Writing Government Proposals with Proposal Geeks

Compliant Proposals Made Easy

Early Compliance Saves Time and Money


5Cs of Communication

Compliant Proposals Made Easy

Early Compliance Saves Time and Money

We know that good organization and planning in the early stage saves time for the entire proposal team. Industry has proven the steps that should be followed to develop winning proposals. The order is extremely important if you are to save time and develop a truly compelling and winning proposal. The steps in order are:

  • Become Compliant (Develop a Compliance Matrix from the RFP)
  • Become Complete (Draft First Response to Ensure All Winning Messages are Included)
  • Become Correct (Review and Double Check to Ensure Proposal is Correct)
  • Become Consistent (Review for Consistency Between Sections, Volumes, and Designs)
  • Become Compelling (Strengthen Winning Points, Turn Facts into Reasons Why Us?)

A vast majority of proposals get stuck in the first 4 stages and never get enough time to focus on the most important part which is making the proposal more compelling. The Proposal Managers with consistent high win ratios spend the time required at the Compliant and Compelling stages. They stick to a schedule to ensure there is plenty of time for polishing and tweaking items such as key graphics, action captions, theme boxes, theme statements, and focus boxes.

How to Quickly Get through the Compliant Stage

We know that everyone wants to start drafting responses or brushing off older proposals and boiler plate information the day the RFP comes out. Everyone seems to want the Proposal Manager’s time at a point when the Proposal Manager really needs some quiet time to read and analyze the RFP. The Proposal Manager needs to finalize the what, who, when, and how the proposal is going to be developed. They need to finalize the schedule, the kick-off slides, develop the proposal outline, assign resources to the outline, and develop the compliance matrix. The following steps are what we have found to be the most efficient way to develop a compliance matrix in the shortest amount of time.

  1. Parse the key sections of the RFP into a user friendly document such as Excel. Proposal Geeks offers a user friendly format in Excel to help you stay organized. Typical key sections are:
    • Instructions to Offeror (Section L)
    • Evaluation Criteria (Section M)
    • Statement of Work (Section C)
    Depending on the amount of time this will take you, we suggest using a parsing service to save you time. The less time you spend in the implementing phase, the more time you will have in the compelling stage. The key reason is that you are attempting to get to the next stage as quickly as possible. Every day you spend in the Compliance Stage will eventually take away from the Compelling stage. By using a parsing service that uses automation and specialist, you can spend the time reading the RFP while someone else is performing the parsing for you. At the minimum, using a parsing service saves you a day and possibly up to 2 to 3 days.
  2. Develop the Outline According to the Proposal Instructions (Section L). Locate the portion of the RFP that provides you the exact Volumes, Sections, and Topics of Discussion. Start at the highest level and work your way down. There will be some paragraphs of the RFP requirements where they need to be merged into a single requirement that applies to a single heading. There will also be times where you want to break a single RFP paragraph requirement into individual paragraph headings. Proposal Geeks uses color words to help you locate RFP paragraphs that need to be broken down into smaller requirements. Proposal Geeks also offers a command to quickly merge or split RFP requirements to save you time and frustration. We find it is easiest to work your way from the larger items down to the smaller items:
    • Volume Titles (Volume I – Management, Volume II – Technical, etc.)
    • Section Titles (Corporate History, Capability and Experience, Organization, etc...)
    • Subsection Titles (Key Personnel, Recruiting and Retention, etc…)
    • Key Paragraph Titles (Program Manager Resume, Continuous Improvement Approach, etc...)
    We find it best to use as many of the exact names and terms in the RFP to develop the titles for each section. Don’t worry about having a long paragraph title. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the evaluator to find what they are looking for and to know at all times exactly what they are reading and why it is important for them to understand what they are reading. If you use names that are unfamiliar to the evaluator, they may not have the capability to fully comprehend what you are trying to communicate.
  3. Cross-reference Evaluation Criteria (Sec M) to the Outline. The next step is to map every single evaluation criteria to particular outline headings that you developed in the previous stage. Many times, the evaluation criteria will provide more clues as to exactly what the authors should focus on to achieve higher scores. There may also be times when an evaluation criterion does not fit one of the titles in your outline. When this happens, it is best to create a brand new title in the appropriate section. Remember, the goal is to make it easy for the evaluator to score your proposal. If they can’t easily find a critical evaluation topic, you could be scored low in this area. You may also want to rephrase a couple of your paragraph titles after you map to the evaluation criteria.
  4. Cross-reference Statement of Work Requirements (Sec C). The instructions to Offeror will direct you to when and where you need to write specifically to the Statement of Work (SOW) requirements. A good technique is to highlight the Sections of L that discuss or reference the SOW. These are the areas that you will want to reference the SOW. Many times, you will want to add new subsections or paragraph titles for each key SOW requirement. Although, the RFP doesn’t generally require you to paraphrase back the requirements, it is wise to concisely cover your approach, discriminators, features, and benefits that your company has providing particular SOW requirements.
  5. Blend in Your Company Strengths. Outlining your proposal shouldn’t stop after you have covered the requested topics in the RFP. Remember that your company has spent some time determining exactly what is needed to win this proposal or to influence the key decision makers. Cross-reference or make notes for various proposal titles where your team can incorporate these key points. If there is no obvious paragraph to highlight particular company strengths, you will want to create a paragraph heading for this strength. Place the paragraph heading in the portion of the RFP where you believe it best applies to the evaluation criteria (Sec M).
  6. Allocate Page Requirements. As a proposal manager, you have to maintain the expectations for the page counts between all the Authors. Even if the RFP did not restrict you on the number of pages, you will want to restrict the Authors to a certain amount of pages. It is important that you keep your proposals as concise as possible. If the Safety Plan is only 2% of the total evaluation criteria and you only have 100 pages including all plans, it would be unwise to place a 13 page generic Safety Plan in your proposal. One tip is to only allocate 90% of the total pages. This gives you a reserve of 10% to allow to sections that need more after the team starts to develop the approach.
  7. Assign Responsibility for Each Outline Heading (Title). The last step is to develop the responsibility matrix. You hopefully know how many days you have allocated to develop the first draft. You might also know how much of the written material is to be written from a blank sheet of paper and how much of the material has some or full boiler plate material. A writer can typically develop 4 to 5 pages of new material per day. A writer can develop up to 25 pages a day with full boiler plate material. Your job is to place a resource name by each title based on the Authors knowledge of the title, time required to develop, and the amount of time the Author can dedicate to the proposal effort. You don’t want to assign 120 hours’ worth of work to a writer that only has 60 hours available.
  8. Produce the Compliance Matrix. If you have done the previous steps in an Excel workbook, then you can run an automated mail-merge to populate a standard table in Word. This final document is known as the Compliance Matrix. You can create various matrices depending on the information that you pull from the Excel workbook and the titles of the columns in your table. Below are the headings we suggest in an Expanded Compliance Matrix. If you use Proposal Geeks automated reports, these reports only take a minute or so to run. You can re-run the reports as you make changes to the Excel workbook.
    • Paragraph Number (this will typically identify the Volume and Section Numbers)
    • Paragraph Title (this will be Volume, Section, Subsection, and Paragraph Titles)
    • Section L Requirement (in an expanded matrix, this includes the text and number from the Instructions to Offeror)
    • Section M Requirement (in an expanded matrix, this includes the text and number from the evaluation criteria)
    • Section C Requirements (in an expanded matrix, this includes the text and number from the Statement of Work (SOW, PWS, SOO, etc.)
    • Management Notes (this will include any strategy or direction from the Proposal Management team)
    • Page Allocation (this gives the amount of pages for each key section)
    • Author (this will have a single name to show responsibility. We suggest not placing multiple names in this column. If it is a team effort, it is still smart to identify a team lead and place their name here.)

For more help on developing Compliance Matrices, watch the RFP Phase and Planning Phase of the Demo Video on the Samples and Demos page.

Government Proposals