L versus M – Where do I start?

Using section M as the basis of your proposal could result in a non-compliant bid

I’ve noticed a trend with some companies to use section M of the government solicitation document as the basis for their proposal structure. While I understand the desire to make it easy for the evaluators to score your proposal, this could result in a non-compliant bid.

Organize your bid or proposal according to the customer’s instructions.

A compliant proposal meets the customer’s requirements and submittal instructions. U.S. federal bid requests issued under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15 must comply with detailed instructions on how the bid request and bid response are to be structured. Requirements for the structure of the proposal are provided in section L. Evaluation factors for the award are provided in section M.

Evaluators often review proposals in two passes.  The first pass is a compliance review to section L.  This review may be performed by the CO and if the proposal is not rigorously compliant, it doesn’t make it to the second pass which is evaluation and scoring.  Some COs take a hard line on this arguing that if they can toss out a proposal for non-compliance, they lighten the workload for everyone downstream.  So to have a high scoring proposal, getting through the first pass is mandatory.

Organize the proposal according to section L. Once that is done, design the proposal structure so everything needed to score the proposal from Section M can easily be found.  Using the RFP language in headers, and including parenthetic references makes both compliance checking and evaluation easier.

Also watch out for “section L” requirements hidden in the Statement of Work (section C), or sections G. H, or I. As an example, the requirement for a transition plan (to be submitted as a draft with the proposal) may be in the SOW, and NOT listed in the minimal section L and M criteria. I remember some DARPA proposals that identified cover sheet and other required information that were “buried” in sections H and I. Instructions may also be hidden in section J attachments.

In the ideal world, sections L and M are in sync. Sometimes you will also find section L has a few rudimentary instructions like font size and you are forwarded to section M for more detailed instructions about organization. But the bottom line is: organize the proposal by section L.

Like good artwork, when the organization is done well, the proposal structure is beautiful and easy to evaluate for both compliance and scoring.

by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP APMP, PMP, CSM, MOS.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.