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Building a Winning Proposal Response Team – Part 1

Government bid responses are unlike commercial proposals. Responses must adhere to specified formats; those with a high probability for a win are the culmination of a concerted capture effort. Winning responses result from dedicated effort led by experienced proposal professionals.

Effective proposal response teams for public sector solicitations include multiple functional and technical roles. The responding organization must have a robust infrastructure in place to track, measure and report on capture opportunities. Small businesses may lack the in-house team members and infrastructure to fill each of these roles, leaving gaps filled in a piecemeal manner.

Government bid responses require a substantial investment of staff time. A piecemeal approach wastes this time investment. Small businesses often lack the infrastructure and team required for a comprehensive proposal response effort. Effective government bid response require small business leadership to successfully perform multiple critical steps. Each step has pitfalls associated with poor implementation:

  • Prioritize Proposal Management: Lack of executive and/or owner support and no single proposal management accountability leads to low priority for government bid responses. This results in a decreased win rate and wasted time on the proposal effort.
  • Measure Performance: Lack of government sales goals and a system for tracking opportunities and progress to goals results in an effort with no defined success.
  • Maintain a right-sized, consistent proposal process: Two extremes are common for small businesses: an over-engineered, complex process or an undocumented, inconsistent or non-existent process.
  • Structure the organization to support the proposal effort: Organizational structure doesn’t consider government sales as a critical piece, so functional org char doesn’t include capture, coordination, writing, editing, volume management and reviews.
  • Hire and retain an effective proposal manager: Lack of a single proposal management accountability point – or an experienced proposal manager without goals and direction – leads to low priority for government bid responses. This results in a decreased win rate and wasted time on the proposal effort.
  • Invest in Resources: Lack of proposal automation tools, infographic tools and solicitation tracking system result in duplication of effort, weak graphics and inability to report on efforts.
  • Rely on Experts: Lack of in-house resources requires a reliance on outside experts – from free resources like PTAC and SBDC to fee-based professional capture and bid writing services.

Your government capture effort should start with your “why.” This will define what success looks like for your company. This step should be based on your research and it will ensure the B&P effort is understood by the team and is prioritized. The answer to “why” leads to the “what, how and who” of your success measures.

The solution is to determine reasonable sales goals for government capture, based on company scalability and the availability of contracting opportunities in the targeted region with targeted agencies. Then, decide on your other goals for conversion (win) rate, pass rate and allowable allocation of internal resources. Decide how you will track and report on opportunities and which metrics are the most important for your company. Select a system for tracking deadlines, ensuring it is reportable. Finally, decide on accountability, frequency and format of reporting.

Using proposal management best practices, determine an appropriate process for your proposal effort and assign ownership and support roles for each step in the process. Avoid the tendency to over-complicate the process. Over-engineered processes don’t necessarily lead to more wins, and actually can have the counterproductive effect of exhausting the proposal team with minutia.