Proposals don’t have to be so painful! Streamline the process with a must-have proposal library!

first-weekAs a proposal writer, I am sure you have been in the middle of a proposal where you stop, look up, and say, “I’ve already done this before, why am I doing it again?” You sit back in frustration as you search through previously submitted proposals looking for the information you need; the information you’ve already completed. I learned early in my career the repetitive nature of responding to DoD requests for proposals (RFPs). For instance, every company, both small and large, has “signature” projects – those projects that have such significant strategic value that they are submitted as experience qualifications in most proposal pursuits. How tiring is it to write, re-write, and re-write the same project write-ups, over and over? So, why don’t all companies have databases to pull information from in order to expedite the proposal response process? I asked myself this question at my first job out of college. I had just submitted a large AFCEE proposal and was turning around and starting another AFCEE proposal with almost identical submission requirements – projects, resumes, management approaches, etc. In developing our internal data call, I realized I was gathering the same information we just submitted. I went to my direct supervisor and asked why the company didn’t have these write-ups filed for future use. His response was, “That’s a great idea. You should work on that.” But as the days, weeks, and months went by, my freshly assigned “great” idea was pushed onto the back burner when day-to-day tasks became more important. The project to develop a proposal library quickly became stale, and yesterday’s news. It didn’t have the same “greatness” it once had. That company didn’t see the VALUE a proposal database provides, and did not allocate the time or resources to develop the proposal library.

Many companies do not invest in or seeing the value in a proposal library. But this is where companies make mistakes. Not every business owner sees the return on investment of a proposal database. It’s easy to see the dollars going out, but initially difficult to see the savings realized.

A well developed, detailed proposal database is an exceptional tool which significantly increases volume and quality while reducing the cost of submitting a proposal. We have witnessed the savings – in time and cost – of a well-developed proposal library. The results are dramatic – a reduction of up to 30% in time and labor preparing a proposal.

A reduction of 30% frees resources to pursue additional task orders or stand-alone contracts, or simply to apply the time to strategizing the approach to increase win rates. In a competitive economy, streamlining your organization is essential – do more with less. But how do employees do more with less without the proper tools? That’s like asking a Quarterback to come up with plays throughout the game without the benefit of having a playbook.

A database can be as simple or as detailed as needed. It is not created over night. It takes diligence and commitment from those contributing to the library. I’ve participated in successful implementation of proposal libraries where we met weekly, measured the investment cost and returns, and held each other accountable for developing portions of the library. Over the course of a year, our proposal library was so extensive that we were realizing 30% time savings on complex proposals, and up to 60% time savings on less extensive responses. The result was that less staff was needed, we were able to take on a larger quantity of pursuits, and we were able to spend much more time strategizing. Our win rates increased significantly after developing our proposal library.

So where do you start? Here is my list of essential proposal library components:

  1. Master Resumes. This includes all key personnel resumes showing at least 10-years of experience. Detail the projects in each resumes. How else will you be able to determine if they are qualified for a pursuit? Having these developed could save 4-6 hours per proposal, per personnel required! (4 hours x 4 personnel = 16 hours per proposal!)
  2. Personnel Qualifications Summary Spreadsheet. This is a great tool for a snapshot of degrees, certifications, and overall qualifications of personnel. This tool is extremely helpful when deciding which personnel to submit for a proposal. This spreadsheet is easy to develop and saves a few hours of research time per proposal.
  3. Project Experience Narratives. Detailed narratives for your “signature projects”. These detailed narratives include all information which may be requested on a given proposal, such as project challenges and how they were overcome, design approach, construction approach, detailed information on main building components and much more. Having these readily available could save 5-8 hours per project per proposal! (5 projects X 5 hours = 25 hours per proposal!)
  4. Project Summary Spreadsheet. This spreadsheet includes all data on every project, such as Project Title, Contract Number, Start Date, Completion Date, Summary of Modifications, Award Dollar Value, Completed Dollar Value, etc. Tracking down contract data is often disruptive to other personnel in the Company. It is often not readily available once a project is completed. This tool helps drive consistency in the information and ensure that the needed information is readily available. This could save 2-4 hours per proposal, not to mention a few hours of research time during the planning process.
  5. Basic Management Plan Narratives. Some narratives are almost always similar and could be easily turned into templates to be tailored to each pursuit. I recommend having standard Quality Control, Safety, Organizational Structure and Resources Narratives. Having these standardized results in DAYS of time savings per proposal!
  6. Admin tools. Standardize the covers, spines, tabs, etc. This could save up to 4-6 hours on each proposal!

proposal-process-should-feel-likeThe first time you develop these narratives, you could shave up to 70 hours off of your proposal time! Any additional standardized narratives and templates in your library beyond those above are just icing on the cake.

A proposal library is the most useful tool I’ve used throughout my career. I’ve gone through bid seasons with two or three proposals bidding each day. Any and every opportunity to minimize time spent on proposals provides more time for other proposals, or review. Try and take this idea to your boss or supervisor. Develop and implement this tool, then track the time spent on each proposal. I guarantee you’ll see a significant reduction in the cost of preparing a proposal. Once you’ve become the new proposal superhero during “bid season”, you can ask your boss to pick up the tab on that much-needed October vacation!

For more information on how we can help with setting up your database, please contact us at

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