Know the Different Types of Proposals
THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PREPARING PROPOSALS FOR GOVERNMENT AGENCIES VS BUSINESSES
The biggest difference is that with government proposals, you must provide the exact information being requested in the exact format while being 100% in compliance with all major and minor details mentioned in the RFP documents. If you miss one small item, it can get thrown out as non-compliant. With most business proposals, you can provide exactly what you want to present regarding your product or service and sell them on how your firm can save them money, make them money, or whatever it is that rocks their boat. The following provides a few more details that differentiate government proposals from business proposals.
Preparing a Government Proposal
When companies are interested in gaining experience working on government contracts, the most common method is to respond to a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) that has been issued by a government agency. When entering the field for the first time, depending on the services requested, gaining experience as a subcontractor can gain you documented credible government contract experience which can be leveraged as past performance. The federal government’s process for acquiring contractors can be quite complex and often confusing. Understanding the proposal writing format is key to submitting a successful bid. You will run into all kinds of regulations that need to be complied with, various terms and conditions to acknowledge, and certain policies and procedures that must be followed precisely.
Often large companies will hire both proposal writing firms and subject matter experts, who together help to prepare a comprehensive proposal. A small business typically cannot afford the fees charged by those firms, yet does not have the time or experience to prepare the proposal themselves. Hiring a firm that specializes in developing proposals for small businesses can be a savior. The RFP Firm is one such company, working 100% with small businesses and leveraging its expertise to position those businesses as the ideal contractor.
The fact is that even if your company has performed on many government contracts, each RFP has different requirements and procedures. This is true of federal, state, and local government agencies. For the federal government, the process is regulated by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Even many state governments now follow the FAR requirements for preparing their RFPs.
Once you have reviewed the contract requirements and made sure that you can meet the minimum requirements, nothing is stopping you from developing and submitting a proposal. The Scope of Services/Work will describe the contract requirements. There are often instructions to bidders that provide the details of what must be included in the proposal and the format in which it should be presented. You want to be 100% compliant, so following the instructions in detail is extremely important. Typically, there will be a period where you are allowed to submit questions for clarification followed by an amendment to answer those questions to ensure that your proposal writing format is consistent.
If done properly, bidders will more easily be able to be compared and rated as to their capability and experience to provide the required services. Pricing is of course the most tangible component for measuring proposer responses.
Types of Government Contracts
There are several different kinds of contacts. These include:
- Fixed-Price Contracts: Your pricing must be a pre-determined price as a set fee for the services provided without the option for adjustment, although sometimes they can be renegotiated if unexpected circumstances arise.
- Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Contracts: These might have the same requirements as one of the other types of contracts, but it is intended to be ongoing on an as-needed basis.
- Cost-Plus Contracts: With a focus on the final quality of the project, potential costs are defined, along with various possible supplementary costs required as things progress.
- Cost Reimbursement Contracts: A base amount is identified for incurred costs as a cost ceiling. These types of proposals often cannot be accurately estimated upfront.
- Time and Materials Contracts (T&M): While there will be various fixed costs, often the timeline and number of materials required are difficult to estimate.
Preparing a Business Proposal
When preparing a business proposal for a private company, it is typically, wide open allowing you to prepare your proposal in a manner that emphasizes the benefits you bring, the financial rationale, and how your experience creates a situation where choosing your company is low risk. Without the formalities of government proposals, you can provide a more sales and marketing-oriented submission.
That being said, the requirements of a business proposal may not be specific enough to price it properly or may include some confusing information. Requesting clarification can be important so that you have a good understanding of exactly how they want the work to be performed or, if they are leaving that decision up to you, then you can propose how you will perform the services and why that is the best approach. This is where you can differentiate your services from the competition. You can also develop your presentation in a manner that is interesting, professional, and engaging, which is more difficult with a government proposal.