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10 Tips to Win Your Next Federal Proposal Blog Feature
Peri Costic

By: Peri Costic on July 1st, 2024

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10 Tips to Win Your Next Federal Proposal

Government Business Development | 6 Min Read

Now that it’s officially Q4, the solicitations will start rolling in—are you prepared? Many contractors aren’t taking advantage of all the opportunities coming across their desk because they don’t have an organized system or a recipe for proposal success. In this blog, we’ll cover the major highlights from our recent webinar on how to ace your next winning federal proposal. Whether you have a dedicated proposal team or not, these 10 tips will help you nail your next federal proposal.

10. Responsiveness to the Full Proposal

This may seem like a given, but it’s important to respond to the entire proposal. Every question, task, and subtask should be addressed, and you should never leave anything blank. Beyond just responding to the basic asks, you can also go above and beyond in your response. One excellent way to do this is by cascading from known agency priorities.

You can determine an agency’s priorities by looking for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), policy directives, and 5-year strategic plans, which are often published on agency’s websites. Incorporating the agency’s own goals into your proposal will help make it more attractive to the government employees who are reviewing it, because it will help them accomplish goals they are already working toward.

9. Offering a True Solution

The idea behind this tip is that you want to demonstrate you’re not just selling the government a product or process, but that your solution has tangible components. Here at Winvale, we use what we call the 4 T’s—Techniques, Tools, Technology, and Timeline.

Techniques refers to your actual approach—the processes and procedures that will make your solution successful. Tools are aids that will add value to your solution, for example, making it faster or more automated. When describing tools, be sure to note both what the tool is and why it is important. Technology, of course, refers to the technology your solution requires. The most important thing to keep in mind in terms of technology is that it should be based in reality, proven, and tested. Timeline is your schedule—this should be reasonably paced, to demonstrate that you will be able to actually meet the schedule in reality.

8. Execution of Your Product/Service

 Describing the solution itself is important, but it’s just as important to demonstrate your expertise and ability to implement the solution. Be sure to highlight the resources, human skills and expertise your company has that will allow you successfully implement the solution. While you want to show off your knowledge, however, it’s important to keep in mind that the person reading your proposal may not have as much know-how as you. Include explanations of complex technical concepts to ensure that your proposal is understood, no matter who is reading it.

7. Realism

 When it comes to federal proposal writing, it’s important to keep it real. In other words, don’t propose a solution you can’t deliver. Often, the government can tell if an offeror is over-promising in an attempt to win a bid, so going above and beyond in unrealistic ways can actually hurt your chances. Additionally, if you end up winning the proposal and can’t deliver on your terms and conditions, then it’ll reflect poorly on your past performance and future contract wins.

Instead, focus on proving that your solution is feasible, by discussing logistics, relevant past experiences, adaptability, and minimization of errors.

6. Credibility

Outlining your solution is important, but it’s equally as important to describe your own competencies as a contractor. You want to prove that you can actually do the things you’re promising. You can create credibility in a number of ways, and one of them is simply proving your knowledge. Show that you have a clear understanding of the problem, provide specific details in your solution, and use industry terms and concepts. You can also include positive references from a third party, such as a vendor or former partner, as another way to build credibility.

5. Ghosting

When we say ghosting, we don’t mean being left on read by someone on your dating app—this type of ghosting refers to subtly pointing out your competitors’ limitations. One thing to keep in mind when ghosting is that it’s best not to name specific companies. Instead, you can use phrases like “unlike certain large Fortune 500 companies” to allude to your competitors, without mentioning them by name. When ghosting, instead of just referencing your competitors’ shortcomings, be sure to emphasize how you will be better than them in these areas.

4. Be Irreplaceable

One thing that will help you not only win the initial bid, but continue to win future bids, is to make your solution irreplaceable. What this means is to emphasize the one-of-a-kind offerings your company can provide. In addition to the solution itself, this can also mean highlighting any ongoing support your company will provide. Additionally, play up any aspect of your solution that is unique. Whether its access or sourcing, spotlight the things that only your company can provide.

3. Complimentary and Compatible

 While you want to emphasize what makes your solution unique, you also want to emphasize that it will be compatible with systems the government already has in place. Make sure your solution will not place undue burdens on federal employees who will be interacting with it. After all, the last thing anyone wants is to create more work for themselves. A surefire way to make your proposal more attractive to the government is to emphasize that it will not be difficult to implement, adapt to, and use.

2. The “So What”

 What this tip refers to is demonstrating the opportunity cost of the government not choosing your solution. In other words, show the government what they will lose without your solution. Demonstrate not just the benefits of your solution, but the losses and potential new problems that will arise without. In addition, you also want to show passion for the customer’s mission and put the most emphasis on what they care about the most. Importantly, do not just address the “So What” in the conclusion, but highlight this theme throughout your proposal.

1. Decisiveness in Uncertainty

Requests for Proposals aren’t always the most clearly written—but this doesn’t mean your proposal can be equally vague! When terms and concepts are unclear, don’t respond in a similarly unclear tone. Instead, make assumptions and clearly define them. Some contractors worry that making the wrong assumption will get their proposal thrown out—but being extremely vague will certainly get your proposal thrown out.

In these circumstances, you must pick a path and stick to it. Make quantified assertions about things like staffing and deadlines and avoid non-committal language. A decisively wrong proposal is better than a weak, non-committal one.

When an RFP is released, there’s often a Q&A opportunity as well, so make sure if you have burning questions to submit your inquiry by the deadline or check the answers once posted.

Want More Proposal Writing Tips?

 If you’re interested in learning more about proposal writing, you can watch the full recording of this webinar here. You can also check out some of our other blogs, like 3 Tips for A Successful RFP Response or A Guide to Requests for Proposals (RFPs). If you need help with your next proposal response, feel free to reach out to us. We can help you navigate the proposal process and craft a winning response.

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About Peri Costic

Peri Costic is a Proposal Writer at Winvale. Originally from Mechanicsville, Virginia, Peri earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Christopher Newport University.