Government Proposal To-Do’s – Great Reminder

I read a simple, yet great article today on today that I really wanted to share and comment upon.

The article is “6 Reasons Your Proposals Fail” by Bob Lohfeld.  Here is the link to the article itself   – but to summarize, Mr. Lohfeld points out 6 simple rules for success.

1) Compliance

2) Responsive

3) Compelling

4) Customer focused

5) Easy to evaluate

6) Appearance

These seem so straightforward to many who have reviewed contractor proposals from a government chair, but from our experience, seem to be sometimes surprising to government contractors, large and small.  In our opinion, the most important is compliance. All too often I’ll review a proposal that was built without a contractor even looking at Sections L and M of the solicitation. Or a contractor will overlook the FAR clause giving direction on how to build a commercial proposal.  Shredding the solicitation to ensure compliance should be task 1 after the go/no-go decision is made to propose.

Second in line in my opinion would be easy to evaluate. Don’t mix up the sections, don’t provide weird numbering or organization that doesn’t flow with the requirements. Even if you hit the ball out of the park in responding to everything, if the evaluator has a hard time finding the answer, it won’t matter how good it is.

Last, on the list is Appearance.  This is important, but as this article states, a pretty proposal doesn’t win on looks alone.

Note what is NOT on the list – up selling, overselling, extra brochures/handouts/CDs, bugging the CO, cutting down the competition, low-balling … and the list goes on.  I think it is time for a Do-Not’s blog! Stay tuned…


About Stephanie Amend

Stephanie is the Principal and CEO of Arrowhead Solutions, LLC, a solutions firm specializing in assisting established small businesses be successful government contractors.


  1. This article is a great for ensuring that your current proposal is complete, compliant, and meets requirements. However, I would add that without due diligence in the capture management process upfront, it may not even be worth submitting your proposal because the client does not know your capabilities and it may make it more difficult to differentiate your solution. Also, firms may want to consider including a requirements or capabilities traceability matrix that makes evaluating your proposal easier for the government. This tool is useful, as it should be constructed to allow evaluators to use it as a checklist to ensure your proposal meets all requirements, and demonstrates an organized response that should mirror the RFP.

    Although certainly the comments to the article about incumbents are mostly true, I’m seeing a lot more organizations look to low cost versus incumbency to find value. Pricing your proposal for value is becoming more and more important, thus the need for further capture management to ensure you understand the pricing strategies that will select the awardee. An incredible proposal and solution means nothing if the organization cannot, or will not, pay more for your solution.

  2. Another point to add is that contractors are not focusing on demonstrating their understanding of the requirements. From a bid protest standpoint, our lawyers see that proposals are not describing how they will actually perform the specific parts of the Statement of Work. As a result, they end up with a lower technical rating. Incumbents also make the mistake of assuming the a previous relationship with the agency allows them to not submit a less than convincing proposal. Both at the GAO and Court of Federal Claims, our law firm is finding that incumbents are losing subsequent follow-on contracts more and more.

    Low pricing, as a strategy to win should always be a consideration. Especially in solicitations that are termed “lowest price technically acceptable.” However, the agency sometimes excludes the bid and determines that such a low price shows a lack of understanding of the requirements. Higher priced proposals can also win, if the contractor focuses on minimizing risk in its proposal and adding more best-value considerations to force a trade-off.

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