subcontractor quotes, etc.
  • Follow the format dictated by the RFP, making sure to comply with all page, font, binding pagination and printing requirements. Issues raised in the SOW should be addressed ¬within the framework of the evaluation criteria, with an insistence on complete compliance.
  • Proposal sections should be easy to separate into sections for distribution to evaluators (e.g. finance, technical, management) and each should be able to stand on its own, so if information from one section is needed to understand another, it should be included in both.
  • The quality of the proposal is directly related to the ability to provide a strategic response that conveys not only that your client will comply, but how the company will comply and how its approach sets it apart from the competition.
  • The writing style should be clear and concise, and every phrase should be directly related to how the company will meet the agency’s needs. Avoid claims or language that is unsubstantiated, lacks relevance to the specific project, or does not fully address the requirements.
  • Beware of negative proposal factors, which can eliminate the proposal from consideration, such as:
    o   Unproven understanding of agency’s requirements
    o   Incomplete response: critical sections left out
    o   Non-compliant
    o   Insufficient resources (time, personnel, etc.) to accomplish tasks
    o   Insufficient information about the company
    o   Poor proposal organization: difficult to correlate proposal content to RFP/SOW
    o   Failure to show relevance of past experience to proposed project
    o   Unsubstantiated or unconvincing rationale for proposed approaches or solutions
    o   Repeating requirements without discussing method of performance

Reviewing the Proposal
Once the proposal is drafted, it is critical that it be reviewed before delivery, whether by a formal “Red Team” or by your PTAC counselor. Whoever conducts the review should do so from the perspective of the evaluator, ensuring that the proposal follows the format of the RFP and meets the formatting criteria as well as flagging any questions or problems.
Practice Makes Perfect
Proposal preparation definitely improves with practice. Continue to respond to appropriate RFPs and solicitations even if the first several do not result in an award. Request a debriefing regardless of the outcome to get feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal, which can help you to make future proposals stronger.

Your PTAC Counselor can elaborate on this topic and provide you with additional advice at no cost. Click here to Find your PTAC today!

Read the first two articles in this series:  Preproposal Tasks   and  Reaching a Go/No Go Decision.


More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.


Government Contract Proposals – Tips and Best Practices, Part 2

Government Contract Proposals, Part 2: Reviewing the Solicitation and Reaching a “Go/No Go” Decision

If you are new to government contracting, lengthy, complex Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with tight deadlines, can be overwhelming. A competitive proposal must demonstrate a thorough understanding the RFP and present a clear, compelling narrative as to how your company can provide the best possible solution to the customer’s (agency’s) needs, rising above mere compliance to provide better value than any competing proposals.

This article discusses how to evaluate a specific RFP to determine if the opportunity is a good fit for your company and worth the investment of time and energy to develop a proposal. By this point, you should already have done your homework with regard to assessing your company’s capabilities, your customers’ needs and your competition. See our previous article, Government Contract Proposals, Part 1: Be Prepared – Pre-Proposal Tasks

Part 2: Reviewing the Solicitation and Reaching a “Go/No Go” Decision

Review of RFP and Contract Documents:
All documents – including clauses and provisions “incorporated by reference” (IBR) – need to be read carefully and thoroughly. To make a large RFP more approachable, consider starting with sections “C – Description/Scope of Work”, “L – Instructions to Offerors”, and “M – Evaluation Factors”. If, based upon these provisions, the requirements match up well with your capabilities and the proposal delivery deadline is realistic, the full RFP should be dissected and analyzed before a go/no-go decision is made.

This is an area in which a PTAC counselor can be an enormous help, as he or she can explain the more complex clauses and IBR provisions and flag those that will affect performance or costs, as well as any that might present barriers, such as restricted drawings (which require Industrial Security Clearance to view). You should be watchful for unusual, restrictive, or onerous requirements which might be clues that the solicitation is “wired”(ie: created with a specific vendor in mind).

Identify items that require clarification and be mindful of bid period communication etiquette to maximize the likelihood of obtaining the needed information.

Pre-proposal Conference
Attend a pre-proposal conference if one is offered. Doing so will allow you:

  • To gain better understanding of the government’s requirements and clear up any uncertainties or gaps in the SOW or other contractual requirements.
  • To determine if you should propose and how best to satisfy the requirement given the government’s “primary desirables” and your company’s strength relative to other competitors.
  • The opportunity to identify and resolve concerns regarding the acquisition approach, including the proposed contract type, the feasibility of the requirement, and other industry concerns and questions relevant to the acquisition as proposed.

Articulating a WIN Strategy
Make sure you can answer the question, “Why us” – why does your company offer the BEST value solution to the requirement, above and beyond not only basic compliance but that which will be offered by competitors. The strongest proposals will demonstrate an understanding of the agency’s priorities and concerns and clearly articulate how each will be addressed, emphasizing the company’s strengths and neutralizing any weaknesses.

Go/No-Go
Once the RFP is fully understood and evaluated in light of your company’s capabilities, a decision can be made regarding whether to propose. Some questions to consider include:

  • Does winning the contract fit into your strategic marketing plan? Will winning and performing the job enhance past performance with the issuing agency or other agencies?
  • Is there enough time to bid or propose on the solicitation? Are there adequate resources to propose in a timely manner (estimating and pricing, tech writers, proposal review, connectivity to agency’s solicitation portal)? Is your management team behind winning the job?
  • Can the company be competitive based upon the specification/statement of work?
  • Is there adequate financing to meet payroll and suppliers’ demands in the light of the payment schedule?
  • Should you propose as a prime contractor or would you have a better chance of winning as a subcontractor or part of a Joint Venture?.

Your PTAC Counselor can elaborate on this topic and provide you with additional advice at no cost. Click here to Find your PTAC today!

Watch this space for the final article of the series: Preparing the Proposal.


More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.