RFP 101: What the Government is Really Looking For

Once you’ve made a yes bid decision, it’s time to start writing your response. First and foremost is compliance. Compliance. Compliance. Did we mention you must respond to every requirement, in the exact way that the government required? That is compliance.

So, let’s assume that at a minimum, your proposal is going to be compliant. Is that all it takes to win? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Compliance just ensures you’re on par with your competition. To win, you must read between the lines and know what the government is looking in each required RFP section. Here is a handy list of themes—by standard proposal section—to make your response stand out.

Executive Summary and/or Introduction

  • Who you are (including your team) and what to expect in the following pages
  • If your evaluators read no further, this section would have all the answers—at a high level—to make the award

Technical Approach

  • Not just vague promises of what you are going to do, but how you are going to do it (tools and process), what the outcomes will be, and where you’ve done it before
  • Answers each and every technical requirement (there’s that pesky compliance again)

Management Approach

  • How you will manage the project and communicate with the customer
  • Shows proof you can be trusted to execute the contract as required

Key Personnel and Resumes

  • Details the essential people assigned to lead the program or project and their relevant qualifications
  • Describes the overall team and how you recruit, hire, and retain them
  • Gives the government assurance you won’t leave them unstaffed

Past Performance

  • Documents historical and verifiable records of prior work similar in size, scope, and complexity
  • Highlight accomplishments and customer accolades

Risk and Risk Mitigation

  • Identifies areas that might put the project in jeopardy
  • Identifies ways to reduce or eliminate risk in those areas
  • Demonstrates how you prevented or addressed risks on other projects

Quality Control

  • Shows how you measure your processes and procedures to meet the customer’s goals
  • Shows how you monitor process and procedures to foster continuous improvement


  • Provides your charges for the services proposed
  • Includes a narrative to support your pricing methodology and assumptions
  • Include additional required documentation if required, such as teaming agreements and company financials

Only in the world of government contracting do you literally get the answers to the test—but don’t fail to execute. Reverse-engineer the RFP to develop a proposal response that complies with all stated requirements and compels evaluators to select you to support their mission.

Want more?Government Contracting Handbook

Spoiler alert: this post is an excerpt from the chapter we wrote for the Government Contractor’s Handbook for Veteran Business Owners eBook. We are super excited to be included by StreetShares as an expert contributor! Download (for free!) and get great boots-on-ground insights from industry leaders. From an intro on government contracting and why it’s a good idea for veterans, to the secrets to becoming a successful government contractor and how to manage your sales process—this handbook is another tool to help you win more.