Better Proposals Start With a Kickoff Meeting

Woman training team of people

If you are pulling a team together for an RFP pursuit, it’s a good idea to have a kickoff meeting to outline expectations and deliverables.  This will ensure a great proposal in less time and hopefully less pain.  The best way to avoid a mad dash to the deadline is to have a kickoff meeting immediately after the pre-bid meeting.

Meeting Preparation

Only invite key staff members to the kickoff meeting.  Usually the project manager, marketing coordinator, and business development manager are involved in these meetings.  When setting up the meeting with your team, make sure you tell everyone in your calendar invite to read the RFP first before showing up to the meeting.  It doesn’t hurt to attach a copy of the RFQ or RFP so there are no excuses for not reading it.

 Proposal Plan

The best way to prepare for a kick-off meeting is to prepare a Proposal Plan.

1.       Pick your favorite tool (Word or Excel).

2.       Create a proposal outline in a table format based on the structure the RFP provides.  For example:

  • Section 1:  Understanding of Services and Approach
  • Section 2:  Qualifications

3.       Add two columns, one for “Who’s Responsible” and “Deadline,” respectively.

4.       Create space for the team.

5.       Create space for relevant project experience.

6.       Proposed Schedule:  Draft 1 will be completed on this date, Draft 2 will be created on this date.

7.       List general proposal requirements (12 point font, double-sided, 50-page limit, number of copies, etc.)

8.       List proposal delivery requirements (time, place, etc.)

9.       Additional Questions to ask the procurement specialist.

Don’t Leave Until You Have the Answers

Do not leave the kickoff meeting until you have every item on your proposal plan taken care of, someone responsible for giving you the information, and a date and time when the task will be completed.  In some cases, this may be you for most of the items, but the main point of this exercise is accountability.

Follow Up

When the deadlines approach, start following up with team members and remind them, “This is what we agreed to at the kickoff meeting, do you have item 2 ready?”

Summary

Stick with the process!  Your team will get used to the overall process and it will make getting your content together easier.  If you have any questions about proposal plans and kickoff meetings, please contact us.

4 Tips for Pre-bid Conferences

I went to a pre-bid conference today for a county design-build project.  It was lightly attended by mostly the subconsultants who were looking to sign on with a prime contractor.  It’s always interesting to observe how different companies approach the pre-bid conference.  You see the various consultants that are actively trying to sign up with a contractor and the contractors trying to avoid making any commitments to team – for now.

When I attend pre-bid conferences, I usually try to do four things: be visable; listen to all of the information; ask questions; and pay attention to the pre-bid attendee list.  Below is a little more information about each tip. Read more

Why You Need A Proposal or RFP Consultant

It’s Competitive Out There!

When you’re submitting a proposal, you’re probably competing against strong firms with huge budgets and resources.  Not only can we help you compete with the competition, we’ll make your company stand out as a leader in the field.  Here are 10 reasons you need to hire a proposal consultant for your next RFQ or RFP response:

  1. You don’t have enough money to hire someone full time but still want a high-quality RFP response.  Hire us as you need us.  We’ll create a great proposal for you in less time and you’ll get a better product.
  2. We have more experience creating and submitting RFP responses.  We have experience submitting RFP responses to multiple client types for a variety of industries.  We’ve submitted winning proposals for healthcare, software engineering, civil engineering, and commercial construction firms.
  3. You’re much better at operations than proposal writing.  Wouldn’t you rather be doing what you’re good at?  Let us take care of the proposals and you take care of operations.
  4. Formatting is a pain.  Formatting your RFP response in the way the government agency wants it can take a lot of time and effort.  We’re pros at doing this.
  5. RFPs aren’t written in normal English.  Most RFPs were written by procurement staff and lawyers.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to determine what the agency is really looking for in your RFP response.  We have experience with a variety of agencies and can create strategic responses to better position your firm for a win.
  6. Private proposals and government proposals are not the same.  We can help you understand the differences and how your firm can compete in different markets.
  7. A proposal expert can help you sell your company better than you can.  A proposal consultant can give you an objective view of your company and create a strategy that will differentiate you from the competition.
  8. Every government agency is different.  What works with one agency may not work with another agency.  You need to know the differences between agencies so you’re not disqualified from a pursuit.
  9. Your competition can hire a copywriter, graphic designer, and editor to work on their proposals but you can’t.  It can be challenging to look as good as your competitor if your competitor has more resources than your company does.  We can help you look as good as the big guys.
  10. Paper, printing, and binding, oh my!  Every detail counts.  We take into consideration the packaging of your proposal and make sure every detail of your paper submittal looks as professional as possible.

How to Make Fewer Mistakes on Your Proposals and RFP Responses

It’s happened to all of us, you’ve spent the last week working on a proposal only to find a grammatical error on the first page of your proposal the day after you’ve submitted it to a client. Proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation on proposals are critical. If you submit a proposal that is filled with errors and isn’t written clearly, then it immediately causes problems for the reader. A member of the selection committee who is reviewing your proposal may instantly start to mistrust the information in your submittal, he or she may think, “If this vendor can’t even take the time to edit their own proposal, I wonder how they’ll perform on this contract?” Make the selection members trust your company by submitting a proposal with fewer errors. I have a few tips listed below to help you submit a better RFP response.

  1. Always have someone else look at your proposal or RFP before submitting to a client. When you’ve been working on a proposal, you start to see what you want to see and not what the text actually says. If you can find a fresh set of eyes to review your RFP response before you submit, you’ll be amazed by how many errors your reader will find.   If the product or service you sell is extremely technical, you may need two editors. You may need one editor who has the technical acumen to find the more technical errors in your proposal and then a “Grammar Nazi” to find the grammatical errors.
  2. Keep brushing up on your grammar skills. I am a regular follower of Mignon Forgarty (or “Grammar Girl”) and her terrific weekly podcast and website.  One of my favorite resources is the Grammar Devotional. Mignon is fantastic at examining the most common grammatical issues in a very fun and accessible way. As you brush up on your skills, you’ll be amazed at how your writing improves.
  3. If you have to submit an online proposal, make sure you create all of your answers in a Word document first. No matter how simple the form, make sure you create a Word document that you can share with others for review purposes. Creating a response in Word is also helpful in case you lose your information due to a technical issue with the online form. If you have a copy of your responses in Word, you can easily cut and paste your responses error free.
  4. Use a style guide. You can eliminate many inconsistencies in your proposals by using a style guide. Consistency is important when you’re working on proposals and sometimes having a guide can end arguments between coworkers. I use the AP Stylebook, but the Chicago Manual of Style is a great resource as well. In addition to using a standard style book, you may also want to create your own company style guide that lists words and formats that are specific to your industry. For example, a civil engineering company may want to have a company style guide that specifies industry specific terms and spellings.

Now you have a few tools to make your next proposal error free. Please contact us if you have any additional questions about producing proposals with fewer errors!

Stop The Insanity! 7 Tips For Choosing Proposal Software

 

Stop the Proposal Insanity!

You‘ve answered the same RFP questions over and over again.  You know you’ve written a paragraph in a previous proposal and it’s somewhere in your computer.  Where is it?  It’s becoming clear that you need to systematize some part of your proposal process otherwise you’ll go insane.  Congratulations! You’ve experienced enough pain and you’re now ready to choose proposal software platform to help you fix your proposal insanity (trust me, I’m laughing with you).  Before you choose your proposal software, I have a few tips for you…

  1. Don’t implement a system in the middle your busiest time of the year for proposals.  You may think you’ll increase productivity if you can automate the process as quickly as possible, but you won’t.  When you decide to change the way you respond to RFQs or RFPs, there is a very steep learning curve. The first few times you use the new software, it can take you double the amount of time it usually does to assemble a proposal.
  2. Analyze the types of clients you serve.  Consider the client types of the RFQs and RFPs you typically respond to.  There are some great tools out there for responding to private companies and as well as some excellent tools to use when responding to government, municipalities, or other public clients.  Picking the right type of software that was designed to work according to your client’s specifications can make a huge difference in your overall productivity.
  3. Think about the deliverables your clients typically want.  Do you do more print proposals or electronic submittals?  Some software solutions are better for purely digital deliverables while others work much better for paper submittals.
  4. Consider software systems your industry currently uses.  I know when I was in the healthcare IT space, PMAPS was a popular system, while in the architectural, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) industries Deltek Vision is the standard for larger firms, but Cosential is the perfect choice for smaller or medium sized firms based on the price point.  If you use the right proposal platform for your industry, it will be easier to find staff who know how to use it and this will lessen learning curve.  Recently I’ve come across RFP365 which has some great functionality for both procuring and bidding.
  5. Think about how many people in your firm will be creating proposals or involved in the process.  If you’re a small firm but are planning to grow in the next year, the type of system you implement may be very different from the firm with 3 offices and 15 people working on proposals at the same time.
  6. Do you have other systems you may want to integrate your proposal system with?  In the A/E/C Industry, it’s beneficial for the marketing coordinator and/or marketing department to have access to financial data.  Thus, a system that can integrate with your existing financial system is incredibly useful to eliminate manual data entry.
  7. Cost.  You’ll notice I bring this up last.  If you really have no budget to implement a proposal system, then focus on staying more organized with your content so that when you do have a budget large enough to get the system you pick one that will stick with you as you grow.  Remember, with many of the software platforms out there, some configuration is usually required and that can cost you a few thousand dollars before the monthly or yearly subscription rate.

These tips cover the basics when it comes to choosing proposal software.  Of course, there are other things that you may need to consider based on your industry.  If you’d like help choosing your next proposal system, contact us!