Securing a government contract is like fighting to be king of the hill.
Each mistake or stumble gives the advantage to your competition. And competition for government contracts is fierce, with the government employing a vast amount of contractors.
Luckily, we’ve put together some tips on how to get your business proposal locked down.
Build the Groundwork
In most cases, if you’re putting together a business proposal from the point an RFP is published, you’re doing it backward.
It might seem like the logical sequence: RFP posted, bid for contract, win a contract.
But customers need their contractors to understand their requirements. They’re far more likely to work with a contractor they’ve had prior contact with.
This doesn’t mean you need to have worked for them before, but you need to have shown some prior understanding of their work. Attend pre-bid and pre-proposal meetings – this is vital to establishing a relationship with the client.
Without laying the groundwork, you’re doing more than losing out on an opportunity. You’re pouring money down the drain.
Consider the man-hours that are going into creating a new proposal. Meeting after meeting, revision after revision to come up with the perfect bid. Now take all of that work, and throw it in the garbage. That’s the end result of not building the groundwork.
This also gives you a better chance of targeting your proposals toward work you know you have a high chance of winning. Anything else is gambling on a grand scale.
Get the Basics Right
If you can’t handle the basics of writing a business proposal, then you can’t handle the contract.
That’s how your clients view the situation, and it’s hard to blame them. Look over the RFP with a fine-tooth comb to ensure all compliance issues are being met. Build a checklist that your entire proposal team can access.
You should assign somebody to check this list constantly and ensure it’s being covered. Then have somebody else check, too. It may sound like overkill, but that’s how important this step is.
Not only could this save you from missing key issues, but it also reflects the mindset you’ll need to complete the contract successfully.
If your business proposal demonstrates you’re the better organized in your industry then you have a much greater chance of winning the contract.
This also goes for the very basic: spelling and grammar! Get it right! If you can’t proof a document, then you can’t be trusted with a complex project.
Use Tangibles, Not Emotions
This isn’t a popularity contest.
Making empty promises and vague statements about your ability to deliver the contract won’t get you anywhere. If you had a slush pile of resumés with candidates describing themselves as “hardworking” and “self-starting”, you wouldn’t know where to begin. But that’s exactly the situation your clients face.
What your clients want to see are the hard facts that prove you’re the best fit for the job. Emotive language has its place in your pitch, but keep it out of the facts.
Pull together your company performance data. Get your best reporting analysts to draw up some easy-to-read reports that prove with empirical data what you’ve achieved in the past.
Clients can’t weigh hollow promises. They have no metric for deciding which is better than the other. But they can compare and contrast statistical data.
Look for comparable projects you’ve completed in the past and draw data from that. Have you worked under similar time or budgetary constraints? In similar geographical areas? To a similar scale?
These are all hard data you can use to demonstrate how you’ll competently meet requirements. You’re taking the guessing game out of the tender process for your customer. By doing this, you’ve already given them good service!
Highlight Your Discriminators
Quick question: what sets your company apart from others?
If you didn’t have an answer within the first ten seconds, you haven’t given it enough thought.
A key discriminator is the part that will make you stand out. It’s what makes your company, and your business proposal unique.
But we’re not talking about tenure or experience here. Those aren’t discriminators. A discriminator should be as near to unique to your company as physically possible.
Does your company have a proprietary technique for doing something? Has it invented something to help? Do you have custom-built, leading-edge software?
These are all things that could make or break your proposal. It’s an old adage, after all: “Put your best foot forward.”
Proposals will be graded based on their pros and cons. You need to do everything you can to add checks to the pros column.
If your company is nearly identical to another potential contractor, your key discriminator could be the one thing that puts you over the mark and wins you the contract.
Assign a Contrarian
As a contractor, you’ll be so busy creating solutions that you may not stop to internally challenge yourself.
Would you rather a weakness in your proposal was picked out by your customer, or by your staff?
You want it to be your staff, of course. Alongside your bid managers and proposal development team, you need some good contrarians.
These contrarians need to offer useful constructive criticism on proposals. They should be good at thinking from an outside perspective and coming to the proposal with fresh eyes. What weaknesses do they see?
Do you have some costing unaccounted for? Do your delivery timescales look inaccurate or unfeasible? Are you overpromising on what you can deliver?
A contrarian is there to force you to deal with real issues. During the planning phase of anything, we like to tell ourselves that we can deal with unknowns as they come up.
This just isn’t true. Attempting to wing it will leave you falling short of service level agreements and breaching your contract.
It’s a far more professional tactic to bring up these challenges from within. Not only will you be equipped to deal with surprises, but you’ll seem incredibly professional to the client.
Build a Successful Business Proposal
With these key pointers in mind, you should be well on your way to building a successful business proposal. Check back with this list frequently to remind yourself of anything you’ve missed!
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