Think of Proposal Writing As the Last Step in a Sale

Our federal sales seminars stress that your sales efforts and proposal-writing process should be one, highly-structured undertaking. We advocate that you should only write defensive proposals (those proposals that defend a strong position or relationship that you have established with the customer). Proposals can be thought of as either:

* The first step in the chaotic proposal-writing process, or

* The last step in a successful sales effort

Why do proposals even exist? Contrary to popular belief, proposals are not written so federal evaluators can select the best, high-value solution to their problem. Instead, proposals are prepared and submitted because the federal acquisition regulations (FAR) require that this procedure be followed in order to document that a competition was held.

Why aren't proposals used as a method to find the best solution? The answer lies in the fact that, for services solicitations at least, the decision on the eventual contract winner has been made far in advance of the time the proposals are written. The agency wants an incumbent contractor back to eliminate a disruption in operations. Nonetheless, it is required by regulation to hold a public competition. Although the end user knows and trusts its existing solution provider, the Contracting Office requires a public competition. In this situation, the winning company has to write a defensive proposal to defend their pre-established position with the customer. Does the Contracting Office care about the number of trees that went into the losing proposals? Not really.

Is the winner always predetermined? No, not always. However, don't lie awake at night counting the revenue that you are going to receive from blind bids. You can win a small percentage but you will spend way too much money writing losing proposals and, equally importantly, burn out your staff in the process. Is there a better solution? Multiple award schedule contracts like GSA schedules are a partial solution but don't look for any revolutionary solutions anytime soon. The political pressure to keep up an appearance of competition is too intense.


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