List of Tips by Task


Win more contracts & prepare your proposal teams.Better RFP responses

Better RFP responses & proposal management processes.

This page lists the tips included in the book for each of the 33 tasks involved in executing winning RFP responses, sustainably.  In Proposals: Getting Started, Getting Better, each tip is fleshed out with plain-language direction, as in these samples.

My blog provides ongoing tips on how to develop winning RFP responses, and how to manage proposal teams and processes.  Recent posts are highlighted in the sidebar; all posts are also searchable by category.

The 33 tasks are grouped into 7 major categories:

Overseeing the Proposal Effort
Setting the Framework
Understanding What the Client Wants
Making and Costing a Plan
Managing the Proposal Elements
Creating the Proposal
Improving and Submitting the Proposal
Improving Your Proposal Capacity

“Delivers ‘AHA!’ moments and invaluable insights into how to plan for, prepare, and deliver proposals that will bring you business.” Business development manager, proposal consultant

Overseeing the Proposal Effort

Managing the Pursuit

  • What to do if the RFP is your first indication of an opportunity
  • Questions to ask after the RFP is issued
  • Additional questions to ask about RFPs when there are incumbents
  • Additional questions to ask about RFPs with high capital risk
  • How to pursue large opportunities: Use the simplest teaming structure possible
  • How to pursue large opportunities: Get better at selecting teaming partners

Supporting the Executives

  • How to keep executives informed throughout the process

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Setting the Framework

Selecting & Equipping the Proposal Team

  • Who you need on a first-time bid
  • Who you need on a rebid
  • How administrative people can add unexpected value
  • Get the team the workspace they need
  • Get the team the tools they need

Drafting the Proposal Schedule

  • Drafting better schedules: The top three rules
  • Drafting better schedules: Accommodating executive prerogatives and availability
  • Drafting better schedules: Watching out for long-lead items
  • Drafting better schedules: Identifying and allowing for critical-path items
  • Drafting better schedules: Scheduling time for a hard-copy review

Determining Security Requirements

  • Security precautions: Where do you start?

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Understanding What the Client Wants

Understanding the Contract

  • Know the industry and its contracting norms

Understanding the Work

  • What it means to understand the Work, and why it matters
  • Review the entire RFP for hidden Work requirements
  • Identify any seasonal effects in the Work
  • Identify the schedule factors in the Work
  • Identify what plans are included in the Work
  • Identify the start-up requirements in the Work
  • Identufy any communication requirements in the Work
  • Identify any training requirements in the Work

Asking Questions to Clarify the Requirement

  • Asking questions: The top three rules
  • Why (and how) to be selective in the questions you ask
  • What to do until you get answers to your questions
  • Why and how to track answers to questions

Making Requests to Change the Requirement

  • Changing the requirement: Improve your chances by thinking like the contracting officer
  • Changing the requirement: Improve your chances by thinking like the technical authority

Leading the Bidders’ Conference Team

  • Brief everyone on the Bidders’ Conference
  • Track answers received orally against actual RFP amendments

Attending the Bidders’ Conference

  • Familiarize yourself with client and competitor personnal

Leading the Site Visit Team

  • Before you go: Clarify expectations for attendees
  • While you’re there: Hold daily debriefing and planning sessions
  • When you return to the office: Brief those who didn’t go

Attending the Site Visit

  • Remember your security protocols

Providing Client Expertise

  • Why knowing the client is key to understanding the Work

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Making and Costing a Plan

Managing Solution Development

How to get a coherent solution   

How to get a truly low-risk solution   

Why going for a low-price solution is the smart bet   

How to get to a low-price solution   

Why you should finalize the organization chart as soon as possible (or sooner)   

Why you must validate any staffing numbers that come from fancy software   

How to do better organization charts:  Simplify   

How to do better organization charts:  Always include the client.  Always.   

How (and when) to use the executives to improve your solution   

Developing the Solution

Why you should design your solution for the client’s evaluators, not for their executives   

Look for smart (aka ‘cheap’) ways to align your solution with what matters to the client   

How to include the client’s perspective on risk in your solution   

How to use dumb questions to improve your solution   

How to design a fail-safe solution when service continuity matters   

When and how to design your solution to be non-disruptive   

Why your solution should address both start-up and steady-state operations   

How to handle one-of positions in your solution’s organization   

How to include the client’s governance structure/preferences in your solution   

How to choose good position titles for your solution   

How to choose even better position titles for your solution   

How to keep track of all the plans needed in your solution   

How to validate your solution:  Reread the RFP just one more time   

Costing the Solution

Why it’s important to document how you got your costs   

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Managing the Proposal Elements

Managing the Proposal Team

How to align responsibility expectations   

Don’t let team members try to ‘do’ and ‘supervise’   

Why and how to hold regular team meetings (aka ‘stand-ups’)   

How to manage team morale during an extension   

How to manage team morale, period   

Managing Submission Mandatories

How to align responsibility and accountability for submission mandatories   

Don’t let anything—even production value—derail compliance   

Managing the Writers/Managing a Volume

How to get the right volume out the door:  The importance of following the instructions   

How to prevent disconnects, one section to another   

How to get a good volume out the door on time   

Why you must hold at least one team review of the proposal   

Focus on coaching, not criticism, for best results   

Managing Subcontractors

How to manage subcontractors better:  Use clear agreements   

How to manage subcontractors better:  Use focused oversight   

Managing Graphics

Pre-empt the ill-considered yearning for a ‘picture’: any picture!   

Set a colour palette early to coordinate graphics from the get-go   

Use colour consistently (at least) and with meaning (where possible)   

Be consistent in your layout   

Managing the Proposal Schedule

What to do if your schedule is in trouble:  The basic options   

How to recover a schedule that’s in trouble:  Reduce your expectations   

How to recover a schedule that’s in trouble:  When and how to ask for an extension   

Adjusting the schedule:  What to do with an extension you didn’t ask for   

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Creating the Proposal

Making a Table of Contents

Use names for proposal parts that make it easy for the evaluators   

What to do if conflicting instructions don’t get reconciled   

What to do if client numbering protocols vary from one section to another   

What to do if corporate practices would add content that throws off RFP numbering   

What to do if the client used long questions instead of snappy headings   

Developing Themes

What it means to do themes well   

Create better themes through better client intel before the RFP comes out   

Create better themes through better opportunity analysis after the RFP comes out   

Create better themes by not (just) stating the obvious   

Writing the Response

The four things you need before you start writing   

Starting to write:  How to get to a first draft   

How to write better:  Answer the question they actually asked   

How to write better:  Answer all the questions.  Answer only the questions.   

How to write better:  Answer the question so they know you’re answering it   

How to write better:  Answer the question so they know what you’re promising   

How to write better:  Answer the question so it’s easy to mark   

How to write better:  Answer the question responsively   

How to write better:  Answer the question with ‘how’ and ‘why’, not just ‘what’   

How to write better:  Answer the implicit ‘So what?’ question   

How to write better:  Answer the question so someone can deliver what you’re promising   

How to write better: Answer the question with punch   

How to write better:  Answer the question using the client’s language   

How to write better:  Answer the question from scratch (Don’t use boilerplate)   

How to write better:  Answer the question in plain language   

How to write better:  Think about what might surprise/confuse the reader and explain it   

How to write better:  Link your content to the Work required for this RFP   

How to write better:  Make it clear whether personnel are project or corporate   

How to write better:  Make RFP and proposal references clearly distinct   

How to write better:  Make better plans   

How to write better:  Figure out how to write about your ‘approach’   

How to write better:  Write less   

How to write better:  Align your words and pictures   

Editing the Response

To reduce the editing required, set clear expectations for writers   

To reduce the editing required, use writing/style guidelines   

To reduce rework, develop editing guidelines for multi-editor proposals   

Make it easy for writers to answer the question completely:  Use a form   

Make it easy for writers to be consistent:  Use a factoid checklist   

Make it easy for writers to be clear: Choose just one word for each concept   

How to handle an expert who won’t just RTQ/ATQ   

Develop rules for using pronouns that help you maintain a clear point of view   

Don’t overuse ‘team’   

Don’t use acronyms for position titles in the text   

Use standard outlines for responses to standard questions   

Make a list of changes needed throughout the proposal as you encounter them   

Producing the Document

How to decide how nice your proposal should look   

Prescribe the software and versions to be used   

How to minimize template troubles   

Use the font the client specifies   

Set and enforce simple file-naming protocols   

Back it up.  I mean it.   

Convert to a desktop publishing application only after the last change to the text   

How to keep the proposal assembly process simple and reliable   

How to keep the templates and binder covers simple   

How to keep the quality control check on track:  Use a checklist   

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Improving and Submitting the Proposal

Reviewing the Document

As a team reviewer, be considerate   

As an executive reviewer, be prepared   

Managing the Team Review

Why you need a team review   

Managing the Executive Review

Allow enough time for the review   

Allow for personal idiosyncrasies   

Assign sections to get a thorough review   

Let the reviewers know what you want   

How to get what you want (a useful, constructive, and on-time review)   

Delivering the Proposal

Delivery ideas that might help you sleep better   

Should you deliver at the last minute for security reasons?   

Should you send two copies by different routes?

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Improving Your Proposal Capacity

Getting Ready for Next Time

File the proposal you just finished so you can get at its content quickly   

Listen to what the client has to say about your proposal   

Listen to what the team has to say about their proposal experience   

Build a database of factoids and stories   

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