• Deb Yeagle

Compliant Stuff (No Fluff) - #1 Proposal Development Process Improvement Lesson Learned


(1) Structure your proposal to ensure a compliant response – providing what the RFP instructions ask for, in the order it is asked for.


In order to be eligible to receive a contract award, you must submit a compliant proposal in response to the Government’s solicitation or RFP (Request for Proposal). What does being compliant mean?


Compliance is providing everything the Government asks for in the manner and order they ask for it, as specified in the proposal instructions. These proposal instructions are typically found in Section L of the RFP. As we learned in the #6 Proposal Management Process Improvement Lesson, the Proposal Manager is ultimately responsible for proposal compliance. Your Proposal Manager should develop compliant proposal Volume templates to incorporate the Section L formatting instructions and to structure the outline such that it includes major section headings and subheadings based on the Section L instructions for each Volume’s proposal content.


Proposal Writers are also responsible for ensuring a compliant proposal. Here are some tips for developing compliant proposal responses:

- Use the compliant outline provided by the Proposal Manager to develop compliant responses that address all proposal instructions and address all SOW / PWS work / performance requirements.

- Don’t change the headings and subheadings! The Proposal Manager has chosen these headings to be as consistent as possible with the RFP language. This ensures the proposal will not be thrown out for compliance and allows for ease of evaluation.

- If the instructions ask for approach, then write an approach (“how” you will perform the work to meet the SOW / PWS requirements – including processes, procedures, methodologies, standards, tools, etc.). Don’t provide your experience in performing for work when asked for your approach – EXPERIENCE is not an APPROACH!

- Don’t force evaluators to search for information (they won’t look for it!). Use simple, clear, uncomplicated language and sentence / paragraph structure, previewing complex sections and utilizing lists when possible.

- Don’t force evaluators to assume, interpret, or draw conclusions. Use direct language including statements of what you are going to do and why (addressing the instructions / requirements) so there is no doubt in the evaluator’s mind.

- Avoid using “fluff”. Fluff is content that pads the proposal with useless and unsubstantiated information and can include vague information, extra and unimportant details, jargon, flashy graphics that provide style over substance, motherhood statements, generalities, and theories. Fluff distracts evaluators from your message and does not allow for ease of evaluation for compliance.


To avoid using fluff:

- Use facts, statistics, metrics, and specific information

- Back up your claims

- Use nouns and verbs

- Beware of overly enthusiastic adjectives and adverbs

- Use the “So what?” test: Read what you have written from the customer perspective and ask yourself: “Does the customer care?”, “Does this demonstrate how our solution benefits the customer in terms of what matters to them?”, “Does this differentiate us from the competition?”


Too often, proposal writers fall into the trap of believing that if they simply repeat the Government’s requirements, then they can develop a compliant response. That’s not only a false belief, it actually results in a non-compliant proposal, and is the topic of Proposal Development Lesson Learned #2…

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Copyright 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 by Plan To Win, Inc. 

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