For many, it is hard to imagine something that is long and contains excruciating detail and at the same time is vague and unspecific.  However, anyone who has read a government Request for Proposal (RFP) will be able to relate.  Proposal responses must address every angle of the RFP to establish credibility and a basis for selection.

The most important aspect of any proposal response is that it “answers the mail”.  It must directly address the requirements that the government is asking for.  And it must provide a level of detail about HOW the proposer plans to achieve the task.  Many make the mistake of regurgitating or explaining the task that the government has outlined.  For example, if the government released an RFP asking for hair cutting services, it would not be sufficient to say:

“We understand the importance of hair cuts as they enable people to see better by getting hair out of their eyes. We have given many haircuts.”

Instead, it would be better to respond:

“Our approach to haircuts is to first wash the hair with shampoo and water. Then our hair cutter uses scissors to cut the hair….”

Many firms outsource the proposal writing function.  This is especially true of smaller firms with limited resources.  While this may be very helpful in terms of organizing content, managing team members and formatting responses, it may not be sufficient for developing content for technical approaches. In my opinion, the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) must create the content and writers write the response.

The writer should act like a journalist and work collaboratively with the SME to tease out the “HOW”.  By asking critical questions you can develop a more robust response.  Using the example above, the writer should ask:

  • How are you going to wash the hair?
  • How many people can you accommodate?
  • How long does it take?
  • What kind of shampoo?
  • How hot is the water?
  • What makes your hair cutters special?
  • What tools do they use?

The result would be a response that provides a better level of detail as shown below:

“Our approach to haircuts is to first provide reclining chairs and portable sinks to wash hair. We can accommodate up to 10 haircuts every half hour. We use brand name shampoos and  wash hair in 96 degrees Fahrenheit water for five minutes. We then wrap the hair in a towel and move the person to another chair where a certified hair cutter will use special scissors to trim the hair…”

Collaboration is the key. When the writer collaborates with the SME, the result is exponentially better.

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