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December 2012: Conquering The Challenge Of Severe Page Limitations In Today’s RFPs

I’m sure you’ve noticed over the past several years how customers have been moving more toward severely page limited proposal responses—almost to the point in some cases where simple RFP compliance is a struggle, let alone highlighting the strengths and discriminators of the offering. Recognizing that proposal responses have always been page limited to some extent, in prior years we’ve typically pushed the proverbial 10 lbs. of flour into a 5 lb. sack, while today it seems that the customers expect the same 10 lbs. to be crammed into a 3 lb. sack. This strict page limitation requirement thus drives the need for change and innovation in the way we prepare proposals, because the packaging becomes a primary challenge.

We frame our approach by first understanding several of the key differences between the new “3 lb. sack” packaging and the previous “5 lb. sack” packaging. In no particular priority order, they are:

• The 3 lb. sack packaging will likely have a higher density of complex graphics and tables than the 5 lb. sack, because of typically smaller font requirements than normal text

• The 3 lb. sack packaging will likely have fewer outline headers (a less detailed formal outline) than the 5 lb. sack, because of header double-spacing requirements

• The 3 lb. sack packaging will more likely combine answering of multiple requirements/ topics than the 5 lb. sack (a far more difficult task than answering one at a time), because of the above mentioned less detailed formal outline and space limitations.

These new attributes push the required skill and experience level of proposal team to an even higher level, and also further exasperate response time constraints (“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” — Mark Twain). Thus the end result of our approach must be to drive the strategic packaging decisions and activity to as early in the proposal development cycle as possible, to get on the right track the first time, and avoid costly rework down the road. Accordingly, we present below several possible non-mutually-exclusive avenues—certainly not an exhaustive list—to address the new packaging challenge.

Proposal Architecture Direct-To-Mockups. Using Proposal Navigator®, the proposal leadership team develops the Proposal Architecture (see our August 2012 Proposal Process Innovation) and deploys the result directly into page-allocated draft mockups.

This method:

• avoids developing an initial packaged solution (via section planning) which will not fit into page limits, and

• typically saves days to weeks in schedule, thereby freeing up more time to address the packaging challenge prior to Pink Team.

Two-Step Development. Package the solution for strict compliance and page limits first, and then add the convincing and compelling content (aka “baking the cake and then putting on the frosting”). This technique:

• focuses the proposal team on one problem at a time,

• precludes a compelling, but non-compliant, proposal, and

• provides for a simple “upgrade” to the packaged draft compliant proposal

Page Limit Aware Section Planning. If your process includes traditional section planning (e.g. using PDWs), at the proposal kickoff ensure that writers understand that the packaged solution for a 2-3 page section is substantially different from the same content packaged into a 5-10 page section.

This approach:

• forces the required strategic packaging thinking (including such items as combining answering of multiple requirements/ topics) much earlier in time, and

• avoids creation (at great cost of time and human resources) of the 20-page brilliantly developed and highly detailed section plan which is subsequently thrown away because of its inapplicability to the real problem.

Best wishes for a great holiday season.

The Proposal Team's Mission

Synthesize and package the capture team’s vision

into a compliant, convincing and compelling offering

whose selection can be successfully defended

... without breaking the B&P “bank”...

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