by Matthew McKelvey – President, The McKelvey Group, Inc.
The Secret to Winning Proposals – It Isn’t Magic!
The often lengthy and detailed process involved with developing winning proposals for new Government opportunities can sometimes seem almost mythical – you decode a requirements document that is hundreds of pages long and identify a combination of recommendations from limited or conflicting information, past performance experience which doesn’t necessarily match the current opportunity exactly, and somehow propose a price you will have to live with for five or more years. These ingredients then all come together to create this so-called ‘recipe’ for success.
It’s not actually magic, but instead a disciplined process. By adhering to key principals and steps such as: careful planning, time management, attention to detail, and assembling a team of experts, your organization can create your own recipe for success! Following a process ensures your proposal is compliant (meets all of the Government requirements) and accurate (no mathematical, grammatical, or presentation errors). Failure to be either compliant or accurate is a sure way to lose – regardless of how great your solution is.
Here are some ‘pro tips’ from our experts to take the guesswork out of your cost proposal development process and ensure your hard work results in even more wins in the future.
- Get Started Early. The best time to meet the client, gather information, develop your team, and plan the proposal response is before the Request for Proposal (RFP) is ever released!
- Arm Yourself with Tools for Success. Read the full RFP requirements, gather your team, and create a compliance matrix to assign responsibilities, track progress, and manage open communication. This matrix lists everything the RFP requires, so that nothing is missed;
- Create a Tight Production Machine. Determine the cost schedule right away. Identify potential roadblocks early on and allow time for questions, development, and review before submission;
Own the Narrative. Refer back to your compliance matrix regularly, create an outline based on the RFP, and create your narrative early in the process so it can grow and evolve as the process unfolds. The narrative is where you sell your price and clarify all bases of estimates;
- Make Your Cost Case – Determine and Support Your Proposed Cost Elements. Particularly in the Government sector, you are not just making a case about what is needed to address identified objectives, you are also selling what the associated costs will be. Having a strong and competitive cost strategy for each of your cost elements (staffing, direct labor, subcontractors, other direct costs, indirect rates, and fee/profit) is key to increasing win likelihood. Doing this right, with compelling support, will ensure you are able to successfully defend your case in your response and demonstrate that your proposed solution – and the associated costs – are realistic and reasonable.
The secret to a winning proposal process and cost structure is far from a mystery. Proposals take time and effort – maximize both by ensuring you plan early, assemble a strong team, develop a compliance matrix, create a tight production schedule, use your narrative to sell your approach, and make sure you provide a compelling cost story. Remember – compliance and accuracy are key. Adhering to these principles will ensure your cost proposal isn’t just a mix of ingredients. Instead, it is a well-formed recipe which produces a very appetizing and tempting choice for the Government!