Could Your Proposal Writing Process Be More Structured?

It is not possible to have too much structure in your proposal writing process and even the largest prime federal contractors do not have enough. A structured or systemized proposal writing process results in higher quality, more responsive proposals and in reduced proposal writing costs.

We were recently engaged to help a system integrator prepare a proposal. The integrator was working with a large prime contractor in an effort to win a very lucrative federal contract. Under the terms of the agreement between the parties, the integrator would work as a subcontractor to the prime under the resulting contract. The two parties decided to work together to develop the final proposal. For a variety of reasons, the end product was less than stellar. A major contributing factor to the parties' lack of success in developing a quality proposal was the fact that there was very little structure to the process. For example:

* The integrator did not know (or couldn't research) who was working on the incumbent contract.

* Resumes did not exist for some of the staff members working at the federal customer's site.

* Up-to-date corporate experience summaries were difficult to find and were submitted at the last hour.

* Only the integrator's management attended the proposal development meetings. Management then assigned the proposal writing task to its staff at the last minute and without filling them in on meeting discussions. This, of course, resulted in less than compelling content.

* Although the two players may have had better processes in place in other divisions of their respective companies, the personnel assigned to the project did not have good proposal writing structures in place.

Companies with a structured proposal process recognize the need for even more structure and quickly understand the value of the product. Conversely, small businesses accustomed to slapping together responses to public Requests for Proposals are mystified about the value of a structured process. They are also mystified about why they are losing all of their bids.

A systemized proposal writing process eliminates the need to reinvent the wheel each time a new proposal is written. Implementing such a system saves time and money. More importantly, doing so frees up time to do the critical things that result in a compelling proposal. Such critical tasks include tailoring resumes and corporate experience to the customer's needs, making sure that your background knowledge of the customer and the project is reflected in the proposal and having the time to fine tune the technical approach.

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