Asking Good Questions Can Improve Your Proposal

When federal agencies issue a Request for Proposals (RFPs), prospective applicants can ask written questions and they must respond with written answers to all potential bidders on their bidder’s list.  Asking the right kinds of questions can help improve your proposal.

To ask the kinds of questions that will help you better develop your proposal, take these steps recommended by Dr. Amy McGeady, a proposal development consultant in Austin, Texas:

  • Identify people in your company whose proposal input is important.
  • Meet as a group to discuss the RFP and the kinds of clarification questions you should ask.
  • Avoid unnecessary questions or too many questions, and avoid posing questions that will provide your competitors with strategic information about your application.
  • Use open-ended questions to gain a more through explanation of an issue or to modify the RFP to your advantage.  Use closed questions to confirm or better understand requirements.
  • Review the questions for tone, wording, and potential implications and then submit.
  • Study the answers, decide their implications for your application, and proceed accordingly.

Below are examples of closed and open-ended questions you might pose to government agencies:

Closed:  The RFP and Statement of Work are contradictory.  The RFP says that the proposal is due October 3 at 5 P.M. EST but the Statement of Work says that the proposal is due October 3 at 2 P.M. EST.  Which one is accurate?

Open:  The offeror respectfully requests that resumes be excluded from the maximum page count.  This will ensure that reviewers are accurately able to evaluate the offeror’s qualifications and key personnel.

The closed question simply seeks to clarify when the proposal actually is due.  The open-ended question has as its goal a revision of the RFP instructions to enable you to submit resumes without impinging on the maximum page count of the application.  You made this request because you believe that including detailed resumes of key personnel will make your application more competitive.

Ask thoughtful questions that will clarify the RFP and that will give you a competitive edge without revealing important information to your competitors.  To do this well, you must make asking questions and incorporating the answers into your proposal a formal part of your application development process.

Leave a Reply