How Can You be Compliant and Compelling in the Same Proposal?

The first rule of federal proposal development is rather simple, although it often is violated:  follow the instructions.  This may not always be easy because the Request for Proposals (RFP) may be contradictory.

As Harley Stein, a partner with Tenzing Consulting, points out, there are only two strategies that you can use to address the requirements:

  • Strategy 1:  Draft an outline that literally follows Section L or whatever RFP section contains the proposal instructions.  If Section L differs from the evaluation criteria, combine the evaluation criteria with Section L.
  • Strategy 2:  Draft an outline that literally follows Section M or whatever RFP section contains the proposal evaluation criteria.  If Section M differs from Section L, combine the proposal instructions with Section M.

Although you may be tempted to follow another strategy, Stein strongly recommends against it because you are not adhering to the RFP.  This is guaranteed to torpedo your bid.

Here is how you can use these strategies to develop a compliant and compelling proposal.

Strategy 1

This is the easiest to do because it means literally following the instructions, no matter how illogical they may appear.  Follow the proposal instructions in order and to the letter.  If Section L differs from the evaluation criteria, combine the evaluation criteria with Section L.

Strategy 2

There may be some government RFPs that specifically tell you to address the evaluation criteria.  Your task is clear:  follow the evaluation criteria in order and to the letter.  If Section M differs from Section L, combine the proposal instructions with Section M.

However, whatever strategy you choose, you must use multiple means and places to deliver you win themes and key messages or else you will not have a compelling proposal.

This is important because reviewers do not read proposals linearly.  They skip around the narrative to read what interests them.  Consequently, you should do the following:

  • Write a great Executive Summary that highlights your entire proposal in just a few pages.
  • Use the introductory paragraph of each section to highlight your key points.
  • Use call-out boxes to highlight important facts, brief case studies, quotes, and win themes.
  • Use action captions under your visuals to make your major points.
  • Find different ways of expressing your basic win themes throughout your prose.  Most proposals are all features and few benefits.  Highlight the benefits.

Follow Sections L or M, but remember to emphasize your key messages in whatever strategy you choose.  You must keep telling reviewers why you are the best company to carry out the contract.  You can be compliant and compelling at the same time – this is the major characteristic of winning proposals.

 

 

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