Proposal Land

What’s It All About, Alfie?

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning
pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?

WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
Disorder in the American Courts


Use small words: Do not utilize humongous designations.

Use regular words: Do not ply your arcane craft pursuant to the injunctions of your worser heavenly messangers.

Small words. Regular words. In both questions and answers. Try it.


Term: Showstopper

A condition (of the Work or the draft contract) that would convince a bidder to withdraw from a pursuit (for example, unacceptably high potential monetary or reputational liability, loss of intellectual property).

Also a condition of a bidder’s solution that would, by itself, render a bid unacceptable to a client.

A Man Walks into a Bar: Riff #11

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar.
They sit. They converse. They depart.

What??! Grammar again? Say it isn’t so.

OK: “It isn’t so.” Well, only half so.

This riff is only incidentally a gentle reminder that you can’t liaise a regulator, collaborate the client, communicate the boss. And it’s only in speech or emails that we accept “copy the team” for “send a copy to the team.” So cut it out.

This riff is primarily about the beauty of short sentences — Things like “They sit. They converse. They depart.” — because longer ones are harder to follow and it’s easy to makes grammatical mistakes or to lose the train in them or even miss words and have odd jumps and orphan phrases and clauses and when creating run-on sentences and boy it’s so hard for evaluators to understand exactly what you’re saying and give you marks. And that’s true even when the sentences are long but coherent.

So. Keep your subject and verb together. Ditch the flowery adjectives and adverbs. And buddy, keep it short.

Sit. Type. Shut up. Win.


Low-price Compliant

An evaluation methodology that first assesses technical compliance in one of two ways:

  • By comparing each proposal’s technical offering against mandatory technical criteria in a “meets/doesn’t meet” binary assessment
  • By comparing each proposal’s technical score against a specified minimum score that must be achieved (a hurdle or threshold score)

The second step is to award the contract to the compliant bid with the lowest price. The default in government contracting.

By contrast, see best value.


Dear Dizzy Izzy:

The client wants us to provide a Work Management System (WMS).
We have an enterprise management system (EMS)
sold by Acme Software (AS).
We use it for maintenance management and call it
our Maintenance Management System or MMS for irritating.
We will use this MMS as the WMS.
What should we call it in the proposal: EMS, Acme/AS, or MMS?
Yours in uncertainty,
Hapless Bidder

Oh my.

Dear Hapless Bidder:

The RFP asked for a WMS.
That’s what you call it. Always.

Yours unequivocally,

We give the client what they asked for, using their terminology.

We also explain (if and only if they asked) exactly how we’re going to do that. In this case, we’re providing the work management system by using our established MMS (an EMS we bought from Acme) (a leader in this field no doubt). We say that once and then we call it by the client’s term thereafter: WMS.