3Ps to Position Your Proposal To Win: People, Past Performance, Preparedness

proposal RFP

Is the RFP you’ve been waiting on dropping in two weeks? Two days? Two hours? Don’t scramble—it’s never too late to position yourself to win. We’re here to give you the skinny on the very specific, actionable tasks you can do immediately to get ready to win more.

A Few Assumptions

In order to position your response to win, you must have made a bid decision, have a solid technical solution with tested outcomes, and a pricing model in good shape (or shaping up).

If any one of these assumptions is incorrect, then stop reading and focus your attention there. You can’t polish a technical solution if you haven’t decided the opportunity is strategically in your best interests. And if you’re waiting to figure out operations until after the work is awarded…then it’s safe to say pricing will become an issue in the future (if it isn’t one now).

Got this stuff together? Continue on!


The government wants to know and hear from the people who are actually doing the work, which is why your key personnel and supporting team is so essential. Proving you have the right people to execute the work takes more than just copying and pasting LinkedIn overviews into your response as bios and then attaching employee resumes as exhibits.

  • Scrutinize your key personnel approach. These people are considered critical to the successful delivery and quality assurance of your solution. What you tease out from their background, experience, training, certifications, talents, competencies, and aptitudes should be relevant and impactful for the RFP you’re responding to. References to agencies and departments previously supported should be comparable to in terms of the mission and objectives to the RFP you’re working on.
  • Verify that all education and experience requirements are met. If the RFP requires all Mid-level Programmer SMEs to have a clearance AND C++ Associate Certifications—then every single person you’re proposing and featuring must have them. This approach applies to years of experience, labor category requirements, and other industry-specific certifications. Format resumes in a way so all labor category (LCAT) requirements are easy to score against PWS or LCAT requirements.
  • Check to make sure your teaming and employment structure approach makes sense and think about what the government is going to require for personnel. For example, would re-badging employees with the prime or sub increase your odds of winning? Or is the government seeking new talent and new faces? Talented professionals set companies apart—so consider bringing key personnel in early to work on your RFP response and provide intel on the customer or competitive processes.
  • Now review your overall staffing model. Go beyond just making sure you’ve identified how many FTEs are needed and where are they located…what are the benefits of your staffing model? What does it look like visually—thin and flat or stacked and hierarchical? How are you meeting minimum requirements? Do you have a bench? Going deeper allows you to develop more poignant and relevant narratives that speak directly to departmental or agency objectives.

Past Performances

Past performances are often the highest scrutinized proposal elements. They are also often afterthoughts and treated as boilerplate copy in most proposal processes. Every past performance  should customize against the SOW and against relevancy, size, scope, and complexity of the project you’re bidding on to show you have done the work before and what outcomes can be expected.

  • Don’t cite old data and make sure solicitation and contract numbers are accurate! And, if there have been any contract modifications…address them. Do this by getting updated official SOWs. This allows you to reference accurate past performance data such as period of performance, dollar value, FTEs, locations, points of contact, and contract information.
  • Be prepared to explain any project problems or staffing vacancies and how you resolved them to show you can address issues encountered with successful resolutions.
  • Review past versions of your past performances and compare those against the RFP you’re bidding on to weave in relevant qualifications, data, achievements, accomplishments, and accolades. Spot-check to make sure you’re not incorporating any irrelevant SOWs.
  • Data-mine monthly status reports sent to customers for value-add developments, innovations, process improvements, and industry insights.


Sadly, we see too many proposals operating as “overtime” work at small businesses. Cultivating a culture of preparedness around proposals ensures a constant vigilance and flow of action—even when there isn’t a live opportunity.

  • Communicate to the team when the proposal is expected to drop to lessen the shock and also make sure you’re aware of schedule constrains and potential conflicts: off-sites, vacations, scheduled leave, and client deadlines and deliverables.
  • Make sure you know how many proposals you and your team can reasonably handle. Do you need to take people off billable work to respond to RFPs? Do you need surge support to backfill or hire outside support (like us!)?
  • Think about how the proposal is being submitted—electronically or printed? Can you mass reproduce, do you need to burn CDs, do you have high-quality printers and enough ink? Do you have the man-power to collate, bind, and box?
  • Reserve meetings rooms, setup a SharePoint site, and ensure conference lines are live so work can commence immediately upon RFP release.
  • Finally, and most importantly, build morale by getting the appropriate approvals for incentives, additional vacation time, gift cards, etc. before work begins on a proposal so that you can immediately leverage during and after the hard work is put in.

It’s easy to over-focus on pricing and your technical solution. But, if you take your eye off your people, your past performance, and general preparedness—you will end up scrambling. And in our experience supporting thousands of proposals, this translates to missed opportunities, losses, and high-turnover. Position yourself to win with rock-solid content…our proposal managers, writers, and editors can help and we’re just a call away.