Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Neglected Section H in US Government Solicitations

The other day, while working on an outline for a proposal, I wondered how many times people have neglected a very important part of Government solicitations in outlining and writing proposals or even Red Teaming proposals.  I’m talking about Section H, SPECIAL CONTRACT REQUIREMENTS.

As I have progressed in my proposal management/proposal writing career, I have come to realize it is a valuable source of information for insight into the government’s thinking about certain items of a proposed contract. 

Section H can provide clues to the government’s thinking regarding how they want you to perform the contract.  Many times, the Section H Special Contract Requirements will contain information on how the Government agency would like Sign out you to perform certain tasks contained in the Statement of Work or Performance Work Statement,

This is particularly true in Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contracts.  Your ability to provide this information could mean an award or not, especially in a single award IDIQ contract or a Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC) where the competition is fierce.

So when you are designing your approach toward preparing your response to a Request for Proposal, consider the oft-neglected Section H in determining your approach and outline to your proposal.

It will demonstrate to the Government your desire to meet all requirements within a solicitation and may mean the difference between a contract award or a contract loss.  After all, winning Government contracts and obtaining Government business is what it is all about.

Ed is the author of the book, Cash In on the Obama $3 Trillion Spending Plan!: How to make large amounts of money by conducting business with or receiving grants from federal, state, and local governments.”

The book is available on Amazon in both print and EBook formats at the following:

He is also the author of a fighter pilot novella called “Harry’s War” available at Amazon Kindle http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00794LZTU/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00794LZTU&linkCode=as2&tag=flowatpre-20
and other eBook retailers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Writing to the Evaluation Criteria

My wife is busy watching “Project Runway” and “Dancing with the Stars.”  My TV is broke in my man-cave so I decided it is time for another short blog about proposal writing.  I have been toying for some time now about writing a booklet providing tips to write proposals, specifically responding to Request for Proposals (RFPs), which get high scores and, along with appropriate pricing, win contracts for my clients.

Tonight, my thoughts focus on Evaluation.  I have previously shared thoughts regarding preparing the outline for your proposal; but now I wonder if I have stressed the importance of writing the proposal to satisfy the Evaluation Criteria as listed in a solicitation. Like most of the people in this business, I have had some experience on the government side preparing Requests for Proposals.  In my time, more often than not, the people at the working level who help you prepare the Statement of Work or the Performance Work Statement are the same people who help you evaluate the proposal.  If they are not the same people who helped you prepare the RFP, then they are people with very similar background and experience. 

One thing is very clear to me, if you write a proposal that lauds your own accomplishments without showing how your company can benefit the customer; then, you have lost before you get started.  One way you can display an appreciation of the customer’s needs and desires is to tailor your proposal directly to the Evaluation Criteria.

More simply put, write your proposal to address the evaluation criteria completely.  Your goal is simple and direct: You want to receive the highest score which the evaluator will base on the evaluation criteria.  Nothin’ more, nothin’ less. Think aout it! If you do not get the highest score, you will not win.  Anything that does not focus and address the Evaluation Criteria is extraneous and can be considered hogwash, no matter How Great Thou Art. 

Maybe one approach is to provide statements that an evaluator can use to paste into his / her evaluation to demonstrate how your company had satisfied and / or bettered the specific evaluation criterion you are addressing.    

Ask yourself these questions:

·         Can the evaluator find facts in your proposal quickly which will prove RFP compliance?  If so, you have a good start.
·         Does your proposal use the RFP terminology, terms and keywords?  I would not hesitate to bet the family farm that the individual evaluator will be looking for that terminology, terms, and key phrases from the RFP when he scans your proposal. 
·         Does the proposal address HOW your company will fulfill the Evaluation Criteria?    (See my blog post “The Magic Word for Successful Proposals - "HOW"” posted on May 2, 2011.

I can say much more about the subject of writing to the Evaluation Criteria, but hopefully, this short blog post has given the readers some food for thought.

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012



Here is a way to get a higher score on a proposal section and win the contract for your company. 

Have you ever had a proposal section rated “unacceptable” and then gone back and reviewed the write-up to find that you did answer the question in the bowels of your response.  The evaluator did not realize that you were building your case step by step building up to a grand climax which answered the Government’s question.  That is the prerogative of each evaluator, of course.  So we must come up with a way to get our proposal section fairly rated.

Many of us have fallen into this trap of building our case when writing a proposal section.  We spend time carefully listing the facts which we build into our conclusion much like a brick layer builds a wall laying brick after brick until he/she ends up with a wall.  This may work with bricklaying; but my experience indicates it is not the best way to prepare a proposal response.

When the Government evaluator reads your response, he or she should see the conclusion or summary first.  You might also want to express that conclusion in terms of a result or benefit you are offering the Government.  Then, afterwards, the evaluator should see the steps by which you reached the conclusion. 

If you build your case this way, you will engage the interest of the evaluator and then he/she will want to see how you laid your bricks to come up with the wall.   This method will provide the evaluator with an appreciation of the value of your company.

You will stand a chance of getting a higher score and winning the contract for your company.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Outline – One Key to a Winning Proposal

A well-written, comprehensive proposal helps get government business. A key to a successful proposal is the outline. If you use a systematic approach, you can prepare a proposal that answers all the federal government’s requirements and receive a high technical score.

First, you need to read all the sections of the solicitation very carefully and then re-read each section as you prepare your outline.

The RFP Section L, Instructions to Offerors, provides you with the basic framework for your outline. For example the Section L may state you should submit a volume for Technical Capability, one for Past Performance, and one for Management. In the Section L description, you will find some general statements for the major items which the government is looking for in each particular volume. This will provide you with your basic outline.

Next, you can incorporate applicable specific items from Sections C (Description / Specifications / Work Statement), G (Contract Administration Data), I (Contract Clauses), H (Special Contract Requirements) and M (Evaluation Factors for Award) into your basic outline. As you look at each of these sections, decide where in the overall outline you want to include the specific requirements.

One of the most important considerations is formatting the technical capability volume. You should carefully review the Section C, Work Statement and Section M, Evaluation. The Section C description will normally include a Statement of Work or a Performance Work Statement. In most cases the Section C work requirements will line up with the Section M evaluation criteria.

If the evaluation criteria does not line up with the work requirement, you should fashion your outline so that the major sections in the Technical Capability volume match the organization of the government’s Evaluation approach (Section M). Then you can flow the work requirements (Section C) underneath the headings created by using the evaluation outline. The rationale for recommending this course of action is simple. Evaluation teams normally use checklists derived from the Section M, Evaluation, section of the RFP. By formatting your proposal using the same approach as the Evaluation section, you stand a 90% to 95% chance of writing a proposal that conforms to a particular evaluator’s checklist creating “ease of review”.

If the evaluator has to go from section to section to find the information he is looking for to evaluate your capability, he/she may become distracted. This distraction may result in an evaluation that is less favorable to your company’s capabilities. Again, even if you have the best, least expensive product you may not be selected by the government if your proposal is awkward or not well written/organized. If the evaluator can read your proposal and it follows the checklist, they are more apt to understand your capabilities, making your proposal more attractive.
In the other sections of your proposals, you will find that it is fairly easy to insert the specific requirements from Sections G, I, and H into the major sections you have identified from reading Section L.

The final step is to create a Cross-Reference Matrix (CRM). The CRM will identify the solicitation requirements in several columns and then provide the paragraph numbers from your outline which correspond to solicitation requirements cited in other columns. That will provide you with immediate feedback if you have failed to address an identified requirement in your proposal.

In summary, it is tempting to “jump right in” when you start working a proposal in response to a solicitation, but before you begin writing your proposal, you should check and re-check the solicitation and your outline to ensure you have addressed every requirement. Smart proposal writers spend hours and even days reading the RFP, then an equal amount of time preparing the outline and reviewing the solicitation before writing the first word.

My book is available at Amazon at the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Cash-Obama-Trillion-Spending-Plan/dp/1432744283/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344024206&sr=1-3&keywords=ed+benjamin

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why I wrote my book

I published a book on September 24th, 2009 entitled "Cash in on the Obama $3 Trillion Spending Plan! How to make large amounts of money by conducting business with or receiving grants from federal, state, and local governments." My book is a complete, step-by-step guide to winning government business and receiving grants. With the passage of President Barack Obama’s historic stimulus bill, there’s never been a better time to do business with the government. The book is available through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and soon at major brick and mortar bookstores.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “Why did you write this book?”
In 1990, after I retired from the United States Air Force, I began writing proposals on a free lance basis. I did not have any training on writing proposals other than the fact that working for the Air Force, I had reviewed many proposals and had some idea about what the government wants when it issues a Request for Proposal. I was very lucky in my proposal writing career. The first proposal I wrote helped my client win a $130 million contract to maintain aircraft at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training wing at Sheppard AFB, Texas.

After winning a few more, I knew I was on to something. So I began to analyze what I was doing that seemed to enable me to write proposals which the government deemed technically excellent. I then begun to organize my approach and developed a technique which helped my write proposals that met the government’s requirements. My clients did not win all the contracts but the government always gave the proposals high marks. For many years, I worked on proposals and passed along my techniques to those people with whom I worked.

I have often worked with smaller businesses to help them get started in obtaining government business. I was used to the process because I had worked with it in the Air force and I was surprised to find how many people found it daunting to cut through the red tape and become qualified to win government business.

In early 2009, with the economy in bad shape, I noted that many more people were interested in the mechanics of doing business with the government.

I thought about doing this book for years but always felt I was too busy to spend the time to write it.
When the downturn hit and the economy was on the verge of collapse, more people became interested in doing business with the government. After surveying the literature, I determined there wasn’t a good step by step guide to help people unravel the bureaucratic morass you have to cut your way through to do business with the government.

So I decided to write the book which gave people a step by step guide to doing business with the government. I also included in my book some of the techniques which have helped me write good, solid technical proposals and grant requests for my clients.

My book has sold moderately well and now there seems to be some interest by people in buying the Kindle edition, which you can download at Amazon.com/
Also, I have a website (http://flowingwaterpress.com )where people can download this book plus a novella I wrote in 1998.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Writing Excellent Past Perfomance Narratives

Most government solicitations which require a proposal will contain a requirement for you to indicate your past performance. 

The government will require you to demonstrate your Past Performance and Experience in successfully completing (performing) similar projects in size and complexity to the tasks required by the solicitation. Ideally, you should be able to provide a list of satisfactory completion of similar projects in size and complexity or providing similar services to government agencies or companies of similar size and/or characteristics. You want to relate to the government just how your company has performed in tasks as close as possible to the tasks described in the solicitation

If you think your past performance is “spot on” toward fulfilling what the government is looking for in the solicitation you are addressing, there is a very dramatic way in which you can do this which will endear you to the government evaluator’s eyes.  One method is to prepare a table which demonstrates this performance directly related to the major tasks identified in the solicitation’s Section C; either the Performance Work Statement (PWS) or the Statement of Work (SOW), depending on the Request for Proposal   There is as two step process you can follow to dramatically illustrate your past performance.  You can start out with a summary narrative which explains your company’s past performance in the best possible light. 

Next you create a table which illustrates the various performance factors from Section C of the Solicitation and then show how each of your referenced contracts have fulfilled each factor .  I have included a detailed example in my recent book but here is a simple example of how that might look.  Down the left hand column of the table, you list the major performance factors from Section C of the Solicitation.  Across the top you can list your representative contracts.  At each of the intersecting points you can indicate with a check mark or a “yes” or “N/A” if the listed contract contains performance and/or experience relative to the major performance area on the left.  In addition, you can indicate whether your listed Past Performance contract is Highly Relevant  or Relevant to the solicitation at hand.

This chart will then give the government evaluator an overview view of your past performance and experience and makes his/her job easier. 

Example of one way you can depict your Past Performance at a Glance
Contract Number 1
Contract Number 2
Contract Number 3
PWS Para 2.1 – Manufacture widgets
Yes/ HR*
PWS 3.1 – Test widgets
Yes/ HR*
PWS 4.1 Maintain widgets
Yes/ HR*
PWS 5.1 Quality Assurance/Quality Control Training
Yes/ HR*
PWS 6.1 Training
Yes/ HR*
“HR” = Highly Relevant to Solicitation; “R” = Relevant to solicitation

You can then discuss each past contract in detail as that contract relates to the requirements of the solicitation you are trying to win. That will provide you with the opportunity to sing your praises for each of the individual contracts you have selected for Past Performance review.

Remember, the easier you make it for the government evaluator, the better impression of your company the evaluator will have. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Magic Word for Successful Proposals - "HOW"

 As you know, the government requires companies who are trying to get business to prepare a proposal to inform the government how you intend to carry out that lucrative contract once they award you the contract.  The government is often very specific in this regard; however many prospective bidders often ignore this in favor of a listing of their company’s accomplishments without any probative value.  Successful bidders pay close attention to the “how” because they realize that the more successful you are at explaining “HOW”; the better the odds that the government will award you the contract.

I have found the following approach to be very helpful when determining the best approach toward responding to a Government Request for Proposal. I consider it a basic philosophy to use when you begin to consider writing your proposal.

As you write your proposal, it is very important to tell the government “how” you intend to fulfill the contract once the government awards it to you. Your proposal is more than a litany of the things you are prepared to do once you win the contract. Your proposal is a marketing tool that fulfills three criteria:
  • It demonstrates to the government you are qualified to perform the tasks or manufacture the product;
  • It shows you are capable of performing as advertised; and
  • It highlights that you have a plan to perform in a highly successful, exceptional manner.
Before you begin writing, you need to consider who your audience is and how they will perceive you and your company as they read your proposal. Remember, the government is asking for a solution to a problem and/or requirement it has.  The first step is to accurately define the problem or requirement the government is trying to solve by asking for a proposal.  This definition will help you to zero in on the solution in your written proposal. 

You will need to establish trust and credibility as you make the various points in your proposal. This is where your company can demonstrate your experience and expertise in relevant areas pertaining to the product or task at hand. The more credibility you establish, the greater the trust factor the evaluator will place in your proposal.

You will also need to demonstrate that there is a “win-win” solution. The best way to accomplish that goal is to show “how” you can provide the government agency with a solution to its needs or to a problem it is trying to solve. The government is aware that everyone who responds is doing so because of self-interest. If you submit a proposal that really solves the government needs and do it in such a way that it really makes good sense to them to accept, then you both win with the contract award.

I have included similar comments like this along with some brief examples in my book in the chapter on “Writing a Successful Proposal”.