‘Tis the season! Proposal season, that is. If you’re a government contractor in D.C., you know that summer brings heat waves, humidity, and lots and lots of Requests for Proposals (RFPs). To help you get in a (proposal) seasonal mood, we have collected three tips to reduce your stress and increase your chances of winning work:
- Follow the Instructions.
It may come as a surprise, but just as you put a lot of time and effort into writing proposals, the Government puts a lot of time and effort into writing the RFP. Words are chosen carefully to ensure the right product or service is procured. You may feel the urge to skim through the RFP, focusing on the key elements like the Statement of Work or list of deliverables. As a rule, try to read the RFP from start to finish and carefully note the language that is used—for example, when does the RFP state you “shall” provide information versus when you “should”? The distinction is important and may impact the evaluation of your proposal.
Reading closely will also help you show up better in front of the prospective client and the evaluation team. Disregarding instructions may come across as sloppy and indicates you either were not thorough in reading the RFP or that you are unwilling to comply with the prospective client’s requests. Either way, the reader may question whether this lack of quality or care will translate to future work. Avoid this altogether by reading the RFP closely and complying with instructions. If you find any of the instructions confusing or unclear, take advantage of the question and answer period to clarify.
- Show Your Interest.
You may read an RFP and think the work is a perfect fit for your company. The only problem is, you don’t actually know the client. While these RFPs are tempting to bid on—and it’s not unheard of for companies to win work based on “cold bids”— your chances of winning significantly increase if the client knows you.
Do your homework and get to know the client, their needs, and their challenges in advance of writing your proposal. Read their website regularly, monitor them in the news, and, if possible, meet with them in person. To prepare for the specific opportunity, take advantage of opportunities such as industry days, partnering lists, and advance documents (e.g., Sources Sought, Requests for Information) to demonstrate your interest. In the end, it quickly becomes evident that proposal evaluations offer a clear understanding to the client and which ones are just regurgitating the RFP.
- Skip the Fluff.
You have a limited number of pages to tell your story. Don’t waste the space with “fluff” marketing language about your company. Instead, focus on the solution you are proposing and the steps it will take to implement. This is the best way to show the client you understand their environment and how to operate in it.
Another piece of advice—just because there is a page limit does not mean you have to meet it. If you can share the same information in one sentence versus one paragraph, your message is likely to be clearer and better received by the client.
And with that, we wish you a very happy (and lucrative) proposal season!