If you’re new to government contracting (or even if you’re not), you might be overwhelmed when you first open up an agency’s solicitation and realize how much information is requested of bidders. Depending on the type of good or service needed and the complexity of the procurement, the request for proposals (RFP) or invitation for bids (IFB) might feel like a request for your whole life story – and then some.
In fact, many find the proposal writing process the most daunting part of doing business with government agencies, public schools or non-profits. Their accountability to taxpayers results in a highly-regulated procurement process and competitive bidding, even when the “bid” just results in the award of an open contract for ongoing purchases.
Given that the majority of government procurements are competitive in some form or fashion, it’s highly likely that you’re going to have to submit a bid proposal at some point if you want to generate revenue from the public sector. That’s why we’ve develop this free guide for novice and experienced bidders alike full of tips, tips and best practices to utilize when preparing your proposal:
RFP Response Writing for Geniuses
In case you don’t have time to read through it right now, here are some of the “CliffsNotes” takeaways:
- Don’t just skim through the solicitation documents. As soon as you see a solicitation posted, download every page of the main document as well as every addendum and read through every last word. Taking the time to thoroughly understand the expectations on day one will enable you to determine whether or not you meet every requirement so that you don’t waste resources preparing a proposal only to find out on the last page that you can’t fulfill the agency’s need for some reason. Plus, reading through the entire solicitation early on will give you more time to ask questions of the agency during the pre-briefing period. It will also give you more time to secure any certifications, insurances, etc. needed to ensure everything is in order by the proposal deadline. No one wants to be scrambling at the last minute. That’s how mistakes are made.
- Don’t skip over anything. Answer every single question that is asked in the solicitation. If it’s not applicable, indicate that. But don’t leave anything blank. Doing so could disqualify you. (Another reason why it’s best to read the documents thoroughly before deciding to submit a bid.)
- Don’t skimp on the information asked of you, but don’t over divulge either. It’s important to be thorough in your responses. The more insight you can provide into your capabilities and solutions/services, the better. Again, you don’t want them to disqualify or score your proposal lower you simply because you forgot to include an important piece of information – or thought details weren’t important when there were. However, you don’t want to get too wordy either. You must strike the right balance when it comes to response length.
- Don’t sell yourself short. If you don’t have a track record in the public sector, that’s okay. Everyone has to start somewhere. Showcase your experience, expertise and strengths however you can, even if that’s by demonstrating your successes with similar projects or impacts with similar solution in the commercial or consumer sectors.
- Be careful not to just sell yourself. Remember, government agencies are looking for certain goods, services and systems because they need to solve a problem or deliver a certain type of service themselves. Telling them that you have a great product, service or team without explaining how that product/service/team can help the government achieve its goals will fall flat. Explain the benefits of your offering in the context of the agency’s problem or objective, even if you’re just selling school supplies. Emphasize quality or speed of fulfillment, but in terms of the impact that will have on the quality of their offerings to their customers or in their ability to fulfill their mission more quickly.
Of course, other best practices include:
- Conducting your market research to ensure you’re properly differentiating yourself, which we discussed last week.
- Checking for typos as well as perfecting your grammar and punctuation.
- Keeping the technical lingo to a minimum, unless specifically requested.
- And more!
Download the full (free) guide now for insider tips on how to write winning proposals and improve your government sales volume!