Have you ever searched for how to write a government contracting proposal? When you did that search, did you find the answer? Probably not. Most people have no idea how to write a proposal to win a government contract. In this blog post today, I will walk you through the process of writing government contracting proposals so you win more contracts and make more money. Pay attention because this article will lay out all the details you need to know.
Before we get started, I’m assuming you are already a registered business in the government contract market. The next step after getting registered is to do your market research to understand which agencies buy what you’re selling. Most people skip this step, but market research is significant because it forces you to focus on agencies that buy what you sell. Rather than targeting 50 agencies, you only target three who buy your solution in large quantities.
Contact the agencies and start building relationships once you are ready to do business. Relationships are the new currency. The next logical step is to start looking for opportunities with the agency. For example, you can look at the agency’s forecast list to identify future opportunities or look for contracts on databases like SAM.Gov for current opportunities.
Once you’ve found a contract you’re interested in; the first step is to read the solicitation. Once you read and understand the solicitation, it’s time to do a bid or no bid analysis. A bid or no bid analysis is an objective way of asking yourself if you have what it takes to win the contract. If the odds are in your favor, you bid on the contract. If not, don’t bid.
So, let’s assume you’ve found a solicitation, and it’s time to read it. How do you read a government contract, understand it and respond to it? Let’s get into it.
Your Initial Steps to Submitting a government contract Proposal
The first step is to read the solicitation. A solicitation is a request from the government. Your response to the solicitation is a proposal. So, we are going to read the solicitation and respond with our proposal. There are three main sections to read when trying to understand solicitations. First, read the scope of work, then the evaluation criteria, and finally, the instructions. Those three sections will outline what you need to know about the contract, the instruction you need to follow, and how you win the contract.
The scope of work will tell you precisely what you need to do. It’s essentially the job description. Once you understand the scope of work, the next step is to read the instructions. The instructions tell you exactly how you need to respond to the bid. It gives you the direction you need to follow to be compliant. If you don’t follow the directions, they’ll deem you non-compliant, which automatically disqualifies you from winning the government contract. Most proposals fail because the writers never follow directions. Follow the instructions because they will tell you everything you need to do to win. If you can’t follow the instructions, find a different government contract, or communicate with the contracting officer to see if they’ll make accommodations. Once you’ve read the scope of work and the instructions, you know everything about the project and what you need to do to win.
You’re probably thinking, “wow, that’s easy” yes, it’s easy, but we forget one thing, the evaluation criteria. The evaluation criteria is usually based on a point system where each criterion has a maximum number of points you can receive. It’s included inside the solicitation to let you know what’s required to bid and how they will evaluate your proposals. Proposal writers should strive to score as high as possible to increase their probability of winning the contract. For example, the evaluation criteria might say 20 points for experience, 15 points for personnel, 50 points for technical approach, and 15 points for management approach. Total points equal 100, and the closes proposal to 100 points wins the contract. So, each proposer should demonstrate their capabilities leveraging the evaluation criteria to win the government contract.
After reading the scope of work, instructions, and evaluation criteria, you know if you can win and meet all the contract requirements. Which is why we do a bid or no bid analysis after reading the solicitation. Ask yourself some objective questions about your capabilities, resources, experience, and finances to ensure you can win the government contract before going forward. The reality is most people don’t do a bid or no bid analysis. Instead, they bid on random contracts without objectively asking themselves if they can meet all the requirements. Doing a bid or no bid analysis will make it easier to win more contracts because you’ll only be bidding contracts you know you can win. After doing a bid or no bid analysis, it’s time to write the proposal.
Three Types of Government Contract Proposals
When writing a proposal, you must first understand that there are different proposals. The first is a request for information (RFI). These are presented when the government is just seeking information. When responding to these, you typically answer questions and show the government you’re interested in the opportunity. Again, these are not contracts; it’s simply information. The second type of proposal is a request for proposals (RFP). Which is a government contract you’re bidding to win, so you need to put your best foot forward. In this article, I’ll show you how to respond to RFPs. The last type of proposal is a Request for Quotation (RFQ). These are typical prices only. You don’t have to write as much when compared to RFPs; with these, you fill out the documents and attach your pricing.
Overall, for RFIs, you answer a few questions and give helpful information. You’re essentially marketing your business when you respond to RFIs because they must read what you send them. RFPs are more technical and require a proposal writing process to ensure you meet all the requirements and evaluation criteria. Lastly, we have the RFQ, which is just a quotation. Fill out the documents and attach your price. For RFIs, they just want information. RFPs want the best solutions, hence why you’re writing a proposal. For RFQs, they want the best price; everything else is secondary.
Creating a Government Proposal
Now that you understand the difference between RFI, RFP, and RFQ. Let’s talk about responding to a government proposal for your business. As I mentioned earlier, you must first read and understand the proposal once you’ve read everything and decided to respond. Then, it’s time to create your outline.
The beautiful thing about creating your outline is that the instructions are already laid out. Read the instructions section of the solicitation and create the outline based on those instructions. They will tell you how to create your cover page, what questions to answer, the page count, how to submit the proposal, things to talk about, etc. They will tell you everything you need to do to format your response correctly, so use the instructions section to create the outline. I call it creating the skeleton.
Once the skeleton is done, it’s time to add context or meat to the bone. Take the evaluation criteria and infuse them into the outline. At this moment, all you’ve done is create the outline using the instruction; you’ve added the evaluation criteria into the outline. For instance, the evaluation criteria might say “explain your technical approach,” which counts for 25 points out of the 100. In addition, they tell you exactly what you need to talk about inside your technical approach.
So, when creating your outline, the instruction says you must have a cover page, table of content, executive summary, technical approach, management approach, experience, pricing, and references. Now that you have your outline, the evaluation criteria state that you explain your technical approach and make sure to answer these questions in your approach.
Now you take the technical approach questions in the evaluation criteria and talk about them inside the technical approach section inside the outline. You do that for every section to ensure you meet all the criteria.
Making Yourself Stand Out as A Bidder
At this point, you should have a great understanding of the solicitation, your format and outline should be complete, and you should have the evaluation criteria embedded inside the outline. Now it’s time to start writing your proposal. Always reference the evaluation criteria to ensure your checking all the boxes.
When writing my proposals, I focus on five core pillars:
Every successful proposal is built on these five pillars, so make sure to infuse them inside your proposal.
When writing your proposal, you need to be solution-oriented because the government does not like taking risks. So, when writing, demonstrate and highlight that your solution-oriented, and any obstacles that present themselves will be overcome. You can even tell them when you faced an obstacle and overcame it in the past. It shows you’re a problem solver.
When it comes to being risk-averse, you need to demonstrate you’re a low-risk investment and that you will do the job as efficiently and effectively as possible. The goal is the reduce risk and make it easier for the government to give you the government contract. For example, suppose you have limited experience, and the government wants more. In that case, you can reduce risk by saying you have a partner whose done this for the past 30 years. As a result, they are ready to take on the project with you as their subcontractor or partner.
Having limited experience is risk for the government to award you the government contract. However, since you have a partner with more experience than required, the risk has been mitigated. Hence why we prioritize being risk-adverse when writing proposals; it makes it easier for the government to do business with us.
As for being cost-effective, it simply means you’re not the highest price in the market nor the lowest price in the market but the best price for the best value. Yes, the government prints the money, but they won’t overpay. Instead, they’ll compensate you fairly but trying to overcharge is a great way to get blackballed or priced out of winning the government contract.
Continuously, we want to be value-driven to increase the probability of winning the contract. How much more can you give to set ourselves apart from our competition? How much more value can you deliver? Business success comes down to over delivering and constantly providing value to your clients. You must be willing to give tremendous value to win the government contract. As a result, they will appreciate you and bring you more business because they know they’ll always get more than they paid. By the way, I’m not saying lose money providing value. We’re not in business to lose money or break even; we’re here to be profitable and deliver value far over what they pay us. Always lead with value, and you will always succeed.
Lastly, you must be persuasive. Why you and not somebody else? Why do you deserve the contract? It would be best if you persuaded them to give you the contract. So, find ways to persuade them. It could be you’re a small business; you are a veteran-owned business, a minority-owned business, or a women-owned business. It could mean you have all the certifications to help them meet their small business goals. But it would be best if you found additional ways to persuade them to award you the government contract.
Do those five things in your proposals, and I promise you’ll win more contracts than you lose. Especially if you do a bid or no bid analysis before bidding on the government contract.
You Have All the Tools to Land That Government Contract
You’ve just been handed a complete step-by-step process for writing proposals. You have a very high probability of winning a government contract if you follow. First, read the instructions, evaluation criteria, and scope of work to summarize. After reading those three sections, you should know if you can win the contract but do a bid or no bid analysis to look at the odds of winning the contract objectively. Once you’ve decide to bid on the contract, use the instructions and evaluation criteria to create the outline. Once the outline is complete, start writing your proposal and focus on being solution-oriented, risk-averse, cost-effective, persuasive, and value-driven. If you do these things when writing government contracting proposals, your probability of winning contracts will increase significantly. Furthermore, nothing is hard if you follow a process and learn from it as you go forward. Remember, you are one contract away!
If you need any additional assistance, make sure to reach out. We’re here to support you every step of the way.