The ABCs of Proposals: Part 1


This article started as a joke between a good friend of mine and me. This friend—who is also in the proposal industry—recently had a baby. At first we joked that the poor child would fall asleep to her mama reading RFPs aloud to her. Then we thought, how cute would it be if we made an ABC Book for our future little proposal manager? And that turned into, well wouldn’t that just be a unique and fun format for a proposal blog?

So here it is, in its final form, Part 1 of 3: The ABCs of Proposals.

A is for Attachment
Request for Proposal (RFP) Attachments contain useful solicitation response information. This may include relevant drawings, statement of works (SOWs), and other pertinent contract documentation. Be sure to review all RFP Attachments thoroughly before responding.

B is for Best Value Tradeoff
As the name suggests, best value tradeoff allows the Government to balance the tradeoff between quality (technical competency and/or past performance) and price/cost. In comparison to Low Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) type contracts, best-value tradeoff contract types better enable industry to offer stronger solutions at price points that are favorable for government customers.

C is for Cost Volume
In government proposals, perhaps the most neglected volume is the Cost Volume. Because cost is often the most important driver for the customer, it is critical to present the most advantageous cost proposal. In comparison to LPTA environments, in a best value tradeoff competition, it becomes even more critical to articulate why your price and technical solution tradeoff is the most beneficial to the Government.

D is for Diagram
Diagrams and graphics help reinforce your story visually. In deciding the kind of graphic to use, you should consider what type of information is being depicting and use the appropriate visual. For example: charts are useful for showing relationships; flow diagrams are great for showing processes; pie charts are best for depicting relative size; tables are best for precise data; and Gantt Charts are great for presenting schedules and sequence of events. It is critical to make sure your visual best suits the information you are presenting.

E is for Evaluator
As bidders looking to win work, we should aim to make the evaluators’ jobs as painless as possible. To make our proposal narrative more evaluator-friendly, we should use headings to guide evaluators, employ theme statements strategically, leverage feature and benefit tables consistently, and highlight proof points using callout boxes. These four simple components can go a long way in facilitating the evaluation process and increasing your overall score.

F is for Firm Fixed Price (FFP)
An FFP contract calls for a price that cannot be adjusted based on the contractor's actual cost of performing the work. This contract type places a higher burden of risk on the contractor, with any resulting profit or loss impacting the contractor and not the Government. FFP contracts incentivize contractors to control costs and perform effectively while reducing administrative burden on the Government.

G is for General and Administrative (G&A) Costs
Rules for government contractors require you to distinguish and segregate direct costs from indirect costs. Companies typically categorize indirect costs into three subgroups: fringe benefits, overhead, and G&A. G&A expenses are the residual costs necessary to run a business. Common examples of G&A costs include labor for strategic planning, business development efforts, and administrative functions; professional fees, such as legal, accounting, payroll processing fees, and IT services; business insurance (general liability); and state and local taxes.

H is for HUBZone
To promote opportunities for small businesses, many contracts are set aside exclusively for small businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a size standard for all private sector industries in the U.S. economy. The SBA uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to identify the industries. Size standards represent the largest size that a business may be to remain classified as a small business for federal contracting programs. There are several types of small businesses eligible for small business set-aside work: small business (SB), veteran-owned small business (VOSB), service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB), historically underutilized business zone (HUBZone) small business, small disadvantaged business (SDB), and woman-owned small business (WOSB) concerns.

I is for Instructions
You will typically find the proposal instructions in Section L Instruction, Conditions, and Notices to Offerors. This section provides instructions for proposal preparation, format, organization, content, and length. Unless the RFP indicates otherwise, bidders should follow the proposal instructions when creating their proposal outline, mapping in the other requirements as applicable.

Final Words and Part 2 Preview
Even though this started out as a joke between friends, this has definitely turned into a fun little article series jam packed with some useful tips and advice for proposal professionals. Next week we will cover J – Q. Can you guess which topics might be included?  

Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)

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