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Government Proposal Writing: Building the Proposal

Writing a winning government proposal is not the product of luck, but rather careful planning, writing, and review. In this four-part series of blogs, we will be discussing the capture, strategic planning, execution, and evaluation processes. Each of these elements is key to create not only a compliant proposal but a competitive proposal that can win contracts.

At this point in the process, you have completed all the preparatory work. You now understand the customer, your primary competitors, and detailed your strengths and limitations. You created your strategic messaging and win themes and tied them into your approach in your writer’s outlines. The next step is to start building your proposal.


1. Determine and Delegate


Determine your proposal writers based on their skill, experience, ability, and availability. When possible, make sure that the writing assignments are designated based on technical knowledge and background. Since some teams may have limited writers, proposal managers may need to support any gaps in the writer’s knowledge or understanding. The writer should aim to produce clear, concise content, and follow the proposal manager’s instructions and outline.


If the contract requirements are highly specialized, you may consider supplementing your team with a consultant to assist in addressing niche or highly technical aspects of the contract. It may not be cost-efficient to keep subject matter experts sitting around waiting for the next proposal, so consultants can be valuable resources. Bringing them on as early as possible will ensure that your win themes and strategies are fully integrated into the final solution.



2. Strategize and Support


Oftentimes, writers have not participated in the earlier stages of proposal development. Instead, the writer’s outline serves to guide the writer through the process, providing context and important points to emphasis. To ensure that the outline is properly utilized, the proposal and capture managers should brief the writers on the outlines and answer any questions the writers have. The managers should be available for any questions that may arise during the writing process. Taking the time to provide clear directions and information can save a lot of time in the review process.



3. Clear, Concise, and Compliant Content


The writers need to clearly explain your approach to meeting the customer’s requirements, rather than parroting back the language from the proposal. It is simple to explain what you will be doing while explaining the how and why of your approach can take more thought and consideration. As you begin your approach, make sure that your explanations are not generic, but provide detailed methodology (how) and contextual benefits (why). Your proposal should highlight how your approach and experience benefit the customer compared to your competitors.


Remember, every sentence is significant and must add value or help meet a requirement. Keep your language concise and ensure that all assertions are substantiated by prior experience and outcomes. This gives the government confidence in your company’s ability to execute and produce, reducing perceived risk.



4. Developing Differentiators


Companies that bid on similar contracts often have very similar experiences and capabilities. Developing differentiators will prevent your proposal from getting lost in the crowd. It is not only important to identify the items that will distinguish your proposal to the evaluators but also explain the importance of these differentiators. This may include successes or outcomes from past contracts, proposing insightful solutions based on previous performance or customer insight, or providing unique resources like local facilities, niche expertise, or new technologies. These differentiators should be woven throughout and tie into the evaluation, showing how and why this approach is the most beneficial to the customer.



5. Generate Graphics


We use graphics as a general term to include all visual elements including graphics, tables, figures, and call-out boxes. We believe that graphics are an important aid to help make a text-heavy proposal more digestible. Graphics should explain or depict a differentiator, illustrate a complex or important process or concept, or create an emphasis. Graphics help the evaluator in their review to easily identify elements necessary to comply with the RFP and accentuate your understanding of the customer’s needs.



By following these tips, your resulting proposal will portray an understanding of the customer’s mission and needs, your detailed methodology, and your differentiators that will provide the customer with the best results. With that type of proposal, how can it be anything but a winning proposal?

If you found this material helpful and want to learn more, check out our podcast, The Inside Scoop with Novelle, at www.novelleonline.com/podcasts, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, or Overcast.

Rita Simmons, Ph.D., is the founder and lead consultant of Novelle, where she provides business and research consulting to companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Simmons leverages her drive for innovation and excellence along with her extensive executive and military experience to help companies grow their business, drive revenue, and achieve strategic goals. When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, contact Dr. Simmons at info@novelleonline.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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