Key to a successful proposal effort is a successful kickoff. This meeting — no matter how long it lasts — is where the team first determines the shape and needs of the effort. Without a good kickoff, it’s pretty hard to reach the goal.
A strong kickoff is the result of pre-kickoff preparation. For the proposal manager, this preparation involves reading the RFP, particularly the elements related to the proposal and the general scope of the project. It’s a good idea to read some of the more technical components of the RFP for anything out of the ordinary (Five full-time materials testers for a 100-foot segment of sidewalk repairs? Is that a typo or is there something else going on with this project?) to raise for discussion.
The time you spend reading the RFP also gives you the chance to put together an outline of the proposal and gather all the proposal requirements in one place. I use a file called PROPOSAL NOTES to track the most important proposal items for the length of the pursuit. Here’s a list of the information I compile in this document before the kickoff:
- Client name
- Agency name
- Project name from the RFP (including any project numbers)
- Due date and time
- Pre-proposal meeting date, time, location
- Deadline for questions
- Contact for questions
- Location of addenda or Q&A responses
- Submission information (labels, address, etc.)
- Proposal information (number of copies, number of original/signed copies, binding, sheet size limitations, page limitations, single-/double-sided printing, etc.)
- Evaluation criteria
- Potential questions to ask the agency
- Other notes and meeting minutes
After this information sheet, I create a table that outlines the proposal body according to the RFP instructions and evaluation criteria:
This outline is invaluable because it contains every proposal-related requirement from the RFP in a single, easily understood table. No need to flip through the RFP over and over again with this table handy. And if you use it throughout the proposal — as you should! — you can simply add meeting notes, emails, and to-do lists to the document so everything critical to the management of the process remains in one place. This document becomes even more useful when you save it in a shared folder where everyone involved can access it, even if not everyone updates it.