Frequently Asked Questions (about Proposals)

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This is a living, changing post, in which MAPS provides some answers to some of the more perplexing questions that vex even the most experienced proposal professionals.

Q. How can we deal with ambiguities and/or contradictions in the requirements? 

A. Most procurements include a Question and Answer period in which bidders can ask for clarifications about the requirements. One tip for “getting the answer you want” is to frame your questions/clarification requests in a way that is beneficial to the customer. Simply requesting an increase in page count may fall on deaf ears, but requesting additional page count because it will lead to more initial complete initial submissions and less post-submission clarification effort for the customer, might be a better angle.

Q. We have to address all requirements in our proposal in order to be fully compliant, right? 

A. Well, yes and no: “addressing” requirements can be a mixed bag. If you have 30 pages of terms and conditions loaded with “shall” requirements, and only 30 pages in which to provide your technical, management, and past performance write-up, you can’t (nor necessarily should) address each T&C requirement individually. Terms and Conditions (and other generic requirements) are often a “shall to will” scenario that can be addressed by blanket compliance statements.

Q. Won’t failure to meet the technical requirements result in a loss? 

A. Compliance is definitely the top priority to be sure, but with a caveat or two: it depends on a few considerations, including the degree of “failure.” Failure to meet one or several key requirements could automatically disqualify you, to be sure. But failure to meet one or a few less important requirements (especially if the customer has indicated a desire for your company bid on the procurement! ;)), might not disqualify you. If there’s a BAFO (Best and Final Offer) or if there’s a post-submission period for submitting clarifications, you might have the opportunity to fix compliance deficiencies in your bid.

Q. How can we ensure that we’re compliant?

A. One of the best (but most often ignored) approaches to ensure compliance is to get your entire team to review the RFP not just individually, but during a comprehensive requirements gap analysis. A line by line team gap review can be a long meeting, but it’s worth it to determine whether: a) the company can meet the requirement; b) the company can meet the requirement by getting a requirement clarification; c) the company can meet the requirement via partner/subcontractor; d) the company can’t meet the requirement at all. This can also be an opportunity for determining who owns what, will ensure that everyone reviews the requirements (so many folks don’t if it’s just emailed to them!) and save a lot of headaches by addressing risks/challenges at the outset of the project. Michael and Associates has developed a proprietary, multi-tabbed a “Swiss Army Knife” project management tool for managing all of the elements addressed above, and many more.

Q. What’s the importance of templates and why do my proposal people keep talking about them?

A. Today’s requirements are often chaotic, contradictory, and confusing. But this can be seen as an opportunity to “look better than the other guys.” One way to do that is to build a great template–one of the most important (but least well understood) components of a winning proposal. Why? It’s not just your branded document that indicates how professional your team is–although it is that!–it’s also the tool that helps (or prevents) the customer from determining whether you’re compliant or not. Your template needs to guide the customer, in a professional, clean, user-friendly way to illustrate how and why your solutions are the best. This includes headings that cross-reference requirements, template design that shows what the customer can expect, post-award, and a project blueprint for post-award project implementation.