Guidance for Technical Professionals


Technical professionals, you are the missing link that elevates every proposal submittal from good to extraordinary! You are the gatekeeper of the technical knowledge that your proposed approach needs. Your understanding of the client and the project's needs help provide a submittal that makes the selection committee want to learn more in an interview. What kind of legwork needs to be done to differentiate your proposal from the competition?


Know the Client


If you know an entity or agency has a wishlist project, do your homework. Research the client. Research the project. Visit the site. Meet with the stakeholders. Talk to consultants. Without pre-positioning, you will have limited access to all this information and only know what is in the RFP, just like all your competitors. You need to be intimately familiar with the client and project key issues so you can provide solutions in your proposal and interview offering. Gather information early so that the proposal process runs smoothly. 


Positioning for an RFP:


  • Establish and build the client relationship.
  • Identify decision-makers and influencers.
  • Learn what is driving selection.
  • Gather project/client intelligence.
  • Gather political/funding intelligence.
  • Gather competitor intelligence.


The first rule of an AEC proposal is this: if you haven't heard of the job and/or met with the client before the RFP is issued, don't go after the job.


Analyze the RFP


Once the RFP hits, make sure you thoroughly dissect it. Your job is to cater your expertise, experience, and services to the client's needs and issues. If you do not understand what the client needs from their consultant, you cannot address those needs in the proposal. 


Processing the RFP:


  • Have more than one person review the RFP.
  • Review the schedule, fee, and sample agreement.
  • Break down the client's needs and issues and list them for easy discussions with the proposal team.
  • Compare evaluation criteria and selection processes against requested information.
  • Does the RFP match the client/project research obtained?
  • Is there anything missing?


Proposals must be written from the client's perspective, so it is critical to understand their point of view. It is best to process RFPs as a team to increase understanding and brainstorm the best approaches. Everyone is All In!


Go/No-Go Decision


Stick to your Go/No-Go decision matrix. If you do not have one, work with your leadership and project managers to add this as your first step in proposal pursuit. Consider these categories for your matrix and work together to score them realistically on a scale or grading rubric:


  • Client contact and rapport
  • Marketing intelligence
  • Competitive advantage
  • Qualifications and experience
  • Project team availability
  • Profit potential
  • Pricing sensitivity
  • Cost to respond
  • Consistency with the marketing plan
  • Win probability


Go/No-Go matrices will help hold the proposal team responsible from the start. If you set expectations at the onset, you should be able to produce an effective document.


Content is Key:


With everything else in place, it will be easier to write the technical aspects of the proposal. As you write, make sure you are hitting these benchmarks:


  • Write from the client's perspective: The client must feel that you have listened to them and provided an understanding in the form of possible solutions to their projects' challenges.
    • Write clearly and concisely. Always have multiple people review proposals. Ideally, include someone who can reliably check for grammar and fix structure or syntax as needed.
    • Do not be so technical that laypeople cannot understand your message; know what a client will or will not understand, as if you were speaking to them in person.
  • Communicate an understanding of the project challenges.
  • Demonstrate that your project approach addresses the challenge in a practical, cost- and schedule-conscious manner.


Looking Back from the Finish Line


Being organized and breaking steps down makes tasks easier for everyone. Take the initiative; reduce the risk of a mad scramble by figuring out your process. A palatable proposal process for you and your team is one less stress factor and shows that you are a true team player.


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