Proposal Writing Tips from the National 8(a) Small Business Conference

Mill Creek, LLC attended the Small Business Administration 8(a) Small Business Conference from January 30 to February 1 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the premier supplier diversity networking event for small businesses. We had a great time networking with other small businesses and learning from industry experts.

Since we know that everybody can’t make it to conferences, we’ve decided to share some key takeaways that should be helpful to anyone in government contracting. This blog focuses specifically on Donna Freitas’ session “Tailored Techniques for Winning Government Contracts” and includes resources for further learning. We found Freitas’ proposal writing tips helpful and hope you will too.

Tailored Techniques for Winning Government Contracts – Jan 30, 2018
Speaker: Donna Freitas, Vice President of Strategic Business Relations, Valiant Integrated Services

Donna Freitas shared her insight into writing compelling, persuasive proposals. Some of her practical strategies include:

Developing Clear Themes – When writing a proposal, focus on a few themes and make sure these themes are carried throughout the proposal. Themes can include hot buttons, goals, and differentiators (i.e. What makes you different than competitors).

Rewriting your Executive Summary – Executive summaries are the most important part of the proposal. This is where you need to convince readers your proposal is worth reading. Freitas recommends rewriting the executive summary at different stages in a proposal’s lifecycle: at the beginning, middle, and end of the writing process. Two reasons for this are:

1. As you develop a proposal, it changes. Rewriting the executive summary ensures that it will correspond with the body of the proposal.

2. The executive summary helps you maintain a sense of where you’re at and where you’re going with your writing, similar to an outline.

Communicating Directly with the Contracting Officer – If you want to partner with another business for a contract but aren’t sure where to start, ask the contracting officer. They might have some recommendations. This also allows you to establish or maintain a relationship with the contracting officer.

Focusing on the Client, not Yourself – Customize your proposal as much as possible. You want to demonstrate that you understand and care about the client’s needs. When writing about your company’s capabilities always tie it in with the project and client.

Breaking up Text with Visuals – Freitas emphasized that visuals don’t need to be photos. If there is a way to display information visually, do it. This could be with a table, graph, info-graphic, or flow chart. You can even break up text with pull-out quotes. Pull-out quotes allow you to also emphasize differentiators that readers might otherwise miss.

Want More Help?
Paid Resources:
Shipley’s Foundations for Proposal Writing – Shipley’s method of proposal writing heavily influenced Donna Freitas’ presentation. If you found these tips helpful, you will get a lot out of Shipley’s course.

Free Resources:
Contracting Officer Podcast – This podcast covers a variety of government contracting topics, not just proposal writing. This is great if you’re too busy to read an article. Just download the podcast and listen in the car.

SBA Online Training – This 30-minute video provides best practices and an overview of the proposal writing process – great for those new to writing proposals and those who want a refresher.