Logic, nah . . . at least when it comes to AEC proposal submission

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proposal development secrets coverMatt Handal in Helpeverybodyeveryday.com wisely shares some advice that you should always remember when responding to an RFP. I’ll share some of his and others’ observations below, but to simplify the point, give the requesting organization exactly what they want, exactly in terms of the RFP documentation, and don’t get “logical” about the sequence or content (except to follow the instructions, exactly).

“The truth about proposals is that mirroring the RFP submission requirements and rating criteria is always a better approach than writing something that is “logical,” Handal writes.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are picking up your sweetheart for a date. His/her father comes down to greet you and says, ” Here is what I want to know: what time are you bringing my child home, where are you going, how are you going to get there, and how can I reach you?”

It might be logical to answer like this, “We’ll be driving my car to Jimmy’s birthday party at the roller rink, the phone number at the rink is 555-RINK, and we will be back here by 10pm.”

But in the proposal world, that’s a rookie mistake. You need to mirror the request exactly. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the initial review of your proposal is often done by someone who is not a decision maker. Their job is to weed out the proposals that are “not responsive” or do not meet the proposal criteria set out. Second, proposals are usually judged by a committee using specific grading criteria. It’s the proposal writer’s job to make it as easy as possible to rate your proposal. Using logic often makes it harder, not easier to grade a proposal.

The real answer to dad’s question is:

  1.  I’ll have him/her home by 10 p.m.
  2. We are going to Jimmy’s birthday party at the roller rink.
  3. I will be driving us to the rink in my car.
  4. You can reach us by calling the rink at 555-RINK”

People often find it hard to write like this because it seems illogical or wrong. But in the world of proposals, logic does not dictate. Your response should be dictated by the client’s request and I can’t ever remember reading an RFP that seemed logical.

Other commentators on Handal’s Proposal Development Secrets LinkedIn Group agree, including engineer Jay Appleton, principal at Kitchen & Associates in the Philadelphia area.

You make a very valid point, Matt – especially with regard to the realm of public agencies. Because the proposal review process can be so cumbersome, with many, many respondents, strict adherence to solicitation directives is imperative so that there can be no inference that the proposal is non-responsive, or that the responder can’t follow directions.

This is quite unfortunate, and is frequently the source of great frustration, particularly when the solicitation prescribes a format that doesn’t flow and/or doesn’t allow for provision of information that builds a case for selection. It’s irksome, also, when submission guidelines are completely out of step with defined “selection criteria”.

I now include “solicitation quality” as a go/no-go criterion, given that a poor solicitation document or process is probably a precursor to a challenging project relationship.

You don’t want to be screened out from consideration of a proposal because you are “logical” — so, in a narrower (or perhaps broader, depending on your word interpretation) sense, be “logical” — and follow the submission rules and order exactly.

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