4 Ways to Win More Proposals — This Fall

  |  September 18, 2012


1. Make Good Use of Competitive Analysis / Price to Win Techniques

Anyone who pursues Federal Business can’t fail to see the strong trend toward more lowest-price-technically-acceptable awards. Now that agencies are faced with lower budgets, they are seeing a compelling need to use low-price contract vehicles. One of the most convenient of the low-cost vehicles is the lowest-price-technically-compliant contract.

The growing popularity of these low-price competitions means that bidders will have to become more proficient at responding to them. This in turn means that bidders will have to learn how to use competition analysis (CA) / price to win (PTW) techniques in a highly professional manner.

Our experience suggests that most bidders are not very good at using CA /PTW. Large business bidders tend to use competition analysis on very large solicitations. Middle size businesses like to use CA on large solicitations. And small businesses often try to do without competition analysis or do it in a way that is less than professional.

Bidders who expect to win on this market will have to find a way to successfully employ CA/ PTW techniques. Many businesses solve this problem by using consultants on the large and important engagements, although some have specialists on their staff. Consultants can help businesses do their competition analysis in a highly repeatable manner. A more affordable approach for a mid-size or small business is to hire business development / marketer personnel who also have CA / PTW skills. Although personnel who have these combined skills are not plentiful, they can be found.

2. Improve your Task Order Proposal Capabilities

With the proliferation of IDIQ awards has come an explosion in the number of Task Order proposals. These typically have a turn around time of 8 – 14 days, although time can vary from 5 to 21 or more days.

Our experience has been that many companies don’t have a good capability to respond to these quick-turnaround task order proposals. This includes both small and large business. Often companies fail to have a good process to respond to task order solicitations. They tend to staff these proposals with goodly mix of whoever is on the bench at the time. And they frequently don’t have an efficient mechanism for calling in consultants when they don’t have sufficient internal staff to handle a task order proposal.

Because of not having an efficient capability to handle task order proposals, companies are failing to win competitions they should win. The answer to this problem is straightforward. If you company is guilty as charged, then you can step back, take a look at the problem, and find a fix for it. Or if you don’t have time, call in outside assistance. This is not rocket science. However, if you are too busy or want a solution that would have more cachet with executive management, it may be best to call a consultant.

It is a mystery to me as to why so many companies don’t do as well as they could in handling Task Order proposals. If your company is one of these, then the choices are (1) to do something about it, or (2) just let things continue as they are.

3. Start Earlier

One of the easiest ways most companies can win more proposal competitions is to start earlier. For every company that is well organized and starts early, there are 20 that do not. One of the worse cases is those small businesses that have a policy of not starting on proposals until after the final solicitation is released. These companies feel that this approach saves money by reducing the time spent on proposal preparation. Never mind that starting so late makes it impossible to do a good job of handling many long lead items such as selecting the best project personnel, selecting the best subcontractors, and developing a highly responsive technical solution.

It is very easy to start work on a proposal late. Most proposal personnel are already working a lot of overtime many weeks of the year. So how can personnel who are so overworked be timelier in focusing on proposal tasks early enough in the cycle to prepare a winning proposal?

The answer to this is a combination of willpower, schedule, and focus. Even the most overworked small business proposal staff can set up a process to review target solicitations once a month starting at least six months before the RFP release. Then critical tasks that can’t be done late such as finding the best Program Manager, finding the best subs and teaming partners, and developing a highly efficient technical approach can be carried out in an effective manner.

4. Use a Good Proposal Preparation Process

Many lost competitions can be traced back to lack of a good proposal preparation process. Many small businesses do not have a proposal process. And many large businesses have a proposal process that is no longer aligned with their business requirements due to the growth and changes that have come with time.

Probably the single most important factor in being able to develop winning proposals at an acceptable cost is having a good process and using it. A good process organizes company capabilities in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum or the parts. And a good process makes it possible to produce a winning proposal with a minimum investment of time and effort.

Defining an effective proposal preparation process is a major challenge, whether the company is small or large. There used to be a saying that, adjusting the carburetor on a car only requires a screw driver and 20 years of experience. Like adjusting a carburetor, defining a good proposal process requires a lot of experience and judgment. This is like rocket science, and it needs to be done by a person with plenty of significant experience.

It is not within the scope of this article to discuss the steps in developing a good proposal preparation process. Some of the key factors include interviewing the significant stakeholders in the process; looking at the staff resources in contrast to the anticipated workload; and deriving a process and procedures that make a smoothly functioning machine. Some of the variables involved are what mix of full-time talent; matrixed talent; and use of consultant resource is needed? What is the work flow? What procedures are needed to make the process work right? How do we come up with an approach that can be blessed by executive management?



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