Writing a Winning Proposal

Writing A Winning Proposal
for the 6th Annual National Veteran Small Business Conference & Expo, Las Vegas, NV, 21 & 22 July 2010
Andy Alexander
NBDC PTAC Program Manager
University of Nebraska at Omaha
College of Business Administration
6001 Dodge Street, Room 308D, Omaha, NE 68182
(402) 554-6253 [email protected]
A. Read the solicitation then prepare a draft proposal timeline and outline as you read it a second
time. This can be accomplished on one piece of paper as you review it the second time.
B. Create a powerful, but concise executive summary: Government decision-makers start with and
focus on the executive summary, so create this section with that fact in mind. When writing the
executive summary, assume that the reader knows little or nothing about the proposed project.
C. Quantify the results that the government can expect from engaging you: Some companies create
proposals that overemphasize their company’s process and methodologies. Governments buy results,
not tools or methodologies.
D. Be generous with your ideas: You may fear that revealing your ideas about how to solve a
problem during the proposal process could result in the government taking those ideas and
completing the project themselves. In rare cases, that may happen. But you'll have more success if
you don't hoard your ideas. Use them to show the government that your team thinks and approaches
problems in creative and innovative ways.
E. Size does matter : Keep your proposals as short as possible, while meeting the government's
request. Think quality, not quantity.
F. Focus on the government: Many proposals begin with a long discussion of the company,
describing its qualifications and history. Focus your proposal on the government's needs first, and
then describe your company's capabilities. Remember, the government care only about how you'll
address their issues, so show them how you'll do that.
G. Beware of best practices: The government may view your liberal use of "best practices" as a
convenient crutch. Instead of relying on answers that worked for a previous commercial or
government client, find a blend of outstanding practices and innovative solutions that fit the
government's particular needs.
H. Be accurate: If you are using client data to support aspects of your proposal, double-check and triplecheck that information. It's easy for facts to be misunderstood and misused in a proposal. You'll risk
turning a winning proposal into a loser if you present inaccurate data to the government.
I. Sweat every detail: Watch for typos, use high-quality materials, and make sure that the right people
in the government receive the proposal on time.
J. Rewrite your resume for every proposal: Highlight the skills in your resume that demonstrate your
qualifications for the project at hand. A boilerplate resume is rarely up to the task.
K. Finish early: Let your proposal sit for a day after you've completed the final draft, and then reread it
completely before sending it to the government. You're likely to come up with some new ideas that
enhance your work, and you may find errors that you missed earlier.
L. Let your personality shine through: Give the government a sense of your company's culture and its
style of working. The traditional, stilted language of many company proposals doesn't help the
government answer the all-important question: What will it be like to work with this company?
M. Don't let your claims outdistance your true capabilities: Some proposals tout the expertise of the
company by referring to past successes with similar projects. These testaments to past achievements are
important, but be sure that the capabilities of the proposed company team can live up to your
company's claims.
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