Tips on Writing a Proposal
Your proposal (to a RFP or RFQ) should, at the same time, adequately address the government's requirements, be clearly written, and be persuasive. Here are some pointers:
- Write your proposal like a sales document. Your proposal must sell your company's ability to meet the requirements, to fulfill all of the stated conditions, and to deliver on time. Be specific and direct, being vague will only demonstrate that you do not understand the requirement and will create questions in the minds of the evaluators. Substantiate your promises and assertions with facts and details. Your goal is to persuade evaluators that your offer is superior to those of competing companies and to prove that your company can do the job.
- Demonstrate a complete understanding of the stated requirement or problem. This may sometimes be a challenge. While, in some cases, the government buying office will know exactly what it needs, in other cases, it may not know or may use conflicting or vague terminology. In either event, it is your responsibility to demonstrate your understanding of the requirement; it is not the responsibility of the buying officer to interpret your understanding. If your proposal does not respond to the stated requirement or responds to only part of the requirement, it will not be considered for a contract award and may not even receive a complete evaluation.
- Demonstrate that you are qualified. This means that not only must you demonstrate your understanding of the problem or requirement, you must also demonstrate your ability to solve or meet it. Include your staff's qualifications, relevant facilities and equipment, as well as any other qualifications that are specific to the project you are bidding on. Your proposal should clearly communicate your ability to successfully perform the contract. Documentation of successful fulfillment of past contracts may also help prove your point.
- Show your past performance. Give examples of good contract performance on past contracts; it will show experience in related areas and our ability to correct any problems or situations that might arise. If you are looking at a contract that is much larger then you have ever had before, show how you will manage it, what you are going to do, who you are working with (if this is a situation where you are working with another company) and how you will work together, who is responsible for what, and who will do the work.
- Respond to the stated evaluation criteria. Section M of the solicitation identifies the factors that the buying office will look at when evaluating your proposal. Cost is but one factor. If your proposal does not respond to these criteria, it will be judged to be technically unacceptable and will not be considered for contract award.
- Follow the required proposal format. Section L of the solicitation specifies which topics should be covered in your proposal as well as the order in which they should be presented. If you do not follow the required content format and organization, you risk neglecting or omitting important information, which will result in rejection of your proposal.
- Use a consistent writing style. Don't try to get wordy or longwinded, stay on topic and to the point. Read the evaluation factors and use that to make the reader's job easy. If there are areas that you might be deficient, don't try to hide them, highlight them and show how you will "solve the problem." Use graphics sparely and only to show a point that needs to be made, don't get carried away with cut and paste. Use bullets and headlines that will help you keep on topic.
- Provide adequate management and cost information. Demonstrate your ability to manage the work and account for all of the costs involved in performing the contract. Also provide adequate cost and pricing data.
- Proofread and critique your proposal. Writing an effective proposal requires time, patience, and care. Be prepared to write, evaluate, and rewrite, as necessary. Rewriting gives you the chance to improve the quality and responsiveness of your proposal. Pay attention to detail. Good grammar and spelling count. If necessary, ask another person with those skills to proofread the final draft for you.
- Provide clear explanations. If you use abbreviations, acronyms, or in-house or trade terms, make sure that you spell them out or define them, at least the first time they are used. You might refer to something like "ASC II" and assume that all those who read your proposal will know what you mean. They may not. It could end up costing you some points, since you are not being clear on what you are trying to say.
- Attend a proposal-writing workshop. There are a number of good ones offered through Procurement Technical Assistance Centers.
- Keep a database of all your project proposals. This can end up saving you time and money down the road. The next time you have to write a proposal, you can go back and perhaps use all or part of a proposal that you did in the past.
- Make Plans for an Oral Presentation. The government may require prospective offerors to give an oral presentation as part of the selection process. In the GSA, they record this on video for later review. When they request the officers to come in and do a presentation, that does not mean the sales manager; it usually means the president, and the vice-president of marketing if the company is big enough. If you're a woman-owned business, that means the "woman" not the male sales manager or husband. If you represent yourself as a certain business type, be sure that comes out at the presentation. This could mean the difference between being the winner or requesting a post-award debriefing. This is your opportunity to demonstrate why your company is the answer to their requirement.