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Let’s Talk About Writing

That’s the hard part, isn’t it?

You’ve done everything else. You have picked the opportunity you want to pursue, and performed all your due diligence. You know the agency, the history of the project or program and you talked to the contracting officer during their Request for Information or Sources Sought periods. You know what they want. You picked the right teaming partner. And now, you just have to tell them how and why you are the right entity for the job.

You are ready for this. Opening a new Word document, with the Request for Proposal next to you, you type….

Nothing.

There’s no words.

I get it, I really do. I have been there. In my experience, though, it is not that there are no words, it is that there are too many words. So many that it is overwhelming.

When you know everything you need to say but not how to get it out on paper, the best thing to do is take the time to plan it out.

So maybe instead of saying “let’s talk about writing”, I should say, “let’s talk about planning for writing”.

Make A Plan

When you first get the RFP or RFQ, print it out.  I know in this digital age with paperless technology, it is tempting to leave it on screen.  I truly believe that to get as familiar with a document as you are going to have to be with this one, printing is the way to go. Grab your highlighters and flags, and mark those items that stand out to you.

Once you have read through it once, and then the submission requirements again, it is time to make a submission tracker. For me, this is a single page chart. For others, it may be a multi-tabbed spreadsheet. There is no right format, but create one that works for you.

On my submission tracker, I enter the submittal date/time information and any formatting requirements. Then I break down the section and subsections that require an answer, with any page limits for each. I add columns for who is responsible, due dates and a notes field. The notes section is important; we’ll get back to that.

Discuss The Plan

Use the submission tracker as an agenda document for a project kickoff meeting for the team. Identify what needs to be discussed in each section/subsection, who is the best person to provide that information, and a due date that the information is needed.

Then, the notes field.

Usually, in these discussions, ideas are brainstormed. People are throwing out, “we need to mention how well we did on this job” or “we need to share that innovation from the last software build”, or whatever else strikes him or her as important.

Put that in the notes for the appropriate section or subsection. It does not have to be elaborate, just enough to jog your memory to write to it, or at least know who to call for more clarity later.  Think of that field as a place for post-it notes. Jot it down and stick it in there.

Write the Plan

If you do those things, when it comes time to write, you will not feel so overwhelmed. You have a tool to tell you which, of all the words swirling through your head, go in that cover letter, or executive summary, or approach. It allows to treat each section on its own, without the greater weight of the whole running through your mind. If you think of something that goes in another section, jot that down in the tracker.  The tracker will become a road map for the whole proposal.