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Make Your Next Proposal the Best One Yet

proposal management tech edit Apr 04, 2022
Make your next proposal the best one yet

“The solicitation is out!” It's a phrase that elicits a methodical approach [and a healthy panic] of the proposal management team. Assuming that the capture team's Shakespearian "To bid, or not to bid" decision remains as a "yes"; here are three rules your writers must focus to avoid an unforced error that earns your proposal a completely avoidable "yellow" or "red" grade:

Comply with Proposal Instructions

In a Request for Proposal (RFP), the questions you need to answer are given to you. In fact, they break them down for you by telling you what questions to answer, what format, how many pages you have to respond, and when it’s due. It’s like a college term paper with set parameters only it’s about your company and how you can deliver the best solution.

All proposals submitted by the due date are given to the government Technical Evaluation Board where they assign grades on a grading sheet created specifically for that RFP. There is no extra credit; your response is graded strictly by what you submitted on time.

Proposal compliance is ensuring you are responding to the rules laid out in the RFP. Taking apart the RFP to capture all the questions and providing a clear and concise response is paramount to the success of your response. Every single RFP is different, to include re-competes, so it’s important to not cut and paste from an old proposal. Treat each RFP like it’s the first time you’ve seen it so you can tailor your best response.

Make it Easy for the Evaluator to Grade

When your technical writer sits down to draft your response, they often want to make it flow for easier reading. Unfortunately, government graders aren’t looking for superfluous words and flowing text, they’re looking for what they told you within the RFP. If you follow the same outline and numbering scheme as the RFP the grader is not forced to hunt for the answer. Stick to the facts and make your response easy to grade, and easy for your team to manage the overall response. As matter of fact, use the same numbering scheme of the RFP to outline your response.

Compel with Facts

RFPs generate a lot of paperwork, but who says it has to be boring? The government is usually asking questions that dictate dry responses, but there are ways to avoid dullness. You can avoid this with:
- Solutions
- Stories
- Facts


The customer has a problem and their goal is that the RFP will yield someone who says, “this is your solution.” Showing that you understand their problem and that you can provide a realistic solution is key to making it to the top of the list. Rambling about how great you are is not interesting to the grader. Highlighting the issues they face, explaining how you would solve them, and providing relevant past performance information is vital to showing you truly can provide a solution.


A good story can go a long way to building the big picture of how you can solve the problem the customer faces. By providing relevant experience and including the who, what, how, and overall benefit to the client, the customer can see how your company can benefit them. This is especially helpful if your past client is like them. In this situation, they can put themselves in those shoes to see if your shoe fits their needs. If your past client and the potential client are vastly different, add in facts that will bridge the gap for the grader. When addressing the how, highlight all the work you did that was unique, innovative, or difficult to show the grader how your approach can help them tackle the problem. By highlighting your benefits, the customer can see what they would get from your company.

Specific Facts

Providing concrete numbers and information presents a genuine approach to the grader. By avoiding phrases like “over 20”, “more than 10” or “approximately five” and using phrases such a “23 percent” or “13 milestones” shows you know your value without having to inflate it with vague metrics. If the grader gets the impression that you’re bragging it may cloud their judgment for the remainder of your response.

Taking the time to step back, ensure your response is compliant, easy to read for the grader, and is compelling takes some practice; however, the long-term benefits will outweigh the time you spend on this. The graders have a lot of hours ahead of them as they slog through responses … make yours shine.

The above may sound like "table stakes" but you would be amazed at the amount of proposals where the way the content is presented to the evaluators prevents the best solution from getting the award. If you want to improve your proposal writers and capture mangers' game, check out the proposal quick start guide from Trident Proposal Solutions. A good place to start to make sure your team's proposal has the best chance to win.