Eliminate Inconsistencies in Proposals - #5 Proposal Development Process Improvement Lesson Learned
(5) Responses between sections / volumes should be consistent where the same information is presented.
Lack of consistency in a proposal distracts the evaluators from scoring your proposal and from understanding your message. For example:
- Is it “Team Acme” or “the Acme Team”?
- Is your retention rate really 95%? The Management Approach claims 95% but the Past Performance reference indicates only 85%.
- Did you manage 10 task orders? Or is it 20? The Corporate Experience section claims 10, but the Management Approach section states that your company is currently managing 20 Task Orders!
Beyond these common examples that cause potential annoyance or raise suspicions about the validity of your claims, some inconsistencies can cause doubt in your ability to manage the contract. For example, a common inconsistency is use of multiple job titles describe the same position. Is your Primary point of contact a “Site Lead” or a “Task Lead”? And is the “Site Lead” / “Task Lead” equivalent to the “Task Project Manager” as depicted in your organization chart? Whenever the Government provides prescribed labor categories and/or position titles, always use their terms when describing the proposed staff.
Perhaps the worst type of inconsistency in proposals involves your solution. When your proposed solution is presented inconsistently across multiple sections or volumes of your proposal, this can be scored as a weakness or result in a not winning the contract. For example, why did you propose five (5) Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to perform the work in your Technical Volume but only included three (3) SMEs in your Pricing? When proposals require you to provide allocation of work by position or by team member in the technical or management volume, then ensure your pricing aligns with this proposed work allocation, and vice versa.
These inconsistencies can be avoided by employing the following best practices:
· Define Standard Terms: Your Proposal Manager should define writing standards and guidelines that establish how to refer to certain entities such as your team, your approach, your personnel, etc. If you don’t have a Proposal Manager then take the time to make a list of common terms before any writing begins. Ensure all writers refer to the standards and guidelines to use the common terms.
· Incorporate Consistency Checking as Part of Your Color Reviews: Assign a reviewer to be the “consistency checker” to check for consistent use of terms, metrics, methodologies, positions, etc. This reviewer should not only check for inconsistencies within the narrative but should review consistency across both text and graphics. In addition, if there are any dependencies across volumes or sections where similar information is presented, then the reviewer should be assigned to check that the information is in sync across both volumes or sections.
· Edit the Proposal to Ensure “One Voice”: Hire an Editor (or assign a good proofreader / English major from within your firm) to proofread, review, and update your proposal to ensure a consistently written final product. Often when multiple writers are involved, the proposal reflects the group effort through various writing styles, tones, and tense. An editor can eliminate these inconsistencies by revising the responses to use consistent structure and correct grammar throughout the proposal.
If you don’t have an Editor, then at least use the Spelling & Grammar checking feature in Word. Or check out the #6 Proposal Development Process Improvement Lesson Learned for tips on how to develop a well written and edited proposal.