The ABCs of Proposals: Part 3

As I have noted over the last couple of weeks, this article series started largely as a joke between a good friend and me. This friend, who recently had a baby, joked that her poor baby would fall asleep to RFPs instead of bedtime stories. As we laughed about this, 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, “The ABCs of Proposals: Part 3.” If you missed the first two articles, you can read those here: and

R is for Request for Proposal (RFP)
A government RFP is the Government’s call for a response from industry to government needs. RFPs are the Government’s best attempt to describe the nature and extent of the goods or services it wishes to procure. A typical government RFP consists of Sections A – M. These sections set forth the terms and conditions of the acquisition.

S is for Source Selection Authority
To support the Source Selection Board (SSB), the Government designates a Source Selection Authority (SSA) to make the contract award. The SSA is responsible for the proper conduct of the source selection process. The SSA has full responsibility and authority to select the source/sources for award and approve the contract execution.

T is for Technical Approach
Technical approach requirements vary from RFP to RFP. You should structure the technical approach to the RFP requirements, mapping in the Statement of Work (SOW) or Performance Work Statement (PWS) as applicable. Your approach should demonstrate an understanding of the requirements, challenges, and risks.

U is for Understanding the Customer
It is critical to take the time to understand the customer stakeholder needs before the RFP is released. Remember that building a relationship with our customers and understanding their underlying concerns takes time. Without solid customer relationships, we won’t have the opportunity to understand their programmatic concerns or determine what really keeps them up at night. Further, we won’t be able to develop solutions to meet their needs and vet those solutions prior to the RFP release. Once the RFP is released, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) limits customer interaction—so at that point, it’s too late for effective opportunity shaping and solution vetting.

V is for Value Proposition
The Value Proposition summarizes the case for why the company should be awarded the contract—it is the rationale or justification for winning. When developing your value proposition, start with the information the government needs to justify selecting your company, and then give the evaluators the key points they can highlight, quantifying where possible.

W is for Win Probability
Win Probability (PWin) is the probability that a company or team will win a contract. Key factors to consider when calculating your PWin include strength of: your client relationship, the competition, your past performance, your team’s qualifications, your team’s capability to execute. You should also consider the size of opportunity and the proposal timeline. Remember that as your customer and opportunity intelligence increases, and your capture efforts progress, your PWin can change. When calculating PWin, track all of your inputs, analyze the data, and update information as the business development process progresses.

X is for Xerox
Xerox is a synonym for copy, and even though electronic submissions are becoming more and more common, we’re still seeing requirements for original hard copies, with several copies as well. When faced with these requirements, we must work delivery times and contingency plans into our schedules. We must also be sure to check all copies for completeness, validate that covers match spines, make sure the originals have all original signatures, and perform other quality control measures.

Y is for Yearly Lessons Learned
You should maintain individual lessons learned after each proposal submission and award debrief. In addition to these individual lessons learned, once a year you should take the time to review the lessons learned debriefs from the last year or so and analyze them for trends. Look at common themes and share those trends with your team. Understanding these trends will not only help you to improve in the areas that may need some work, it will also allow you to pinpoint the things that have enabled you score well. Use these findings to update your business development and proposal processes where necessary!

Z is for Zinfandel
Whether you celebrate with Zinfandel, Pinot, food, or all of the above, always remember the importance of celebrating your proposal successes. Recognizing the team for their efforts once the proposal is submitted—and later once the team wins—will keep morale high and encourage your teams to continue to work hard, especially when the going gets tough!

Final Words
Even though this started out as a fun little joke between friends, I think this turned into a fun little article series jam packed with some useful tips and advice for proposal professionals. I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Cheers!

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


  1. ofcourse @Ashley!! Thanks for this wonderful and knowledgeable article :)

    1. Thank you for the kind words and for taking the time to comment!

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