Audio Tip: Creating your proposal outline and compliance matrix

How to stay on a solid path towards proposal success

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This month, proposal development expert Beth Wingate, APMP Fellow (aka AppMaven), offers insights and tips for developing your proposal outline and compliance matrix.

I attended a roundtable presentation given by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals’ (APMP) National Capital Area (NCA) Chapter where three government contracting officers agreed with my assessment that you need to develop your proposal outlines following the hierarchy of Sections L (Instructions), then M (Evaluation Criteria), then C (Statement of Work (SOW)), then H (Special Contract Requirements), then I (Contract Clauses), then J (Attachments—sometimes where they hide the actual SOW), and then the rest of the RFP.

In the pre-RFP release stage of the Capture and Proposal Life Cycle, I always develop a draft proposal outline and compliance matrix based on the government’s draft RFP or on one that I develop based on previous competitions if I’m in a recompete situation, or from capture-based intelligence. I suggest you do the same. This enables you to begin developing solid draft proposal content and positions you for success during the final proposal development stage.

Once the final RFP is released, I review the RFP (see my previous proposal tips on how to read a government RFP), and then I make any necessary changes to my final outline and compliance matrix.

Here are some tips for ensuring you have a solid outline and compliance matrix before you begin developing your final proposal text and graphics:

  • Once the final RFP is released, it is the official playbook or rulebook telling bidders specifically what needs to be included in your response and how you should include it. You or your team members may not be happy with the RFP and may consider it disorganized or even stupid. You may be tempted to use the RFP merely as a guide and to organize your story as you wish. DON’T DO IT! Follow the customer’s instructions. Allow the customer to evaluate your proposal with ease—in the manner established in the RFP.
  • Address any major changes in the RFP with your proposal team and determine how to handle them. Update your draft compliance matrix and draft outlines accordingly.
  • When numbering your proposal sections, always try to use the exact reference the RFP does in section order. This will make it easier for evaluators to match your proposal to the solicitation requirements—and presumably make it easier for them to find your answers and score your proposal highly.
  • If a sub-requirement isn’t numbered, use the section number and then the sentence number when developing your outline, e.g., Section 3.2.4 equals the fourth sentence in Section 3.2 of the RFP.

Failure to follow the RFP can get you thrown out of the running for being non-compliant. Establish a standard process for evaluating your RFPs and developing your compliant—and compelling—proposal outlines and compliance matrices. This will keep you on a solid path towards proposal success.