Proposal Evaluation: How It Really Works

Many people new to government proposal writing write their proposals to win, which seems to make sense, right?

In the government market, however, you should write your proposals not to lose. Why? Evaluation committees don't read through each proposal and then declare a winner. They eliminate losers until there is only one proposal left standing.

Proposals should be based on the elimination approach used in real life and to make evaluators' jobs as easy as possible. Give them the help they need to score your proposal high and keep you in the hunt.

A committee of anywhere from 3 to 20 evaluators wades through a pile of up to 20 proposals, reviewing all sections of the proposal, and scoring them against a set of published criteria. Each section has an assigned numerical value, totaling 100 points for the entire proposal. The overall scores assigned by different evaluators are averaged for a final score. When all the proposals have been reviewed, the final scores of each are compared.

The committee then finds a natural cut-off point between the qualified and unqualified companies. The fewer qualified companies left, the better from the viewpoint of the evaluators because there's less work to be done.

The evaluators will sometimes contact the qualified companies (those in the "zone of consideration") and ask them to strengthen their weak points.

The evaluators may give all qualified companies a shot at bettering their score, but they're not required to do so since it's a process of elimination, your goal should be TO AVOID ELIMINATION.

In other words, write defensively.

Don't try to hit home runs, overemphasizing a few points in the proposal. You won't win that way. You won't score points by giving them things they didn't ask for, and you can lose points by not giving them things they did ask for.

Cover all your bases and be consistent. It's better to respond competently (even if not brilliantly) on all points, rather than to nail some points at the expense of others. If you blow just one area of the proposal, the evaluator has a reason to knock you out.

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