Don’t make these mistakes – 7 proposal staffing lessons learned

Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up. (Attributed to various people)

As promised, here are some of my top proposal section-specific lessons learned over the past 25 years managing and submitting thousands of proposals and task order responses.

This list is not all-inclusive. These are highlights – and easily avoided problem areas where I’ve seen plenty of proposal teams fall needlessly short. Like anything else in proposal management, significant pre-RFP planning goes a long way towards improving your win probability.

When developing your proposal’s staffing section:

  1. Identify key staff early—preferably long before solicitation release so you can get resumes updated when you’re not under pressure.
  2. Key staff should be subject matter experts (SME), current employees, and not committed 100% to another effort or more than 100% overall among several efforts!
  3. Limit the number of subcontractor employees versus prime contractor employees in the staffing section – especially in top-level and key positions. Your client may see your staffing section as risky otherwise.
  4. Identify staff by name in proposal. It’s best if the client already knows the staff either from pre-RFP capture management vetting of your proposed staff or from previous projects. If you include staff that the client and evaluators already know, consider including photos to remind evaluators who they’re buying and make it personal.
  5. Your proposed staff must have all required certifications, training, and years of experience, this information must be easy to find for the evaluators – don’t make the evaluators dig for the information! If you don’t have staff with the requisite tickets punched, look at teaming partners, work to get the staffing requirements changed (assumes you’re working the deal well before RFP release), hire folks with the needed skills ASAP, or reconsider your bid. Many times contingent hires are seen as risky by clients.
  6. Support all skills matrices within the resumes’ text. Ensure all items from a skill matrix appear in each resume, e.g., if a matrix has a box checked for C++, be sure the resume shows where/when the employee used C++.
  7. Include a relevance box at the beginning of each resume that shows what the person brings to the effort – why them?

What are some of your favorite staffing-related lessons learned – and how did you learn them? Send an email to me listing your favorites, and I’ll update my list!