Q&A with a Government Proposal Consultant
Who's your favorite government business blogger?
I'm a fan of Mark Amtower. He's the leading authority on marketing to the federal government. Check out Mark's blog: Selling to the Government
What's the first thing you do when someone contacts you regarding an opportunity?
I immediately review any online information related to the solicitation including FBO.gov and the government agency's website. If it's not in the public domain, I ask the client to forward a copy ASAP.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Graphics are the long pole in the tent. It's worth the upfront time investment to develop pieces that engage the evaluator and score points against the evaluation criteria. I'm a fan of Mike Parkinson's book, Billion Dollar Graphics.
Secret Proposal Weapon:
I use an Excel-based proposal tracking tool that is shared with the team. It simplifies the daily stand-up meeting by providing a sequence to review and discuss status. I use it to track the proposal calendar, author status, data calls, issues, contacts, and anything else that is pertinent to the effort.
I can't live without...
...my iPad. It allows quick and easy to my writing and reference materials.
Best proposal trick:
Understanding the importance of a proposal wall is one of my differentiators. People often shake their heads at thought of sticking paper to the wall. Within a day or so, the team begins to collaborate by using the wall and they quickly realize its value. Maintaining a proposal wall is a winning proposal behavior characteristic of an 80%+ win rate.
What is the key to a winning proposal?
A winning proposal begins with a solid strategy of how to meet the customer's needs. Most importantly, articulating that strategy in the proposal along with the solution features and benefits. Bottom line, we must craft a proposal that convinces the evaluator that our solution is the best.
What inspires you?
Working with and learning from subject matter experts (SMEs) as they contribute domain knowledge and solutions to the proposal.
Any exciting locations for proposal work?
Sydney, Australia for a proposal to Westpac Bank and to teach proposal process at Samsung in Seoul, South Korea
What do you always do first when kicking off a new opportunity?
Aside from the initial scan of the RFP, I consolidate all of the government's RFP files into a single PDF which I then bookmark at key sections and annotate with comments and questions. This small upfront investment saves hours and eliminates the aggravation of "I think I saw that in the RFP...".
Must have tools:
Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat are a must. For real-time monitoring of federal procurement web pages, I like Change Detection.
Favorite proposal website?
Association for Proposal Management Professionals (APMP)
What should every proposal manager know?
The proposal manager is the project manager. They must know how to develop a realistic proposal schedule and appropriate levels of staffing to accomplish the work.
Daily Proposal Routine?
I check email first thing and cross my fingers that there are no RFP amendments in my in box. Then, I look at the news headlines and review my calendar to see what meetings are schedule for the day.
Each year, I update...
My LEED AP O+M credential. I've attended the past 3 years of Greenbuild. I call it my working vacation. I enjoy seeing people I've met in prior years and learning about innovations in managing the built environment.
What makes a proposal instantly better?
Spell check, page numbering, assigning styles -- anything that can be done to reduce the the reader's distractions.
What items are always in your briefcase?
I carry an extra battery for my mouse, extra pens in various colors especially Rollerball Elite in Blue Black (Oprah's favorite), quadrille steno pads, business cards, laptop, USB drives and maybe some nuts or an energy bar.
Any books on your nightstand?
I'm currently reading The Way of the Knife by New York Times Reporter Mark Mazzetti. Fascinating book!
I'm happiest when...
...the proposal team agrees on the win strategy and we have an approved solution baseline prior to the writing process.
I'm obsessed with...
...win strategy. Along with a sound solution, the strategy is the glue that holds the proposal together. Without it, there's nothing to anchor the writing and the team falls apart.
What's your favorite proposal book?
The Shipley Proposal Guide v4.0 is an excellent resource for anyone involved in developing proposals. I encourage my clients to develop a proposal library and this book is #1 on the list.
Any far away proposals in your past?
I've been fortunate to support opportunities in Canada, England and Australia.
Professional style in one word?
...best practice articles / briefs, how to's and other information for my proposal development knowledge base.
14" Dell XPS with all the bells and whistles
What are your travel essentials?
My silver Samsonite rollerbag. It goes with me wherever I go. Once, while working at client site, the receptionist asked me why I was carrying my suitcase to work every day. Well, it's my briefcase?
Who is your proposal hero?
I'd have to say my hero is Steve Myers, founder of SM&A. I give credit to Steve for inventing proposal development techniques that have proven effective on thousands of proposals over the last three decades. I joined SM&A in 2004 and enjoyed 5 fabulous years supporting Fortune 500 clients in pursuit of our county's most important federal acquisitions.
What's your best capture advice?
For a small company, I recommend focusing on one core competency and then one or two government agencies within a single geographic area -- preferably near the corporate headquarters.. Then, begin building a relationship with that customer by position yourself as a trusted advisor. Finally, become a thought leader who constantly identifies ways to make your government customer's life easier.
Favorite iPad App?
What is the key to maintaining calm during a proposal?
I believe there are three keys to maintaining calm during a proposal: 1) open communication, 2) common vision, and 3) a clear path forward to proposal submission.