What is the “Peanut Butter and Jelly” Approach to Government Proposals?

What is the “peanut butter and jelly” approach to government proposal development?

Robert S. Frey, an expert on proposal development and the author of a fine book on the subject –Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses:  Using Knowledge Management to Win Government, Private Sector, and International Contracts (2002) – recommends what he calls a “peanut butter and jelly” model.  This involves asking fundamental questions and then applying them to the Request for Proposals (RFP).

According to Frey, there are two major reasons why both small and large companies do not respond to RFPs with competitive proposals:

  • A lack of understanding of the customer’s operational environment, goals, objectives, and overall mission.
  • A lack of clear understanding of how you will perform on the new project.

The key to understanding is to comprehend the customer’s mission; the customer’s hopes, fears, and critical issues, and current state of the program or task; and the future state of the program.  As Frey says, it is all about the customer, not you.

In response, the key to your approach should be how you will fully meet your customer’s requirements and service-level expectations.  This means addressing people assets; process assets; knowledge assets; and technology assets and tools.  As Frey says, it is all about how you will support the customer.

For Frey, the critical questions related to understanding are:

  • What business processes within the government agency does this task or functional area support?
  • What are the technical critical issues and challenges associated with this task currently?  How will these issues and challenges change in the future?
  • What are the critical managerial issues and challenges associated with this current task?  How will these issues and challenges change in the future?
  • How might innovation be introduced into this particular task in close collaboration with the government agency?
  • To what other tasks does this specific task related, and how?  Can you describe the connections?  How do all these tasks together support the government agency’s overall mission?
  • What particular government mandates, policies, and procedures are related to the management of this task?
  • How would the government agency paint a picture of success on this task now and in the future?

These are not easy questions to answer, but you need to know the answers in order to respond well to the RFP.  Once you have answered these fundamental questions, you can begin applying your approach to the RFP.  This is the “peanut butter and jelly” model – building your proposal with good ingredients.  Now you are ready to add the delicious and nutritious peanut butter and jelly to your bread with a specific approach.

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