Why Your Business Needs Proposal Consulting Services

Why Your Business Needs Proposal Consulting Services

For most companies, proposal writing can be very tedious and time consuming without the proper assistance. However, with the help of an experienced proposal consultant, like those at The RFP Firm, your proposal writing process can become expedited, less stressful, and result in an improved outcome. Proposal consultants have the knowledge and expertise enabling them to fully understand an RFP and thus respond to said RFP much more effectively by creating a high quality proposal.

Understanding and Effectively Responding to an RFP

A winning proposal is not just about meeting all the RFP requirements and providing competitive pricing. Often it is necessary to seek the assistance of a proposal consultant, someone who is really able to read between the lines of an RFP and understands what the Proposal Evaluation Team is looking for. This type of help will separate your bid from the competition. All organizations responding to an RFP answer the same questions, but a quality proposal consultant maintains knowledge of those extra things beyond RFP guidelines that will aid in bid award.

Possessing a thorough understanding of what works and what does not work for specific government contracts, is required to go above and beyond in the proposal writing process. An experienced proposal consultant will have the wide breadth of experience needed to make those crucial decisions, collect the proper resources, and provide your organization with a competitive proposal within the specified timeline.

Reliable and Consistent Proposal Management

Despite their best intentions many professionals are not able to provide a full-time commitment to proposal management because they are already too busy with their daily responsibilities like managing their business and employees. It is this exact reason that many organizations seek out professional proposal consulting services at The RFP Firm. Our consultants are able to provide full-time proposal management and oversight ensuring the production of a high quality and competitive proposal, while simultaneously taking the burden of proposal management off of core staff, that way employees do not become overworked and producing a lower quality proposal is avoided.

The RFP Firm consultants are trained to understand everything involved in the proposal process and possess the experience to execute each stage efficiently. We are experts at coordinating reviews, consulting with subject matter experts, and ensuring that companies do everything possible to raise the probability of a winning bid, thus seeing a return on their investment in proposal consulting services.

Improve your Return on Investment

It is likely that your company has begun investing time and resources into planning your RFP response, even before fully accepting to take on a specific RFP. It can take months of planning and hard work between many individuals within an organization to create a Proposal. A poorly planned proposal process can create a lot of stress, an added burden on employees, and ultimately cost more money. Hiring a professional proposal consultant increases your organization’s likelihood of winning a contract and helps to ensure time and resources are used to their greatest effect, thus increasing the probability of seeing a greater return on investment on your efforts.

Procedural Compliance

Large corporations and government entities usually have strict procedures set in place in regard to the award of contracts. Often there are a slew of complex forms and documents that must be filled out and responded to correctly, if not done properly those forms and documents are often the reason for not being awarded the contract. One of the many things The RFP Firm’s proposal consultants do is ensuring that all paperwork is filed and submitted properly, even if it is only a formality. This raises your chances of contract award, as well as guaranteeing that your organization will be paid for the services it provides.

Leverage In-House Expertise Effectively

Proposal managers have experience entering new business environments and effectively managing new people with different roles and personality types. This profession demands that such proposal managers, or proposal consultants, must learn quickly and leverage their previous managerial experience to get the most from the proposal team they are working with, regardless of how large or small that team is. A proposal schedule helps to maintain a specified timeline for pulling together the content for each section and sub-section, for every volume of the proposal. Often, your organization’s internal point of contact can be used as the funnel for dispersing and collecting information between the proposal consultant and your organization’s staff.

Marketing Purposes

Sometimes submitting an unsuccessful proposal, when done properly, can be a great way to get your foot in the door with a prospective client. Even though they may have chosen a different provider for the project you submitted your proposal to, if they are impressed with your proposal they will probably remember you and retain your information for potential future projects. It becomes obvious that writing a professional and effective proposal can help you to build and safeguard your consulting business.


Accepting to take on an RFP, creating a high quality proposal in response, and submitting that proposal is a huge undertaking that can be well worth the time and money when done correctly. Hiring a proposal consultant is the perfect way to ensure that your organization is able to create a compelling and competitive proposal, and that the proposal process runs smoothly from start to finish.

Writing an Interesting Proposal

Writing an Interesting Proposal

It is important that you understand the government agency’s needs for the services requested as this is the first step in their gaining confidence in your firm’s ability to deliver the required services. With some proposal consulting and coaching, like that offered by The RFP Firm, you’ll be able to submit an interesting proposal that communicates you understanding as to why it is important, why it is timely, and why your company is uniquely suited to provide the services being requested.

Each RFP is going to be different, but there are some basic strategies when proposal writing that apply for almost every proposal regardless of the subject matter. Your proposal will be setting the stage for the government’s expectations as to how you will execute the contract, so it is critical to present your vision for the project up front, describing when the various tasks will take place. Even though the technical specifics will differ for each project, there are key aspects that will be the same across most proposals. The first is gaining their attention and convincing them that you are the right contractor to work on the project versus other firms who are submitting competing bids.

When writing your technical approach think about what issues you think are really important. This is where you have an opportunity to think long-term, so focus on the biggest problems you see that need to be solved and the best ways to solve them. Describe the best methods to solve it and the best people to work on it, even if you know that your approach may evolve over time.

Developing a strategy

Often, writing a project proposal can take some effort, but it is a requirement for winning the bid. View proposal writing as part of the project. Think through strategies that you have used successfully with other clients and adapt those approaches. This can take a lot of time and reflection but solving even simple problems can require spending time to understand the deep underlying structure of the problem, so think broadly to see if there are approaches from other disciplines that might be able to help. The ability to relate the structure of the problem with the correct strategy can result in a successful approach.

Think about the different possibilities and adapt your strategies to the problem. This can take time, so don’t think that you can just cut and paste what you may have designed for a previous proposal. Consider the problem at hand and develop a strategy to solve it. This is one of the most important parts of the proposal project.

Key issues to address

Each proposal needs to address the following:

  • Why are the most important issues?
  • How can these issues be successfully resolved?
  • Why it is important to implement the correct strategy and what could happen if not done correctly?
  • Why your company is the best option to solve the issues at hand?

Your main goal is to convince the evaluators that your firm can solve their problems with the lowest risk. You’ll need to convince them that your firm has successfully done this with other clients in the past, that you have the key personnel with the relevant experience, and you have the financial resources to manage the entire project from beginning to end.

Understanding the problem from their point of view

The problem you are proposing to solve may be affected by new circumstances or the reemergence of an old problem. Or it may be a new problem that has been impacted by new issues not relevant in the past related to technology or environmental changes. Understanding these changes will help to communicate your solution in a way that demonstrates that understanding and that you understand the importance or urgency of the solution.

Why your company is the best choice

One of the key determinants in the evaluation process is deciding which firm to award the contract to when several appear to be qualified. They may understand your company has the experience and you have a high-quality project team, but why choose you?

The key is to convince the agency evaluators that your company is uniquely qualified to do the job. Identifying what you have that your competitors do not is one of the most effective strategies. This might be specific experience, certain methodologies, your key personnel, or additional value-added services. In addition, if possible, provide a vision of the outcome that goes beyond what they may be looking for and creates excitement in anticipation of your results. If done right, this could even provide you with future work beyond what is specified in the current RFP. With the proper proposal consulting, you should be able to show that your vision is realistic and that your team is qualified to execute that vision.

You’ll need to articulate what resources you have available, i.e., people, partners, resources, and specific key personnel that you bring to the project. Identify where in the project these resources will have a role.

Demonstrate that you understand the issues and provide a comprehensive plan that shows how your team members and resources fit together and the importance of each in your plan. While developing a successful team and partners can take time, it should ultimately result in a better project under your leadership as the project coordinator and driving force.

Provide a vision of the Ultimate Outcome

One last thing when proposal writing is to make your proposal grasp the reader’s attention by telling a story. This can be based on the founding of your company and how you came to have developed the expertise that you bring to the project. Show your compassion for the services rendered and how that leads to consistently providing every client with the highest quality that will exceed their expectations. Identify the problem and how you came about developing your strategy and methods for solving that problem that is unique to your approach. Discuss the difficulties that you came across and that most contractors face, and then describe how you came up with your approach resulting in extremely satisfied customers for whom you have continued to provide services. Describe how, in the past, you used an approach that is typical in your industry, but that your unique approach has set you apart from your competitors and has led to highly satisfied clients over the years.

Leave the reader with a feeling that going with your firm will result in high satisfaction with the end results and that failure to do so would result in a missed opportunity that will improve the image of their agency.

Why does the Government issue a Request for Proposal?

Why does the Government issue a Request for Proposal?

What actually is a Request for Proposal or RFP? Why do Governments issue RFPs?

Governments issue RFPs when they have a need for a contractor or vendor to supply specific products or services and now have the budget approved to finance it. The documents provide details of the scope of work and an outline of the project requirements or tasks. By issuing a public solicitation, they provide opportunities for companies to compete for the contract and then compare them in order to select the best fit based on their evaluation criteria.

This is especially significant when a new or complex project is being proposed that will need to be outsourced. When they are unsure of the specific steps and technologies that the project may entail, they often initially issue a Request for Information (RFI) to get input from prospective contractors. The information received is then used in preparation of a full Request for Proposal that will result in an actual contract with the selected vendor.

During the evaluation process, they are able to compare the bidders and uncover their strengths and weaknesses, assigning points to various criteria and awarding the contract to that vendor with the highest score, thereby justifying their choice. Also, understanding each vendor’s strategy enables them to compare alternatives prior to making the commitment to a specific vendor.

Request for Proposal (RFP) vs Request for Quote (RFQ)

In comparison, an RFQ, Request for Quote has its main focus on the price quoted by competing vendors. Often the vendors have already been vetted or were targeted by the agency based on prior experience or knowledge and feel that the lowest price will bring them the best value overall. The RFP on the other hand will include a technical approach, action plan, management plan, timeline and schedule, and more.

When it’s important to ensure that the company has an effective approach, the past experience with the scope of work, and the staff capable of accomplishing the tasks, that is when a full Request for Proposal is required.

With an RFQ, the agency will only receive a quote for the product or service that they are interested in purchasing without all of the detailed plans included in a full RFP.

RFP Process
In order for prospective vendors to prepare a proposal, the government agency will issue an RFP that describes what it is that they are looking for, the experience that vendors have providing similar services, the qualifications of the company and staff, the various certifications required, and the cost of providing those services. It also describes the required format that they must use when preparing the final proposal content. Sometimes they ask for everything to be provided in one document, but more often they request multiple volumes with the core sections divided into separate tabs within each volume.

During the proposal period, vendors are able to submit questions to clarify information within the RFP documents or to correct obvious misstatements or to help them determine how to price the contract. As a result, the agency will issue an addendum answering those questions and/or correcting errors in the RFP.

Evaluation of Submitted Proposals
During the evaluation process an attempt is made to measure the quality of the responses in comparison one to another and assign points for each major section. Sometimes an initial review is done, and the top bidders are then reviewed more closely with a final contractor being awarded. Those final bidders can even be requested to make their “best and final offer.”

The government RFP process is designed to ensure competitive bidding between interested vendors. This also saves the government time and effort from having to go out and identify prospective contractors, vet them, and hopefully select the best available company.

By issuing an RFP, the agency can focus on what they need, create an outline of those needs and requirements, and distribute it publicly allowing those interested vendors to send them a focused proposal designed to address their specific needs. It then enables them to compare different strategies and levels of experience.

As a vendor, you want to make sure that your proposal stands out from the rest by differentiating your approach from the competition and describing why that approach will provide the government agency with the best results. This is the goal of The RFP Firm when preparing your proposal.

What the Government Looks For in a Winning Proposal

The Government wants to select the vendor with the highest probability of success within a reasonable cost. So, risk mitigation is key. When describing how you do what you do, you must address why you do it that way and provide proofs that it is the best approach or examples of successful similar implementations done in the past. Identify unforeseen obstacles and how you were able to successfully overcome them. What were your lessons learned that have improved outcomes going forward. What were the benefits: cost, time, resources, etc. Additionally, be sure to include:

  • A cover letter to provides a professional image and establishes the core qualifications and benefits your company brings to the contract.
  • Your understanding of the project and the agency’s goals or objectives for the outcome.
  • Your technical approach and methodology that sets you apart from the competition.
  • Your ability to achieve the timeline and expected schedule.
  • Your capability to handle potential technical issues or roadblocks.
  • Justification for your price quote and explain any issues that may impact your quote.

At The RFP Firm, once we understand the government agency’s most critical issues, we emphasize your company’s ability to manage those issues and identify how you will do so.

The Components of a Business Proposal

Construction of your Business Proposal

A business proposal, unlike a government solicitation response, is more flexible, allowing you to present your company, its key qualifications, benefits, and expected outcome in a manner that creates a persuasive case for selecting you over the competition.

Although there are components that are always included creating a foundation, the key strategy will be specific to the industry, client, and services for which you are bidding.

Like every other proposal, the format of business proposals requires your initial strategy to begin by capturing the client information and background and gaining an understanding of the problems to be solved by the services provided. The key components that establish the foundation of your proposal will include:

  • Company Information: Background, qualifications, key benefits that enable your company to stand out from the competition.
  • Experience and knowledge of the services required: Describe your understanding of the problem being solved, what the client needs, and your solution.
  • Technical Approach: Description of how you will render the required services, i.e., using what resources and strategies, and who does what, when, and why.
  • Project Cost: If necessary, break down the costs for an understanding of the pricing components and/or include a narrative.

Cover Page

Include the basic components identifying the client (name, address, and contact person), a title for the proposal that identifies the proposed services, your company information (name, address, and contact person, email, and phone), and the date.

If applicable, include an image that captures the essence of the project and projects a professional appearance for your business.

What is not helpful, are graphics throughout the proposal that are too fancy where your document looks more like a magazine than a professional proposal, so do not over do the graphics throughout the documents unless it clarifies a component of the narrative. And, do not put your content in two columns.

Transmittal Letter/Cover Letter

Provide a brief introduction to your company (years in business, specialization, etc.). Identify the experience your company has that is directly related to the contract and why you are proposing to provide the required services to the client.

Highlight the key benefits that your company brings that sets you apart from the competition and will provide the confidence in your ability to successfully execute all requirements on time and within budget.

Briefly identify the information provided in the proposal itself. Offer to provide any additional information or answer questions the client may have and have it signed by a senior officer along with their contact information.

Table of Contents

Include a table of contents that mirrors the proposal content with sections or tabs and sub-sections to three levels which each link to the related page. Microsoft Word will automatically create a table of contents based on your headers and sub-headers.

Executive Summary

By providing a high-level overview of the proposal, you can set the stage for what to expect in the proposal content. You can expand on some of the briefs identified in your cover letter and go into more detail.

The goal is to provide brief summaries of each section within the proposal itself under sub-headers identifying those sections and enticing the reader with the solutions covered in each of those sections.

Often, you can create the executive summary after completing the proposal or use the executive summary as your initial outline prior to developing all of the content. This second way will allow you to create an organized strategy prior to the detailed narratives.

You are not trying to explain the details in the summary, but rather highlight the key points in each of the sections of the proposal that identify the client’s problems and your solutions. Allow your executive summary to provide a high-level overview and then leave the rest of the proposal to explain the details.


Provide your understanding of the project, its importance, and the benefits that will they will receive as a result of your services under the contract.

Description of the Project and your Technical Approach

If a specific format of the business proposal is requested, be sure to follow their format and organizational structure.

Describe in a detailed narrative how you will provide the required tasks/services, what resources you will use and who will do what, when, and how. Possibly provide a schedule of events or a Gantt chart showing over time when those tasks will be conducted.

Be specific and define clearly your aims and goals, as well as your methodology and approach. Describe the contract team containing your key personnel and their roles, responsibilities, and qualifications.


Provide profiles of past project similar in scope and size with details that include the organization name, address, contact person, contract amount, period of performance, and a description of the services or tasks accomplished.

Pricing/Cost Proposal

Include your overall estimated cost for the project with descriptions of variables that could impact the cost or negotiated items with alternatives and how they will impact the overall contract amount.

Understanding the RFP Process

While incredibly important, the RFP process is often complex and time-consuming. It is a challenge for many, but with the right approach and resources, you can speed up the process. In this blog, we’ll offer you tools to enable you to feel more confident managing RFPs. We’ll start with understanding what they are, the roles in the RFP process and the key steps in the process.

The RFP (Request for Proposal) process can be complex and quite challenging and time-consuming, especially for small businesses where the key personnel are all 100% occupied running the business. The RFP Firm can help speed up the process. During the proposal development process there are several key steps. First let us review some of the key issues:

  • Understanding what a Request for Proposal (RFP) is
  • Resources necessary during the proposal development process
  • The basic steps in the proposal process
  • Government agency’s evaluation process

Understanding what is an RFP

Fundamentally, an RFP is a solicitation issued by a government agency looking to purchase a product or service from a private company/contractor/vendor. The RFP is a request from vendors to submit proposals that demonstrate their qualifications, experience, and cost for fulfilling the project’s scope of work according to a specific business proposal format defined in the instructions. The government agency then evaluates each proposal submitted and usually grades and scores each relevant component. Typically, the proposal that receives the highest overall score gets awarded the contract.

Resources necessary during the proposal development process

Often, for a small business the owner, president, or CEO or other officer has the most knowledge of the business and its past experience performing similar contracts and, therefore, is the most qualified to articulate and pull together the required information. They can coordinate accessing that information from other departments within their organization and discuss the best strategy for explaining how they do what they do and the best past contracts to use as examples to prove that the company has the experience similar in scope to the RFP requirements.

Proposal Writer/Consultant: The proposal consultant/writer has the responsibilities for reviewing all of the RFP documents and identifying all of the compliance requirements to ensure 100% compliance with the legalities to guarantee the proposal does not get thrown out on a technicality, outlining the content requirements for each and every section and subsections for each of the required proposal documents, and developing the proposal template used for capturing the content. This includes an appropriate cover page, transmittal letter, table of contents, and often a list of acronyms and compliance matrix when requested. Then incorporating and editing the required content, ensuring clear and concise copy, perfect grammar and punctuation, adding headers and sub-headers, formatting the content so that it is easy to read and looks good on the page, ensuring that statements are supported by proofs, and creating tables, charts, and callouts where necessary.

Prior to submitting content for any section to the proposal writer, the client team should review their content and sign-off internally, thereby not having to redo the effort again and again. As the content for each section is incorporated, a draft is returned to the client to review and ensure that nothing has been misstated and any missing information is identified and requested. Then, any additional content is incorporated.Prior to submitting content for any section to the proposal writer, the client team should review their content and sign-off internally, thereby not having to redo the effort again and again. As the content for each section is incorporated, a draft is returned to the client to review and ensure that nothing has been misstated and any missing information is identified and requested. Then, any additional content is incorporated.

The pricing portion of a proposal is always critical to ensure that you are in a competitive range. This is important as pricing that is too far outside of the median range of bidders, i.e., to high or too low, is often given a low score in the evaluation. Some RFPs are LPTA (Lowest Price Technically Acceptable) and will first rank the proposals based on price, review the lowest priced offer first, and if technically acceptable, not consider any of the others. In this case, you must provide your lowest possible pricing.The pricing portion of a proposal is always critical to ensure that you are in a competitive range. This is important as pricing that is too far outside of the median range of bidders, i.e., to high or too low, is often given a low score in the evaluation. Some RFPs are LPTA (Lowest Price Technically Acceptable) and will first rank the proposals based on price, review the lowest priced offer first, and if technically acceptable, not consider any of the others. In this case, you must provide your lowest possible pricing.

Of course, for all proposals, your pricing should be what they call “reasonable” with a modest profit. Always be sure that you will be satisfied with your pricing as there is no reason to bid on a project at too low a price where you will not be satisfied. Sometimes, you’ll need to provide a lot of details showing hourly rates, markups, overhead/G&A, profit, etc. At other times, they just ask for a flat fee.

Basic Steps in the Proposal Process

In order to achieve the goal of the government’s RFP, your proposal needs to provide all of the requested information in the required format with nothing left out or disregarded. One huge mistake businesses make is to just state that they will do the work, but not how they will do it, with what resources, who will do what, and what qualifications and experience your company and proposed team have to accomplish the required tasks. Provide proofs of what you say in order to earn the confidence of the evaluation team that you can successfully accomplish the tasks described in the scope of work.

And, wherever possible, it is critical to differentiate your business and technical approach from the competition so that you stand out from the other vendors with a unique approach or experience or technology.

The basic steps include:

  • Reviewing all of the RFP documents.
  • Identifying all compliance requirements (formatting, forms, attachments, etc.).
  • Identifying any key pain points or important issues gleaned from the RFP.
  • Outlining the required content for each volume.
  • Developing the narratives for each section and subsections for every volume explaining how you will address each requirement.
  • Editing the content to ensure clear and concise copy, and correct punctuation and grammar.
  • Formatting the content on every page to ensure easy readability and professional presentation.
  • Giving each proposal document a final polish, saved in the required format, and identified with the required file names.
  • Then submitted according to the submittal instructions.

It is crucial within the narrative to emphasize how you will help the agency to overcome any crucial issues or problems that they are seeking to solve or improve. In addition, identify any additional benefits that they will receive from you as the vendor that are provided at no additional cost. Often, these are methods, technologies, or other assets that are a normal part of your operations. Describe the positive experience they will have with your company as the vendor of choice and the benefits they will receive as a result.

The information requested in an RFP can vary widely, but typically includes:

  • Technical approach
  • Management plan and key personnel qualifications/experience
  • Experience with the scope of work
  • Past performance references
  • Financial capacity
  • Pricing

Government agency’s evaluation process

  • Evaluate each proposal section for compliance with the RFP requirements
  • Score each main proposal section
  • Compare vendor responses
  • Calculate pricing compared with the mean

During this process they will often create a short list of potential vendors and even request onsite presentations and/or demo where they can ask questions which also allows you to provide more detailed explanations.

It is always best to accept the government’s contract terms without exception early in your proposal as this can often disqualify you from being awarded a contract.


How to Write a Funding Proposal for Your Small Business

How to Write a Funding Proposal for Your Small Business

A funding or “grant” proposal will have a well-defined deliverable that can be documented. The project will need to define the exact results that are requested to be funded. A grant proposal must be well planned and clearly presented. In a grant proposal, the requested funds are often for projects that will benefit both the government agency (mission and goals) and the organization requested the funds. Grantees typically are looking for projects that will result in positive change and/or have a large impact on specific principles, ideals, or philosophy.

For example, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) identifies a large number of types of federal grants that non-profits can apply for—one sample program is designed to reduce tobacco use and educate citizens about healthy eating. Even with these solicitations, companies submitting a high-quality small business proposal have an opportunity to be awarded a contract.

The keys to writing a grant proposal include:

  • Defining your goals, costs, and timeline.
  • Present a short summary of the grant opportunity that you are proposing, and the amount of funding being requested. This could be as a cover letter or an executive summary.
  • Tie in the goals and objectives of your proposed project with the organization’s mission.
  • Differentiate your proposed project from those being proposed by your competitors.
  • Identify how the funds will be used and your methods for implementing your program.
  • Keep the content of your presentation formal as a stand-alone project where you invite the reader to participate.
  • This is a high-level presentation as once you have an interested grantor, then you can go into the details to describe exactly how you will accomplish each and every step.

In your executive summary address the following points:

  • Describe what your organization does and identify your mission and history.
  • Provide some details of the project using an attractive and descriptive name.
  • Identify the importance of the project, the problem you are solving, and why this is important.
  • Describe the results you expect to receive and how you will evaluate its success.
  • Make a case as to why your organization is the best for the project.
  • Identify how much funding you need and how you will finance ongoing work.

Company Background
Provide a clear and concise background of your company to include the founding, history, mission, client base, etc. Provide sufficient information about your infrastructure to provide confidence that you have the resources, expertise, and financial capacity to successfully carry out the contract responsibilities.

Introduce your key personnel, i.e., management, project manager, and supervisors. Include some background information and samples of successful implementations of similar projects. If available, support this with letters of recommendation, awards, licenses, and certifications.

Identify the Problem and the Solution that you are offering

Get heads nodding and showing that you understand the problem and how you can provide the solution. Identify any other solutions that have been tried, why they didn’t work, and why your innovative solution solves those issues and will result in meeting the organization’s goals. Where possible, use numbers and facts to state the problem.

Describe the urgency of implementing the solution now rather than at sometime in the future. Using proven facts, compare the problem with issues that you have dealt with in the past and how you were able to solve those problems through successful implementation of your solution. Also, discuss that your key personnel and project team who worked on those projects will also be working on this project. At the same time, keep the focus on their organization and the outcomes being sought.

Present your Primary Goals and Objectives for the Project

This step needs to be made very clear so that there is no question about your understanding of the problem and what your solution will achieve. Describe how you will measure the success of the program throughout the implementation and how their investment in the project will benefit the target stakeholders. The client’s objectives should be the outcomes you are proposing to achieve.

Your goals should be stated in general terms while the objectives should use SMART, i.e., Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound measures of progress.

Methodology and Strategic Approach

For a small business proposal, you must be clear in describing how you will achieve those goals. Provide specific lists of the resources you will be using/acquiring, i.e., personnel, facilities, services, and resources you will need to be able to deliver the results.

Identify the tasks and schedule you propose to implement the project and the expected results at each stage in the process. Describe how these are cost-effective approaches to accomplishing the tasks and achieving the desired outcomes.

Evaluation Criteria

Make it clear what the evaluation criteria is and how the project will be evaluated as it moves along. Demonstrate that the investment made will be able to be measured to show the effectiveness of the project.

Funding Sources and Ongoing Progress

While the grant is there to get things moving forward, you will need to show how you will sustain ongoing development of the program as it grows and evolves. This may include basic operations such as maintenance and support.

Presenting a 5-year plan can be extremely helpful. Your cost analysis should include standard numbers like inflation, ongoing training, growth, and the evolution of the program. When presenting a project budget, be sure to include all relevant costs including travel, supplies, marketing, and personnel as well as tangential items like insurance, utilities, and other overhead costs.

Know the Different Types of Proposals

Know the Different Types of Proposals


The biggest difference is that with government proposals, you must provide the exact information being requested in the exact format while being 100% in compliance with all major and minor details mentioned in the RFP documents. If you miss one small item, it can get thrown out as non-compliant. With most business proposals, you can provide exactly what you want to present regarding your product or service and sell them on how your firm can save them money, make them money, or whatever it is that rocks their boat. The following provides a few more details that differentiate government proposals from business proposals.

Preparing a Government Proposal

When companies are interested in gaining experience working on government contracts, the most common method is to respond to a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) that has been issued by a government agency. When entering the field for the first time, depending on the services requested, gaining experience as a subcontractor can gain you documented credible government contract experience which can be leveraged as the past performance. The federal governments process for acquiring contractors can be quite complex and often confusing. Understanding the proposal writing format is key to submitting a successful bid. You will run into all kinds of regulations that need to be complied with, various terms and conditions to acknowledge, and certain policies and procedures that must be followed precisely.

Often large companies will hire both proposal writing firms and subject matter experts, who together help to prepare a comprehensive proposal. Small business typically cannot afford the fees charged by those firms, yet do not have the time or experience to prepare the proposal themselves. Hiring a firm that specializes in developing proposals for small businesses can be a savior. The RFP Firm is one such company, working 100% with small businesses and leveraging its expertise to position those businesses as the ideal contractor.

The fact is that even if your company has performed on many government contracts, each RFP has different requirement and procedures. This is true of federal, state, and local government agencies. For the federal government, the process is regulated by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Even many state governments now follow the FAR requirements for preparing their RFPs.

Once you have reviewed the contract requirements and made sure that you can meet the minimum requirements, there is nothing stopping you from developing and submitting a proposal. The Scope of Services/Work will describe the contract requirements. There are often instructions to bidders that provides the details of what must be included in the proposal and the format in which it should be presented. You want to be 100% compliant, so following the instructions in detail is extremely important. Typically, there will be a period where you are allowed to submit questions for clarification followed by an amendment to answer those questions to ensure that you proposal writing format is consistent.

If done properly, bidders will more easily be able to be compared and rated as to their capability and experience to provide the required services. Pricing is of course the most tangible component for measuring proposer responses.

Types of Government Contracts

There are several different kinds of contacts. These include:

  • Fixed-Price Contracts: Your pricing must be a pre-determined price as a set fee for the services provided without the option for adjustment, although sometimes they can be renegotiated is unexpected circumstances arise.
  • Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Contracts: These might have the same requirements as one of the other types of contracts, but it is intended to be ongoing on as as-needed basis.
  • Cost-Plus Contracts: With a focus on the final quality of the project, potential costs are defined, along with various possible supplementary costs required as things progress.
  • Cost Reimbursement Contracts: A base amount is identified for incurred costs as a cost ceiling. These types of proposals often cannot be accurately estimated up front.
  • Time and Materials Contracts (T&M): While there will be various fixed costs, often the timeline and number of materials required are difficult to estimate.

Preparing a Business Proposal

When preparing a business proposal for a private company, it is typically, wide open allowing you to prepare your proposal in a manner that emphasizes the benefits you bring, the financial rationale, and how your experience creates a situation where choosing your company is low risk. Without the formalities of government proposals, you can provide a more sales and marketing-oriented submission.

That being said, the requirements of a business proposal may not be specific enough to price it properly or may include some confusing information. Requesting clarification can be important so that you have a good understanding of exactly how they want the work to be performed or, if they are leaving that decision up to you, then you can propose how you will perform the services and why that is the best approach. This is where you can differentiate your services from the competition. You can also develop your presentation is a manner that is interesting, professional, and engaging, which is more difficult with a government proposal.

Proposal Writing Mistakes Most Companies Make

Proposal Writing Mistakes Most Companies Make

Even the most qualified bidder in the proposal process can lose because of various mistakes made when presenting their information. Often, extremely competent contractors are technically adept and expert at what they do, but when it comes to marketing their services, they struggle. It can be very frustrating when your proposal does not win the bid, especially when you have spent a great deal of time and effort writing it.

One major error that companies make is acquiring a proposal template sample and then cutting and pasting their information into it. This is most often a serious cause of failure and there are many reasons why. The major reason is that every RFP is different, and the minutia provided in the requirements can easily be overlooked. The truthy is that each proposal needs a customized response targeting the specific goals, objectives, and requirements of the solicitation.


These common mistakes should be avoided when preparing your proposals:

Focusing on what you want to say rather than on the government agency’s goals and objectives

You want to focus on what your client wants to know and how you are going to provide a solution to their needs. It must be clear how you will solve their problems or service their needs in order to achieve their vision for a solution. Demonstrate exactly how you will achieve their requirements and prove that you have the experience and project team to do it successfully.

Failure to demonstrate to the client that they will receive a significant return on investment

Describe how your client will receive a return on their investment. Based on facts of the project, you will stand out from your competition. This does not have to be monetary, but rather a series of benefits and tie together with their goals and objectives for the project.

Lack of the use of images and graphics

Use graphic, figures, and tables to support and/or present some of the critical information you want to communicate. These methods make it easier to read and visualize the information that you are trying to articulate.

Failing to differentiate your business from the competition

What strategies or technical approaches/methodologies will you bring to the project that are unique in the industry or proprietary to your business that sets you apart from you competitors. Emphasize methods you use or additional value that you bring that other companies do not. Compare the typical approach to yours, why the other approach is weak and why yours is superior. Be positive by stating that while you used to use those methods, over the years you found a more effective approach.

Being too wordy and over describing your approach

Keep your content to what is requested and be sure to make your responses clear and concisely written. Use more graphics. Use bulleted lists. Use tables and charts.

Not responding to every detail requested in the RFP

Provide some kind of response even when you don’t have a good answer or don’t want to address the item. You can always state that upon contract award you’ll implement this or that program.

Copy and Paste, Typos, and Grammar Issues

Be sure you have the appropriate people to prepare the copy with the correct grammar and punctuation. Do not just copy and paste information from previous proposals or use a proposal template sample. Customize that information specific to the proposal at hand. Often, previous client names get left in pasted content causing an unprofessional response to say the least.

Not demonstrating how your company will add value to the client

By understanding your client’s needs and requirements you will be able to demonstrate how your service will create real value for your client. This is typically something new, adds more value, or results in a better end product. This will be specific to each client.


Not being compliant and following the specific instructions

Just because you know that you can provide the services requested better than any other company, the client usually does not have a clue. You need to explain that to them and prove it. And a key component of this is responding to each and every detail they request in the RFP regardless of if they ask for the same or similar information multiple times. They have a checklist, and you want to get checked off for responding to every item.

Be sure you can meet all of the minimum requirements. You can have the best proposal overall, but if you cannot meet all of the minimum requirements, you are not going to be win the bid…Don’t bid on that one.

Not focusing on the client

Throughout the proposal, focus on the client’s goals, objectives, needs, and wants, not those of your company. This is a common mistake.

Not using a third party to review the final proposal before submission

Often, when writing and reviewing the proposal content, the key person putting together the proposal inputs words and punctuation that are not there, as they understand perfectly what they are communicating and do not see the errors. Have a third-party good at grammar and punctuation review the final content to ensure that it is understandable and written correctly.

Not requesting a debrief

When you do not win a competitive bid, find out where you were weak in order to improve your responses for future success. You can also request a copy of the winning proposal and compare it with your submission.

Even when you do win, find out what it is that made the difference between your proposal and the others. This way you can continually improve your proposals going forward.

Introduction to Government RFPs

Introduction to Government RFPs

A government Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document used that provides prospective contractors the instructions for bidding on government projects. After an RFP is issued, companies interested in bidding can submit a proposal and, if selected are awarded the contract.

The Government RFP must be followed to the letter as any deviation from the requirements will usually result in the proposal being thrown out as non-compliant even when it is a minor technicality like not having the right size borders on the pages. Since these are public documents, these measures are intended to ensure that everyone bidding is on equal footing.

These types of solicitations are usually quite lengthy and can be somewhat confusing to those new to the process. There are many sections that provide details as to what is expected when working under a federal contract. The intent is to create a formal bidding process where any qualified firm can submit a response to the government RFP that describes how they are the best qualified bidder to perform the requested services. So, submitting an effective proposal that meets or exceeds the requirements is crucial to winning the bid.

For federal contract opportunities, check out the governments System for Award Management website at SAM.gov.

Components of a Government RFP

There are usually 13 main sections of a federal government RFP. Each one is guided by the Federal Acquisition Regulations or FAR. When an agency is putting together a solicitation, they are supposed to follow these FAR regulations. This is also why some RFPs will contain information that doesn’t apply to the particular services being requested. The writer of the RFP needs to customize their descriptions within these FAR sections to the project at hand. When they don’t, there can be confusion and conflicting information.

Unless you have a photographic memory, when going through these sections, make notes to ensure that you are both in compliance with every request or direction and create an outline of the actual information that is require in every section of your proposal.

I recommend that you don’t just read through these sections A – M, but rather get a good grasp of the project and the proposal requirements by first going over Section A and then Sections L & M which tell you what you are going to have to put together in the content of your proposal. Then go back and read Section C so that you have a good understanding of the services required to be performed and are confident that you can provide evidence of your ability to perform all services. Finally, go through the contract requirements, which can have hidden instructions requesting additional information be included in the proposal that wasn’t in Section L.

Section A: Information to Offerors

This section is usually quite short and provides the due date, project title, the solicitation number, RFP point-of-contact for submitting questions, and specifics on various issues like acknowledging amendments, which must be followed. When solicitations are specifically sent to a select group of companies, they often ask for a “No Response” reply if you are not interested in bidding.

Section B: Supplies or Services and Price/Costs

Based on CLINs (Contract Line Item Number), this section includes how they want the pricing presented. It typically describes the type of contract and how items or tasks will be billed, the period of performance (base period and option periods), and instructions on preparing your price proposal.

Section C: Statement of Work (SOW)

The SOW includes the scope of work and describes exactly what the contractor is expected to perform during the contract period. This section provides the background for your technical approach, management and staffing plans, and the basis for your pricing.

Section D: Packages and Marking

Here they describe the deliverables that are required during the contract period (reporting, and packaging and shipping, if applicable).

Section E: Inspection and Acceptance

Information is presented that covers the government’s process for accepting the deliverables and any damages if not met. Complex procedures can also affect your price proposal.

Section F: Deliveries or Performance

This section describes how the government’s CO/COR will monitor the work performed and how the contractor is to deliver services or perform tasks.

Section G: Contract Administration Data

This section is focused on how the government’s Contracting Officer or COR will interact and provide details to amend, modify or deviate from the contract terms, conditions, requirements, specifications, details and/or delivery schedules; issue task orders against the contract; make decisions regarding payments; and other contract issues.

Section H: Special Contract Requirements

These are conditions that are more contract related as opposed to proposal related, but also speaks to government-furnished equipment (GFE) and government-furnished property (GFP).

Section I: Contract Clauses/General Provisions

Again, these are procedures for managing changes to the original contract, GFE requirements, and GFP requirements.

Section J: Attachments & Exhibits

Descriptions of the additional requirements to the SOW, i.e., attachments, add-ons, and appendices.

Section K: Representations/Certifications and Statements of Offerors

Contractors should be sure that they are registered and current in the government’s System for Award Management (SAM) at SAM.gov. SAM registration will demonstrate certification of much of the required information and just requires acknowledgement while other information requires responses be included in your proposal. This includes any small business certifications, unique entity identifier, and other company-related information.

Section L: Instructions to Offerors and Other Notices

One of the most important sections for preparing the proposal content. It provides details on the exact content required, the organization of information, if multiple documents are required, formatting requirements, and how the proposal is to be submitted as well as other important instructions. Critical here is to follow the format instructions very closely (font type and size, margin depth, file format and size, page limits, etc.).

Section M: Evaluation Factors for Award

This section is also critical in understanding the components of the proposal that are most critical to the government when evaluating your response. It defines the factor, subfactors, and other information that will be scored/graded during the evaluation. Often, other information is also identified that isn’t made clear in Section L, which can help you provide a comprehensive response. They will usually identify which sections of your proposal are the more important than other sections and assign a percentage of the points available to each section. This way, you’ll have a good idea where to put the majority of your energy. For example, if pricing is only 20% and your technical section is 50%, provide reasonable pricing, but kick ass with your technical approach.

One last thing when responding to a Government Request for Proposal, often different sections of the RFP are written by different people, and the boilerplate text is often inserted without an overall review, creating contradictions and ambiguities. This is why there is a question period during which you can submit questions to get clarification to resolve those issues.

Your Guide to Request for Proposals

Your Guide to Request for Proposals

An RFP is a solicitation from an organization to attract qualified contractors who have the experience and skills to complete a project under contract in order to compare competitive bids. Government agencies and companies use an RFP to provide details of the scope and goals of the services being sought, identify all of the requirements, identify how the proposal response will be evaluated, provide the contract terms, and inform as to the bidding process. The goal is to receive unbiased competitive bids.

The RFP usually identifies a specific format and exactly what information will be required. Often, government agencies use an RFP template for soliciting proposals that have been used with previous projects which tends to end up with contradictions or incomplete information. This is why there is almost always a question period during which bidders can ask for clarification that will help them provide the correct information and price their bid accordingly.

If you are new to reviewing RFPs, you quickly find out that they can appear to be quite complicated and confusing. Even so, there are usually some basic components that are critical for understanding the proposal requirements. These include the Scope of Work/Services, Instructions to Bidders, Evaluation Criteria, Submission Instructions, and Cost/Pricing. It is extremely important that the person writing the RFP is experience at navigating these requirements and the type of responses desired.

Typically, vendors assign junior employees to put together the RFP, which is then reviewed by a senior executive before finalizing. Often these employees are not too familiar with the technical aspects of the scope of services being requested which can create some confusing content that later needs clarification.

Major Sections of an RFP


This will give you an overview of what the organization is looking for and their expectations for a solution.


Typically, this will, at a minimum, provide some background as to how they came to require the services sought. It often describes the goals and objectives of the organization and the project, and the problems that they are looking to solve. When knowledgeable, they will also provide some insight as to their expectations for the solution sought.

Scope of Work/Services

The Scope of Work or Services identifies their expectations and what they are looking for once the project is completed.

Milestones & Schedules

Sometimes a timetable is provided and the methods for measuring the results. This gives you a good idea as to when project tasks are expected to be completed during the project period.

Cost/Price Proposal or Budget

This usually provides the exact price information required, but sometimes only requests an overall project total. Hourly rates are usually fully loaded rates where details are required: hourly pay rates, G&A, Benefits, Profit, etc. to achieve fully loaded rates.

Price is often just a part of the evaluation while other times they specifically state that the lowest price proposal will be reviewed first and if technically acceptable, then it becomes the winning bid. Payment details may also be provided as well as any discounts for early payments.

Past Performance

Be sure when providing details of past contracts to include everything that they are asking for. This usually includes a contact person and their phone number and email. If they require you to submit a Past Performance Questionnaire to your past clients, do this early in the process so that they are received prior to the due date.

Submission Instructions

The due date and time are critical, so try and prepare your final version the day before it’s due. If they request hard copies, then give yourself a day or more to overnight the proposal documents with proof that it was delivered. Since 2020, hard copies have been in the decline and most proposals are either emailed or uploaded to a website. Be careful when reviewing an RFP Proposal Template looking solicitation as there may be different delivery instructions presented in the document. It is also common to have to submit hard copies and an electronic version on a flash drive or emailed.

How to Write an Effective RFP

Your main goal is to mitigate the risk of the agency choosing your firm over other competitors. Three key areas are paramount: 1) Proof that your company has successfully performed similar services in the past; 2) you have the key personnel/project team with the required experience and expertise working on similar projects; and 3) that you have the financial capacity to manage the contract, pay your people, and purchase supplies/services without running out of finances before receiving payment for providing those services. When presenting this information, provide proofs throughout to gain confidence that what you are saying is true and reliable. Also, when reviewing the RFP, be sure to get a grasp of the agancy’s key criteria, i.e., what is important to them and address those issues.

Be sure to be clear and concise in your copy. Include all of the information requested, but don’t provide a lot of additional content or documents that are not asked for. Be right to the point and use the same language or keywords used in the RFP so that you are speaking the same language. Your headers and sub-headers should reflect the RFP keywords for those related sections. Use bullets whenever you can to enable easy readability.

Be sure you provide the following basic information:

  • Title – Take this from the RFP.
  • Understanding of the Requirements – This is a summary to explain the project and the solution that the agency is looking for.
  • Company Background – Explain what your company does from the perspective of the RFP requirements and provide a brief history.
  • Contact Information – Include details for your company’s point-of-contact who is in charge of the proposal.

Other important issues to keep in mind when writing your proposal response: Answer the question, why should I choose your company, and what unique qualities do you bring that others don’t?


If you can mitigate the risk of choosing your company over the competition, your proposal will rise to the top of the list. If you can differentiate your company from the competition by identifying benefits that the agency will receive that only you can provide, you’ll gain extra points. If you can prove that you have successfully provided similar services to other agencies, you’ll gain their confidence and mitigate the risk of choosing your company in a competitive bidding process. And, if your pricing is not too high or too low, but in a competitive range, it will be obvious that you know what it will take to successfully take on the project.