Developing A Winning Proposal
9th Annual Government Procurement
July 8, 2005
By Laveda Page Brown
• What is the proposal and how to
get started planning
• Marketing, analyzing, designing,
estimating and publishing the
• Presenting your companies
capabilities and making your
• What about a government
• Sample proposal outline and
• Final Checklist
Your Company Introduction
Developing your commercial
• In one minute or
less tell us briefly:
• Tell us what you do?
• Give us one benefit
• End with your Name
What is a proposal?
• A proposal is a plan of action
for fulfilling a need.
• Basically, it is a sales
document that responds to the
needs of someone else.
• It is a written document
describing in detail the work to
be performed and provides
the reader/evaluator adequate
information to make an
informed purchasing decision.
Why use a Proposal?
• A good RFP will help the evaluator
collect critical data to streamline the
evaluation process and compare
only the qualified bidders.
• The RFP outline format is design to
help the evaluator quickly compare
• Most proposal writers spend a huge
amount of time writing the RFP.
They expect you to read it and
follow it carefully.
• The first thing you will need to do is to gather the
documentation for the proposal’s six planning steps.
• 1. Marketing
• 2. Analyzing and making bid decision
• 3. Planning
• 4. Designing, when applicable
• 5. Estimating/Pricing
• 6. Publishing the proposal
• The data-gathering process makes the actual writing much
• The planning stage is a good time to focus your key people
on the mission of the company, available resources, and the
project's overall value to the organization.
What is Marketing?
To make a communication about a
product or service a purpose of which is to
encourage recipients of the
communication to purchase or use the
product or service.
MARKETING – The techniques used to
attract, build confidence and persuade
What are you marketing?
You are marketing/selling solutions. Your
proposal should illustrate how your
company understands and provides the
solution to the evaluators problem.
Marketing the company to the evaluator
• Marketing plays an important role in writing a proposal and building
the case for the Company’s capabilities to perform the project.
• Be proactive in marketing. When an RFP hits the street is not the
time to start marketing your company, it is extremely hard to meet
with the purchaser. You must establish a relationship with the
purchaser before hand to learn what motivates the project.
Marketing experts' state it takes at least eight contacts before a
potential client becomes a client and three to four follow-ups with
existing clients to keep them as clients.
• The proposer should determine if their company is truly able to do
the job better than anyone else. If the answer is yes, state your
case in writing.
• Next step: develop or review the company’s vision, goals,
objectives, and strategic plans.
• A successful proposal is a win-win situation for the proposer and
the purchaser. Talk about what the purchaser’s agency will gain.
• All throughout the proposal market your company.
What's in it for them? Why is your company the best choice for the project?
proactive marketing takes time
Make a contact and follow up
Develop a plan of action for
your 8 to 12 contacts;
• Thank You Card or Letter
• Confirmation Letter
• Follow up telephone call
• Company fact sheet or a capability
• Media articles-A collection of editorial
about a person, the product, or the
• Develop a sales pitch: Why should the
agencies choose your company.
Something more than price and
• PORTFOLIO – A large, bound volume
containing samples of past work and
used to promote business.
• What is the key to success? “one
word: customizing” if you don’t
address the specific needs of the
purchaser, you’re wasting your time.
• Only through analyzing the
customers basic needs can you
prepare a proposal stating your
company’s capability to perform the
• The purchaser may need you to
convince their higher ups that the
project is necessary. Present your
proposal as the solution to the
• Public sector purchasers are
accountable to the public, which affects
how they scrutinize proposals.
Generally, experience is more important
to the selection.
The audience for a public proposal is
not just the evaluator, but the general
• When presenting your analysis always
talk the language of benefit.
• Can you respond quickly with a quality
product or service?
How can you demonstrate this?
• A part of your analysis should be
considering if the proposal is profitable
for your company.
• Army Five P’s; proper planning prevents
• Companies that plan, schedule
meticulously and test prior to work
implementation ensure that the work
activities will be profitable and beneficial
• In your planning process consider
yourself in a contest, focused on how
you’re going to tip the scales in your
• For an evaluator that looks at proposals
all day long a really good proposal is
often like a breath of fresh air.
• A poor proposal will not win against a
really good proposal, no matter who
Questions to answer
Here are a few questions to answer when
preparing the information for the proposal:
• What is your company good at?
What’s your legal status?
How long have you been in business?
• What is your company’s philosophy on this
type of project?
• What is the nature of the project and how will
it be conducted?
• How will your company respond to the
timetable for the project?
• What are the anticipated outcomes and how
will the required results be evaluated?
• Who are your references?
What certifications do you have?
Awards you have received?
• The design part of
layouts, work flow
• Estimating is one of the most important
steps. Estimating includes forecasting
(predicting) the amounts of administrative
time, materials, man hours, travel and all
other costs required to accomplish the job.
• You will not know all the expenses
associated with the project until the project
details and timing have been completely
• Thus, the main financial data gathering
takes place after the master proposal has
• However, at this stage you need to sketch
the outlines of the budget as you go along
to be sure that the costs are all accounted
• This includes the organizing, writing,
editing, planning, and binding of the
• Follow the required proposal format.
Proposals that do not follow format
instructions are rejected.
• The emphasis should be neat,
accurate, easy reading with easy
references to assure the evaluator
the company has the capabilities
and experience to perform the work.
• The appearance and adequacy of
the proposal are crucial. However,
excessive proposals can show a
lack of cost consciousness.
• Keep the writing simple. Proposals with clear
objectives and methods are generally the most
• Avoid jargon. Also be sure to spell out the full
names of any acronyms.
• Have someone proofread your proposal. A fresh
set of eyes can help you identify sections that
are unclear and catch typographical errors.
• Follow directions. Every year, proposals are
disqualified because the writer failed to follow
general format directions regarding the number
of pages, appendices, fonts, spacing etc.
• Evaluators rank proposals lower when writers
fail to follow instructions regarding what content
goes in which section of the proposal.
• Capability is defined as having the ability to
perform in an efficient manner; qualified.
• Question: How is capability evidenced in a
By the qualifications of the team, life of the
equipment and adequate facilities; the
Company’s organization, organization for the
planned project, attributes of key personnel; the
Company’s resources and financial backing.
• The need that the proposal is addressing and
the qualifications of your company must be well
documented and well articulated in the
• Address the purchasers needs and demonstrate
how your proposal reinforces the overall
direction of the purchasing agency.
Writing a proposal for
a government solicitation
• There are three situations that require
you to prepare a proposal:
Invitation for Bid (IFB)
• When the solicitation is an IFB, your
proposal will consist of filling out the
forms that you received in the bid
package and sending them in.
• This is contracting that consist of
competitive bids, public openings of
the bids (which you should attend),
• The government knows exactly what it
wants, where, and how many, the
award is based on price and other
price related factors.
• You must bid the requirements exactly
Request for proposals (RFP)
• Negotiated bid, such as a request for
proposals (RFP) or request for quote
• Request for Proposals (RFP) is the type
of contracting commonly used when the
government is not sure what is required
and they are looking for your input on
ways you plan to meet their objectives.
• First and foremost, respond to an RFP
in exact accordance with the
requirements outlined in the RFP.
• Requests for Quote (RFQ) is the method
often used to solicit price or market
information. A quote submitted does not
constitute an offer and is not the
government form of a binding contract.
Responding to an RFP
• Provide all the information requested, in the
order and format specified. The first
indication of your professional qualifications is
the ability to follow directions.
• Restate the scope of services and
specifications included in the RFP.
• Describe how you will approach the project
and state why this approach will best serve
the purchasers needs.
• Include specific references to the goals and
objectives provided in the RFP.
• Outline your cost estimates including all fixed
and variable prices.
• Ask for their business. The style and contents
of the proposal must communicate your
desire for the business. Do this in a well
constructed cover letter.
Sample Proposal Outline
When a format is not provided.
• Executive Summary: a short statement of your
case and summary of the entire proposal;
typically 1 to 2 pages.
• Statement of Need: why this project is
necessary; 1 to 3 pages
• Project Description: nuts and bolts of how the
project will be implemented; 2 to 5 pages
• Bid Amount/Budget: financial description of
the project plus explanatory notes; 1 to 2
• Organization Information: history and
structure of the company; its primary activities,
clientele, and services; 1 to 2 pages
• Conclusion: summary of the proposal's main
The Executive Summary
The first page of the proposal is the most important
section of the entire document. Here you will
provide the reader with a snapshot of what is to
follow. It summarizes all of the key information and
is a sales document designed to convince the
reader that this proposal should be considered.
Be certain to include:
Problem: A brief statement of the problem or need
your company has recognized and is prepared to
address (one or two paragraphs);
Solution: A short description of the project, including
what will take place and the benefits, how it will
operate, how long it will take, and how it will be
staffed (one or two paragraphs);
The organization and its expertise: a brief statement
of the name, history, purpose, and activities of your
company, emphasizing its capacity to carry out this
proposal (one paragraph).
The Statement of Need
• Write your proposal like a sales documents.
• The statement of need will enable the
evaluator to learn more about the issues
and to understand the problem that the
project will remedy.
• It presents the facts and evidence that
support the need for the project and
establishes that your company understands
the problems and therefore can reasonably
• You want the need section to be logical, yet
persuasive. Like a good debater, you must
assemble all the arguments. Then present
them in a logical sequence that will readily
convince the reader of their importance. As
you marshal your arguments, consider the
The Statement of Need
• Demonstrate complete understanding of
the stated requirement or problem.
• Be specific and direct, being vague only
demonstrates that you do not understand
the requirements and will create
questions in the mind of the evaluator.
• Be sure the data you present are
accurate. There is nothing more
embarrassing than to find out your
information is out of date or incorrect.
• Decide which facts or statistics best
support the project and substantiate your
promises with facts and details.
• Information that does not relate to the
project you are presenting will cause the
reader to question the entire proposal.
The Project Description
Objectives are the measurable
outcomes of the project.
This section of your proposal
should have four subsections:
• Staffing/administration, and
Together, objectives and
methods will dictate your
staffing and administrative
The Project Description
• This means that you demonstrate your
ability to solve or meet the challenge.
• The methods section describes the
specific activities that will take place to
achieve the objectives. It might be helpful
to divide your discussion of methods into
what, how, when, and why.
• Your proposal should clearly communicate
your ability to successfully perform the
• Documentation of successful fulfillment of
other contracts will help prove your point.
The Project Description
• How: This is the detailed description
of what will occur from the time the
project begins until it is completed.
Your methods should match the
previously stated objectives.
• When: The methods section should
present the order and timing for the
tasks. It might make sense to provide
a timetable so that the reader does
not have to map out the sequencing
on their own.
• The timetable tells the reader "when"
and provides another summary of
the project that supports the rest of
the methods section.
The Project Description
• Why: You may need to defend your
chosen methods, especially if they are a
new approach. Why will the planned
work lead to the outcomes you
• You can answer this question in a
number of ways, including using the
valuation of an expert and examples of
another projects that worked.
• The methods section helps the reader to
visualize the implementation of the
project. It should convince the reader
that your company knows what it is
doing, thereby again establishing
The Project Description
• In describing the methods, you will have
mentioned staffing for the project. You
now need to devote a few sentences to
discussing the number of staff, their
qualifications, and specific assignments.
• Details about individual staff members
involved in the project can be included
either as part of this section or in the
appendix, depending on the length and
importance of this information
• How will you free up the time of an already
fully deployed individual?
Pricing the project
• As you prepare to assemble the pricing, go
back through the proposal narrative and
make a list of all personnel and contractors
related to the operation of the project.
• Be sure that you list not only new costs to
complete the project but also any ongoing
expenses for items that will be allocated to
• Verify or get the relevant costs from the
person in your agency who is responsible for
keeping the books.
• You may need to estimate the proportions of
your company’s ongoing expenses that
should be charged to the project and any
new costs, such as salaries for project
personnel not yet hired. Put the costs you
have identified next to each item on your list.
• Your list of pricing items and the calculations
you have done to arrive at a dollar figure for
each item should be summarized on
• You should keep these to remind yourself how
the numbers were developed.
• These worksheets can be useful as you
continue to develop the proposal and discuss
it with the evaluator; they are also a valuable
tool for monitoring the project once it is under
way and for reporting after completion.
• Some proposals require you to provide
adequate management and cost information.
In this case, you need to demonstrate your
ability to account for all of the costs involved in
performing the contract.
Developing Your Conclusion
• Every proposal should have a
concluding paragraph or two.
This is a good place to call
attention to the future, after the
project is completed.
• If appropriate, you should outline
some of the follow-up activities
that might be undertaken.
• This section is also the place to
make a final appeal for your
• Briefly summarize what your
company wants to do and why it
• Cover design
• Cover letter
• Spell check
• Gather appendix materials
• Prepare table of contents,
section dividers, etc.
• Where and by whom will
the document be
A checklist for government proposal writing
Thoroughly reviewed the RFP
Prepared any questions concerning the RFP
and submitted to the contracting officer
Obtained and reviewed background
documentation for the project
Evaluated your company’s strengths and
Evaluated your company’s competition
Developed a strategy to differentiate your
Prepared document in the appropriate format
Included commitment letters from potential
employees, suppliers and funding sources
If appropriate, past performance references
Purchased a sufficient number of packaging
materials? Binder rings, tabs, notebooks, etc.
• Deliver on time.
• Label the original
documents and required
number of copies.
• Seal the original and copies
in a package and label
• If mailing, don’t forget to
check delivery schedules.
• If hand carrying, provide a
signature receipt for the
McLennan Community College
Small Business Development Center
Government Contract Assistance Center
Owner of TEAMCo and Beautiful Reflection Photography
firstname.lastname@example.org or Laveda@beautifulreflection.com