The end of the federal governmentís fiscal year is upon us. A lot of the solicitations that our clients have been waiting to be released are finally starting to come out Ė all at the same time. You may be in the same situation. Here are some suggestions to help you manage multiple proposals at this frenetic time of the year.
First thing is to get a handle on peopleís vacations schedules Ė not only your employees, but your teaming partnersí staff and anyone else who will work on the proposal. At your kick-off meeting make sure to ask specifics about who will be out; what timeframes they will be gone; what, if any, availability they have; and who is covering for them in their absence. Include this information on your master proposal schedule so youíll have it at a glance. Remember, there are a fixed number of hours in a day and a fixed number of days to prepare your response. People can only provide so much support, especially if theyíre working on client projects. The last thing you want to happen is for quality to suffer and have unhappy clients, particularly if you need them as references. If you donít have adequate support and you definitely have a shot at winning the contract, then consider engaging outside resources to fill the gaps. But remember, consultants are not magicians; we need the same 30 days to pull together an outstanding response just like you. Itís unrealistic to expect that someone who is unfamiliar with your organization to come in with less than two weeks until submission and get a top notch proposal done. It may be good; it may be compliant; but it may not be as good as it could have been. And be prepared Ė itís more expensive for a rush job than for one that starts when the solicitation is released. If you want to be in the best position to respond and win, then start working on the proposal BEFORE the RFP comes out. That way youíll have more done in case you have to respond to multiple RFPs or hire outside resources.
The other things you should consider are: 1) is it a recomplete of a contract on which youíre the incumbent; 2) have you pre-marketed; 3) do you have the teaming partners you need; and 4) can you win? Weíve talked about this all year long, but itís especially important this time of year.
- A recompete of one of your own contracts is almost a definite bid, unless you canít bid for whatever reason. If you do bid, then make sure that youíre working as diligently as the competitor company who wants your contract. Donít slack off just because youíre the incumbent and ďthe client loves you.Ē You still have to win, just like everyone else.
- Even if youíve marketed the opportunity, be sure to read the solicitation carefully to ensure nothing changed in the requirements. One item that trips up companies is the solicitation type, i.e., itís a SDVOSB set-aside and youíre not one, or six past projects are required by the prime and you only have three. Donít waste your time by going after something that you donít qualify for.
- Be proactive and get your subcontractors on-board before the RFP is released. If you need to augment your team, then fine, but donít use two weeks out of your four available trying to assemble a team instead of writing your proposal.
- Can you win? This one is tough for some companies. Itís hard to be objective, but really look at the evaluation criteria, the instructions, your workload, the amount of time until the submission date and ask yourself Ė with everything else we have going on, can we really put together a solid, winning proposal? Itís better to pass than to submit something that doesnít truly reflect your company and its capabilities. A bad proposal is not what you want your company remembered for, right?
If your company frequently pursues multiple efforts and is always scrambling for resources, then think about designating a gatekeeper to track all of the opportunities currently being pursued. This person can alert management to potential resource allocation shortfalls. Review your proposal library materials and boilerplate. Make sure it is detailed, up-to-date, and the files are clearly marked (keywords also help). Donít create content specific to one proposal, which means it may not be able to be tailored for the current one youíre working on OR you canít find it because files are housed on various PCs and laptops. This is a huge time drain. Items such as your corporate experience, management approach, and resumes can be created in standard formats that are usable in multiple proposals. Standardize your employeesí resumes and include ALL of their work history, employment information, education and training, certifications, and anything else relevant to your industry. Donít wait until the last minute, especially during the summer when hunting down people to update their resumes can be a nightmare.
Have a successful busy season. Remember quality is what wins contacts, not quantity. So choose what you pursue wisely.