Proposal Development Process

Preparing Compliant, Compelling, and Competitively Priced Proposals

Proposal Manager at Computer

If you need surge support, or need someone with deep proposal development expertise to lead your must-win effort, we will support every facet of your effort. Our proposal experts span the full lifecycle of business development. Click on the professions below that typically lead up to or contribute to the proposal effort, to learn about their roles and responsibilities:

A Federal Business Developer, under the direction of the client team, is responsible for identifying, qualifying, positioning for, and winning business opportunities; coordinating with capture management staff to establish appropriate pursuit methodologies; ensuring the development and implementation of effective capture strategies and call plans; and advancing business opportunities through the Gate Review process. Typical tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Identifying, qualifying, and positioning the company for potential business opportunities.
  • Preparing and presenting Gate reviews, and in collaboration with the capture manager, recommending that opportunities be pursued or dropped.
  • Collaborating and contributing as a member of the Capture Management Team by contributing to call plan development, setting appointments, and participating in presales calls that gather customer “hot buttons” and requirements information.
  • Participating on the Capture Management Team by gathering insight into likely competitors and their strengths and weaknesses and assisting in identifying and recruiting teaming partners.
  • Actively participating in all proposal reviews.
  • Contributing as a writer on the proposal, if requested by the capture manager.
  • Supporting marketing efforts for the proposal.
  • Maintaining the record of the opportunity in the pipeline at all times throughout the process.

Our Capture Managers help you with pre-proposal preparation, so that when the Request for Proposal (RFP) is issued by the Government, you are ready to write a winning proposal. We will help you win through competent capture management for your IDIQ proposals, and Task Order capture efforts.

The Capture Manager builds relationships and interacting with the customer, collecting and filtering bid-critical information for pursuits (including intelligence gathering efforts), developing win strategy, leading the competitive analysis and price-to-win development, selecting and signing teaming agreements with the teammates, and leading the solution development pre-RFP and during the proposal process.  Typical Capture Manager’s tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Prepare the company for delivering a competitive and compelling proposal.
  • Estimate, gain approval for, and manage, the B&P budget established for each opportunity.
  • Make recommendations in establishing a capture team, and lead that capture team.
  • Work with your company’s Business Developer or business leadership to organize and manage all capture activities, Government customer call plans, customer messages, assessment of likely competitors, and identification and recruiting of teaming partners.
  • Perform bid research to determine technical requirements, customer concerns, possible competitors and teaming partners, competitive pricing, and other bid information.
  • Research and develop the overall win strategy and win themes.
  • Working with your company’s leadership, help select teaming partners, and request, negotiate, and guide execution of non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and teaming agreements with partnering firms.
  • Facilitate brainstorming sessions to develop a solution framework, concept of operations (CONOPS), and value propositions (including pricing strategy).
  • Work with the Proposal Manager, gaining commitment from relevant teaming partners on specific personnel assigned to support brainstorming on solution and win themes, proposal writing, and proposal reviews.
  • Guide the selection, organization, and presentation of the past performance references used in the response.
  • Draft the Executive Summary.
  • Ensure the cost volume is consistent with the technical approach, meets the strategic teaming commitments, and represents the agreed-to winning price.
  • Lead solution development sessions during the proposal phase.
  • Negotiate with the subcontractors on the level of effort and pricing/budgeting.
  • Work closely with the recruiters to ensure adequate personnel is identified and recruited.
  • During the proposal phase, constantly review the proposal and work with the authors to ensure that the right story is being told in the proposal from the capture perspective.
  • Participate in all color reviews.
  • Sign off on the final proposal.
  • Participate in all post-submission activities such as discussions and Final Proposal Revision (FPR) response, as required.

A competent Proposal Manager can make a winning difference in leading your team’s proposal. After receipt of the formal Request for Proposal (RFP), Proposal Manager leads the proposal effort, and assumes the lead responsibility and single point of accountability for organizing all informational and personnel resources to produce a compliant, compelling, and technically accurate proposal delivered by the Government’s deadline. Proposal Manager’s tasks are to:

  • Lead the proposal effort—serving as the single point of accountability responsible for organizing all informational and personnel resources to produce a compliant, compelling, and technically accurate proposal delivered on schedule.
  • Work with the Capture Manager  to tailor the proposal process to a specific RFP.
  • Distribute RFP, modifications, and other RFP-related material to the proposal team (including subcontractors).
  • Research the RFP and develop the annotated outline, compliance matrix, and proposal schedule to ensure management and technical responses are compliant and compelling.
  • Prepare for and conduct a proposal kickoff.
  • Set proposal direction, and oversee proposal research, solution brainstorming, hot buttons (win themes), bid strategies, and proposal resource commitments provided by the Capture Manager, and incorporate them into the proposal.
  • Coordinate the activities of Subject Matter Experts and/or Technical Writers from your company or teaming partners.
  • Maintain the proposal collaborative workspace (such as SharePoint) in a highly structured format to ensure productive workflow, straightforward access to various sections, and version control of proposal-related information.
  • Organize proposal support and writing personnel into an effective team.
  • Orient the proposal team on themes, discriminators, hot buttons, and messaging to be used in each proposal section.
  • Conduct just-in-time training for the proposal team.
  • Schedule and manage Volume Leads, Proposal Writers, and Subject Matter Experts, for timely delivery and completion of all required inputs to accommodate internal schedules and the formal proposal due date.
  • Schedule and manage all proposal reviews (Pink Team, Red Team, Gold Team, and other reviews), organize all review input and output, and distribute in an appropriate and timely manner.
  • Respond to recommendations and direction from all reviews.
  • Perform ongoing in-process reviews of the proposal content.
  • Ensure that technical and management volumes are consistent with the cost volume.
  • Coordinate the review and production schedules with the proposal production personnel for timely completion of all required proposal editing, desktop publishing (formatting), graphic designs, and production support to meet the internal review schedules and the formal RFP response due date.
  • Ensure completion and delivery of the proposal on schedule.
  • Participate in post-proposal activities such as the Lessons Learned, discussions, orals, Final Proposal Revision (FPR), and Government debrief.

A Proposal Coordinator is focused on the administration of the proposal process and support to the Proposal Manager. Usually, a Proposal Coordinator role is necessary on a highly technical proposal with a larger proposal team. A Proposal Coordinator is responsible for organizing and securing all proposal-related information, and taking care of routine tasks related to managing a proposal team, to free up the Proposal Manager to focus on leadership and winning content development. Proposal Coordinator’s tasks are to:

  • Assist the Proposal Manager in the setting up of the physical and virtual proposal workspaces, with the correct folder structure and automated features to ensure effective workflow, version control, access, security, and backups of the proposal document.
  • Help train the team on the use and procedures of the collaborative site and physical workspace.
  • If physical workspace is used, set up and update “proposal walls.”
  • Control access to the physical proposal area; set up a “burn” box and a shredder to prevent release of competition sensitive or proprietary materials.
  • Assist the Proposal Manager in compliance checks, including generation of a compliance matrix.
  • Assist with organizing, and issue invitations to meetings for the team, such as the kickoff, brainstorming sessions, color reviews (Pink Team, Red Team, Gold Team), and lessons learned sessions.
  • Assemble the document for reviews, if it is being developed in separate parts.
  • Manage desktop publishing and editing of the proposal document (and if skills permit, step in to help with these tasks), including supervision of Editors, Desktop Publishers, and Graphic Artists.
  • Manage the workflow of proposal sections and graphics inputs and outputs.
  • Maintain the up-to-date status of all proposal text and graphics.
  • Assist the Proposal Manager with updating the proposal schedule.
  • Develop the production plan for the proposal, and order printing supplies if it is a hard-copy deliverable.
  • Assist with proposal production and organize proposal delivery.
  • Archive the final proposal and related documents.
  • Securely dispose of all proposal assets that are not retained, to sanitize the proposal space.

Proposal Writers (sometimes referred to as Technical Writers) write, rewrite, and edit proposal sections, such as executive summary, technical and management volumes, past performance, resumes, technical plans, and so on. They research, gather technical information, and collaborate with the Subject Matter Experts to develop compliant and compelling proposal text and graphics concepts. Their primary responsibilities are to:

  • Review Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements to develop proposal section plans.
  • Develop proposal sections’ outlines.
  • Gather information by interviewing Subject Matter Experts or collecting their written inputs.
  • Fill information gaps through research.
  • Write, rewrite, or edit various proposal sections and develop or modify graphical representations of the material in the form acceptable for final rendering by the Graphic Artist.
  • Coordinate with Subject Matter Experts to ensure accuracy of the drafted sections and graphics.
  • Edit proposals and related documents for completeness, compliance, and persuasion.
  • Participate in all relevant proposal meetings, such as the kickoff, brainstorming, and review debriefs.
  • Perform peer reviews of other Proposal Writers’ sections, if requested.
  • Address reviewers’ comments and recommendations for improvement.
  • Follow proposal writing standards, including accuracy, readability, consistency, and tone.

Price Strategist helps you arrive at the right price to the Government that enables you to win the bid (“price-to-win”), and perform successfully and profitably on the contract. In many cases, a Price Strategist may serve as the Cost Volume Lead.

Price Strategist’s responsibilities may include all or some of the following:

  • Study capture information about the opportunity.
  • Gather pricing intelligence to predict what Government expects to pay, and what competitors are likely to offer as their prices for the product or service.
  • Collect pricing information from recent contracts on the same or similar products or services, buyers, and end-users.
  • Analyze company’s expected costs in performing under the contract and profitability, taking into consideration bid instructions that include conditions of purchase, delivery, contract type, and payment.
  • Work with the technical team to develop and iterate the plan of work and the associated direct costs, necessary to perform the contract effectively at the lowest possible cost.
  • Develop Should Cost and Pricing Models.
  • Estimate direct labor and other direct costs using the plan of work.
  • Perform competitive labor rate analysis.
  • Assist with developing the Price/Cost Proposal win themes and narrative.
  • Determine the bid price, taking into consideration the contract type (e.g. selecting competitive pricing strategies that are different for Firm Fixed Price bids and their variations, and for Cost Plus Bids and their variations).
  • Define contract modifications strategy ahead of time, if necessary.
  • Set the strategy for developing Basis of Estimate (BOEs), if applicable, and organize information collection to prepare to support the bottom line dollar figure with facts and figures.
  • Determine fee or profit customary for the specific Government client and contract type.
  • If necessary, assist with the development of indirect cost rate, in conjunction with the company’s finance and accounting staff. (Indirect costs include all costs that cannot be directly attributed to a project, product, or contract. These include such items as fringe benefits, overhead expenses, and general and administrative (G&A) expenses. These indirect cost rates are then applied to direct costs in determining total costs.)
  • Assist with the Final Proposal Revision (FPR) process and negotiations with the Government.

A Cost Volume Lead manages all pricing-related aspects of a bid, including writing, proposal management, proposal reviews, editing, publishing, printing, binding, and delivering cost/price proposals and accompanying material. Often Cost Volume Lead is also a Price Strategist.

The Cost Volume Lead’s typical tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Oversee preparation of the Cost Proposal and Business Proposal volumes.
  • Ensure that all aspects of the Cost and Business Proposal volumes are accurate and adequate.
  • Ensure that all cost/price proposal documents are reviewed in a timely manner.
  • Actively participate in the Cost/Price, Business, and Technical Proposal reviews.
  • Ensure Cost/Price and Technical proposals are consistent.
  • Maintain version control of proposal sections within the established workflow.
  • Issue target rates to the teaming partners and work with them to arrive at the right numbers and inputs.
  • Complete production of the Cost and Business volumes in sufficient time for formatting, technical editing, and production.

Basis of Estimate (BOE) is part of the proposal Cost Volume that shows how you came up with your price – the basis of your cost estimate. It is meant to convey to the Government that you understand the purpose of the project, can justify the proposed solution, how much that particular solution is going to cost, and this cost is the lowest possible credible cost. A good BOE relies on proof – for example, it could be professional opinion combined with an element of a similar past project.

Our BOE Development Experts are adept at capture (solution development), estimating, and pricing. Their responsibilities include:

  • Understand multiple solutions for the project, alternatives, and the resulting costs.
  • Decide on the primary estimating methodology used to prepare the cost estimate.
  • Explain the scope of work being estimated.
  • Identify the types and status of engineering and design deliverables to prepare the estimate, including any design basis assumptions.
  • Document the project management, engineering, design, procurement, fabrication, and construction approaches to the project, along with the contracting and resource strategies.
  • Document assumptions that may be made that will impact the end result of the estimated cost.
  • Describe the methods and sources used for determining all material, labor, and Other Direct Costs (ODC) pricing.
  • Identify allowances, exclusions, exceptions, contingencies, and management reserve.
  • Document any comparisons of resulting metrics, ratios, and factors with similar projects, historical data, and industry data, and any differences between the bid project and the one used for the BOE.
  • Discover and report on potential cost or time saving opportunities.
  • Exercise judgment in deciding the appropriate level of detail to ensure consistency between various BOEs submitted in the proposal, and to support, justify, and confirm the cost estimate.
  • Identify risks and opportunities within the BOE.
  • Collect and reference in the BOE the documents used in the estimate development; itemize and accurately describe them in the appropriate section of the BOE.
  • Participate in Cost Volume reviews, and incorporate reviewers’ comments.

We use a proprietary table-driven, dynamic tool for BOE development in our work. This BOE tool allows our BOE Development Expert to:

  • Support a single BOE development paradigm
  • Have generic data structure define a dependable interface between cost estimation and pricing
  • Support development of reusable reports and components
  • Streamline work through drop down selection wherever lists are applicable
  • Control input and editing
  • Remove mechanical errors of BOE development
  • Remove categorization errors
  • Reduce mathematical errors
  • Reduce rework

Color Team Reviewers participate in formal proposal quality reviews called Pink Team, Red Team, Gold Team, and so on; the colors indicate how “customer ready” the proposal is. Ideally, a Pink Team review should occur when a proposal is 60% customer ready, Red Team at 90% customer ready, and Gold Team at 99% customer ready. The reviewers provide comments and feedback to the technical writers on how to improve the proposal. Our proposal review experts work individually or in conjunction with your reviewers who are Subject Matter Experts, company management, teaming partners’ representatives, and authors for other proposal sections. The Color Team Reviewers’ responsibilities include:

  • If required, organize and facilitate the review.
  • Review assigned section and providing specific comments on how to improve the proposal.
  • Give an independent evaluation of the proposal from the Government’s perspective, including strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
  • Identify inconsistencies in the technical approach, management section, and past performance.
  • Recommend additional win themes and customer messages to include in the proposal.
  • Conduct a compliance check on the proposal or the assigned sections.
  • Comment on the structure and outline of the proposal.
  • Check for tone, accuracy, and customer-focused messaging.
  • Recommend additions or deletions to the sections, if necessary.
  • Brainstorm/collaborate with other reviewers on fleshing out missing or inadequate approaches in the technical or management sections.
  • Recommend alternatives for past performance examples that are more relevant to the RFP, or identify areas where the current past performance examples are irrelevant or insufficiently tied to the Statement of Work (SOW) requirements.
  • Check personnel candidate resumes and bios for compliance, accuracy, consistency, and provide recommendations on how to better relate personnel’s experience to the SOW.
  • Provide oral and written feedback to the authors in a constructive, professional manner.

Proposal Editor provides in-depth, moderate, copy editing, and proofreading of proposal sections and graphics to ensure consistency, clarity, completeness, conciseness, and correctness. Proposal Editor not only corrects grammar and syntax errors but also makes the proposal more accessible and readable. Depending on the level of editing required, Proposal Editor’s responsibilities may include:

  • Edit proposal sections and graphics to ensure consistency, clarity, completeness, conciseness, and correctness.
  • Rewrite sections of the proposal to make it read like one author wrote the document: “single voicing” the proposal.
  • Fix typos, spelling mistakes, grammar, tense, tone, rhythm, syntax, and change passive voice to active voice.
  • Increase readability by editing technical text so it is at the 12th grade reading level and management section text so it is at the 10th grade reading level.
  • Shorten text that’s over page count without changing the meaning.
  • Conduct a compliance check and add compliance language into key sections for ease of evaluation and maximum score.
  • Add figure and tables references, titles, and action captions.
  • Collaborate with the technical writers and Subject Matter Experts to confirm intent or check accuracy.
  • Identify inconsistencies in presentation of the technical approach and suggest improvements.
  • Develop an Acronyms list.
  • Edit the proposal before Red Team and Gold Team reviews.
  • Run the Read-Aloud Review.
  • Work quickly and efficiently under pressure to meet tight deadlines and allow the Desktop Publisher enough time to complete their tasks.

Desktop Publisher ensures that proposal has a professional look and feel from the perspective of layout, page design, and clean, consistent presentation. Whether the proposal is laid out in Microsoft (MS) Word or Adobe InDesign, the Desktop Publisher ensures that the proposal complies with the Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements and is aesthetically pleasing.

Desktop Publisher’s main responsibilities include:

  • Set up a clean template in MS Word, matching the color palette of the company or customer organization
  • Lay out the proposal in accordance with the RFP, aesthetic, readability, and functional requirements.
  • Label all exhibits and ensure they are called out in text and the latest versions are inserted correctly.
  • Ensure styles are clean in the document.
  • Build all sections of the document, and ensure sections are numbered consistently.
  • Insert the table of contents and table of figures.
  • Prepare the final proposal document for review.
  • Prepare inspected document for customer submission.

Personnel Recruiters conduct and lead proposal-specific and proactive recruitment for personnel in collaboration with proposal team/operations group.  Their responsibilities are to:

  • Identify potential candidates by gathering intelligence on the incumbent personnel, and other candidates through databases, sites such as LinkedIn, recruitment sites such as Monster, contacts/networks, Internet, institutions, associations, publications, and cold calls.
  • Coordinate all proposal and field recruitment advertising, including open houses.
  • Contact potential candidates and communicate company’s interest.
  • Articulate proposal/project commitments, contract compliance on contingent hires, and accurate representation of company’s personnel benefits/compensation package.
  • Develop and maintain recruitment database components to track skills, history and status of consultants, and to respond quickly to solicitations.
  • Prepare and consolidate required recruitment background material packets to be sent to subcontractors, collaborators, and individual candidates for their prompt response.
  • Track receipt of recruitment documentation from subcontractors and individuals and distribute to relevant parties.
  • Communicate clearly with proposal teams on candidate compliance with resume requirements, personnel availability, whereabouts, salary requirements, dependents, and other special requests.
  • Review resumes with proposal teams and program operations for field positions to select suitable candidates for the company and its subcontractors.
  • Upon selection, begin the process of preparing and collecting formatted resumes, signed letters of commitment.
  • Conduct reference checks for potential candidates.
  • Prepare key personnel cameos and personnel skills matrices for technical proposal submissions.
  • Assist with production of final personnel/recruitment related documents in proposals.
  • Travel as needed for proposals and project start up.
  • Coordinate with program operations and proposal managers to develop strategic recruitment priorities.
  • Interview applicants and gather information regarding education, experience, training, and job skills.
  • Identify networks in critical sectors to keep in touch with pools of talented potential staff; prepare posting vacancy notices of job opportunities; attend conferences, career fairs, and special events to promote company as an employer; and facilitate candidate selection.

Proposal Production Specialist ensures quality printing/electronic file readiness, and delivery of the proposal on schedule. Depending on the proposal team composition, needs, and individual skills, Proposal Production Specialist’s roles could be fulfilled by Proposal Coordinator or Desktop Publisher (or even a Proposal Manager or Proposal Writer on a small bid). Proposal Production Specialist’s responsibilities are to:

  • Ensure completion and delivery of the proposal on schedule.
  • Develop a proposal production and delivery plans, and obtain approval from the Proposal Manager.
  • Order all the required printing materials in advance.
  • Check the printed copy and inspect electronic proposal documents to eliminate errors.
  • Publish CDs as required by the RFP and test on multiple computers.
  • Print, bind, check (conduct a White Glove review), and package proposal materials.
  • Prepare receipt for hand delivery or ship proposal (as required).

Develops the color palette for a proposal. Conceptualizes and renders graphics based on the proposal content, working in conjunction with proposal management, writers and subject matter expert.  In proposals with dozens of graphics, oversees other artists to ensure that all graphic content is consistent, clear, complete, concise, and correct. Ensures that graphics are customer-focused and follows the rules for winning proposal graphics, including using font sizes, styles and other specs that meet the requirements. Renders graphic concepts that original authors have drawn by hand in PowerPoint, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe PhotoShop, or other software, as appropriate, using proper graphic design principles. Designs the cover, spine, back cover, and CD covers, if applicable, for every volume of a proposal.

Our Process-Oriented Approach to Proposal Development will Reduce Proposal Stress and Increase Win Probability

We are the thought leader in the proposal industry, with our team members actively involved with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) and the National Contracts Management Association (NCMA). Our proposal processes are used by the top Government contractors. Our proposal process results in less stressful, more predictable, and better-managed proposal efforts. This contributes to a higher win rate and better-organized and more capable proposal teams. Our processes have enabled us to win more than $21 Billion for our clients since our inception in 2005 (not counting IDIQ ceiling values that many other proposal companies tout as their win totals). We can use our own process for your proposal or customize our methodology to achieve a synergy with the proposal processes already in place in your organization.

OST's best proposal development process, armed with formal and informal reviews, and detailed checklists to avoid risk, reduce stress, and increase win probability.
OST applies a best practices-based proposal development process, armed with formal and informal reviews, and detailed checklists to avoid risk, reduce stress, and increase win probability.

We Offer You Flexible Proposal Support

We will match our services to your needs. We can bring a whole team to develop your proposal, or one person to give you a hand with the specific tasks. If you are tight on budget, we can provide just-in-time support to help you outline your proposal, “shred” the RFP, set up the templates, and then review the proposal at specific points to ensure you are on the right track. We will work with you as an integrated team.

We can support you onsite, remotely, or both. Our proposal professionals reside in the Washington, DC metro area but we can support you in various locations throughout the United States. Although we are willing to travel to support your proposals, we can use communication and collaboration tools to support you remotely. Usually this is a more budget-friendly way to proceed. We can also combine remote work with onsite meetings to benefit from both methods.

By hiring us to help you develop proposals, you are more likely to win Government contracts and other business deals you pursue.

We are not a staffing company. We are a proposal house. This means you get not only a proposal expert to help you, you get the support of an entire proposal company with its processes, tools, templates, and multifaceted resources. We use our core and flex teams of consultants who work from our Rockville proposal center – instead of gambling with your money and proposal outcomes when contracting with freelancers who don’t guarantee the quality of their work.

Although many Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts are awarded to multiple companies, they have also grown in popularity. This means sometimes hundreds of bidders. The competition is steep. Proposal requirements also vary from vehicle to vehicle. Sometimes Requests for Proposal (RFP) may call for scoring questionnaires (Similar to ALLIANT 2 and VETS 2), and in other cases it may be narrative and graphics (Similar to CIO-SP3).

Our staff adept at IDIQ responses will help you with proposal preparation. In the cases of scoring RFPs, we will help you understand your score and your competitive positioning as compared to other companies, which will help you with win strategy and bid/no-bid decision.  We will help you prepare the entire proposal, including pricing.

For each pursuit, our goal is to be fully compliant and to give your prospective Government customer compelling reasons on why you should win, because there is no second place in proposals™.

Ready to Win More Government Contracts?

Schedule a FREE 45-minute Business Development Consultation with one of our experts or call 301-384-3350.  We’ll discuss actionable ways you can grow in the Federal market and tell you exactly how we can help you reach your goals.

Contact OST Global Solutions, Inc.