Category : Databases and related files
Archive   : PROPOSAL.ZIP
Filename : SEM.II

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"Evaluation criteria" are the stated rules
of the game, but the rules are not always
defined clearly, and there are always some
unwritten rules.

Negotiated procurement procedures and regulations
allow federal agencies a great latitude in select-
ing winners for contract award. The rules are
rather loose, and there is great potential for
injustice and even for skulduggery. To provide at
least some assurance that each proposer has a
chance to win, and to compel proposal evaluators
to employ at least some objectivity, each agency
is required to have some sort of objective criter-
ia by which to rate proposals, and must advise the
proposers as to what those criteria are.

Unfortunately, those schemes are no more standard-
ized than are many other things in the great
bureaucracy, so some solicitations include de-
tailed descriptions of the evaluation criteria and
how they are to be weighted, while other solicita-
tions provide only the sketchiest of information,
barely enough to be in compliance with the law.

Presumably, this latter approach is designed to
give the agency the broadest possible latitude,
under the law, to select a winner. And even in the
best of situations and with the most detailed
"objective criteria," subjective scoring is inevi-
table. For example, scoring the "understanding of
the requirement," so often given as an element to
be weighed, cannot by its nature be other than
subjective, to at least some degree. Too, an un-
derstanding of the requirement as stated in the
RFP, and an understanding of the requirement as
interpreted by the proposer may be widely separate
items, and the proposer may very well interpret
the requirement far more accurately than the
statement in the RFP expressed it. (But may suffer
for that perceptiveness, nevertheless!) Moreover,
those criteria can never be absolute, but must
necessarily be 4competitive5 criteria--that is, NOTES
proposals must necessarily be evaluated against
each other, rather than against any absolute stan-


The usual evaluation scheme assigns points for
each of several listed criteria, resulting in a
total score--usually, but not necessarily, from 0
to 100--for the technical proposal. Here are some
typical criteria:

Understanding of the requirement (problem)

Recognition of potential problems

Solutions offered for potential problems

Practicality of solutions/program

Technical approach

Management plan

Qualifications of staff (resumes)

Qualifications of company


Cost is not always an "objective" criterion, but
may be stated as a factor "to be considered,"
rather than assigned a specific weight. That does
not mean that cost is not important. Cost may or
may not be especially important in any given case,
but it is never unimportant. It must always be
considered to be a significant factor, even if not
a leading one. On the other hand, there are some
cases where cost is actually weighted according to
some specific formula, and is therefore at least
as "objective" as are the other criteria.


There are certain factors and considerations that
are usually important, even if not stated as being
of special importance. Experience suggests that
these are almost always concerns of the customer
and are considered carefully, even when not listed
as specific evaluation criteria.


The customer is almost invariably interested in
whatever your proposal says about management of
the project. But in many cases, such as when the
project is a highly technical one and/or requires
highly specialized personnel, there is the matter
of technical management, as well as of general
management. It can win you extra points to recog-
nize such a need and address it.


It is almost always a grave mistake to use "boil-
erplate" versions of staff resumes. Individual
staff qualifications are usually a matter of great
interest to customers, especially in a program
where the main functions are to be carried out by
technical/professional specialists. It is worth
the time and trouble to tailor each resume to the


Company qualifications are equally important.
Tailor descriptions of company qualifications,
facilities, and other resources to the specific
requirement. Show that the company is totally able
in technical skills, in management capabilities,
and in dedication.


The customer wants to know that the project is
important to the contractor, no matter how small
it may be, and will get priority attention and
treatment. Provide assurances of that.


Customers are not naive. Unsupported claims and
promises will not carry the day. The customer
requires evidence that you know what you are talk-
ing about, that you offer a practicable plan that
is technically and professionally entirely compe-
tent, that you have all the human and material
resources to carry out the proposed program suc-
cessfully, and that you are a dependable supplier.

In short, your proposal must be credible, and
sweeping promises, no matter how much hyperbole
accompanies them, are most unpersuasive. To
achieve credibility, you must provide some object-
ive evidence and a believable writing style. Here
are some do's and don'ts, for example:
* Do provide an abundance of detail. Anyone NOTES
can philosophize and make general observations.
But only those who know what they are talking
about can provide the details. Details--specifics,
as compared with generalities--lend credibility to
your proposal.

* Shun hyperbole--deliberate exaggeration for
effect. The effect is a negative one. It appears
to shout loudly, hoping to convince by sheer force
of sound volume.

* Be quantitative as much as possible, rather
than qualitative. State how much, how many, when,
where, how, why.

* Don't round numbers off. Stick as closely
to actual figures as possible.

* Minimize the use of adjectives and adverbs,
and try to make all your points with unadorned
nouns and verbs. (Don't shout.)

Never assume that your reader knows something you
have not presented. The reader may or may not know
as much as you do about your technical or profes-
sional specialty, about the requirement or problem
your proposal addresses, about the state of the
art, or about the merits of the program you pro-
pose. It's always risky to assume that the reader
does know anything you have not explained, and it
is far better to risk tiring the reader with too
much detail than to arouse skepticism or frustrate
understanding by offering too little detailed
information. You will never lose points by offer-
ing too much, but you may very well lose them by
offering too little.


Disasters happen all by themselves, without
your help. But if you want the good things,
you have to make them happen.


A team is a group of people working together
toward a common goal, with the achievement of the
goal more important than any other consideration--
the sole purpose for the existence of the team, in
fact. But a bunch of people thrown together to do
a job together do not automatically become a team;
they become a team only when they are managed in
such a way as to make them a team. But more im-
portant is leading them, for it is leadership that
truly makes the difference.


Leadership is a quality difficult to define. Usu-
ally it is defined by identifying its symptoms,
and even then it is rarely defined very well.
Leadership, many believe, is much more an art than
it is a science, involving as it does that intan-
gible quality known as charisma, that characteris-
tic of some people that inspires followers, most
often admiring followers. (One cannot be a leader
unless one has followers!) And therein lies one
clue to leadership: the ability or quality of
arousing others' admiration or, at least, others'
respect. Still, even if great leaders are born and
not made, it is possible to learn some of the
skills and qualities of leadership.

Leadership does not require that the leader be
able to do every follower's job better than the
follower can do it. Quite the contrary, the job of
a leader is to help each follower do his and her
job well--to support the followers, for it is the
followers who are doing the main jobs of the
organization. The true leader recognizes an obli-
gation to support the people he or she is charged
with leading (not the reverse), and a large part NOTES
of the secret of success in management or leader-
ship is the ability and willingness to do so, to
subordinate ego and personal interest to the pro-
ject of the team. Followers will do that--subordi-
nate their personal interests and ego to the inte-
rests of the job--only if the leader demonstrates
a willingness to do so.

The proposal leader may or may not be a technical
expert, may or may not be one of the designers of
the project or program being proposed. But the
leader should be knowledgeable of proposal devel-
opment, with a firm understanding of marketing
principles, and an awareness of all the typical
proposal-development processes, problems, and nor-
mal solutions to those problems. The leader must
be an individual who can function under pressure
and invent new solutions to new problems, also.

Not the least of the desirable traits of leader-
ship is the ability to keep peace among the mem-
bers of the team when they have differences of
opinion, a rather common problem: diplomacy is
also a useful--even a necessary--skill.


Ideally, the proposal team should include the
technical/professional specialists who will design
the program, a proposal manager who will be the
bird dog, troubleshooter, and problem solver, and
an individual who will serve as writer/editor.
But, depending on the size and complexity of the
project (and, therefore, of the proposal, as well)
that team might have to be broken down into sev-
eral sub-sections, each with people to handle
those functions.

Unfortunately, many technical/professional speci-
alists are reluctant writers, and quite likely
that is at least part of the reason many do not
write well. But, bearing in mind that even the
most brilliantly designed programs cannot be sold
unless the customer can be made to understand the
program and its merits, it is essential that the
proposal be clear enough to be readily understood
by anyone. Therefore, it is always helpful to have
some professional writing and editing skills--at
least one experienced writer/editor--on the pro-
posal staff.

This often leads to clashes, unfortunately, be-
tween professionals who object to having their
copy rewritten, or even edited, and editors whose
job it is to see to it that the proposal is lucid NOTES
to the average reader. Ergo the need for that
useful skill of diplomacy mentioned earlier in
connection with leadership.


One major tool today is the word processor. Un-
fortunately, in too many offices typists have been
replaced by "word processor operators," a modern
euphemism for typist, representing a failure to
recognize the true nature of word processing and
the opportunities it offers. Too often proposal
writers are still scrawling their copy longhand on
yellow pads and turning this holographic manu-
script over to typists for keyboarding--entering
into the computer via the word processor. They are
thereby missing the boat--failing to derive the
full benefits, or even the main benefits, of word
processing. (Those main benefits can be gained
only when each proposal writer, editor, and re-
viewer works at a keyboard and monitor.)

That checklist that was developed early in the
process, immediately after the decision to bid was
made, is another valuable tool. It should serve as
a guideline for editing and reviewing manuscript,
to verify that the manuscript is everything it
ought to be and covers all the bases. It should
serve that purpose with regard to the draft being
generated by each contributor to the proposal and
to the proposal overall.


Every trade has its "tricks" and proposal
writing is not an exception.


Despite all the elaborate theories of marketing
and selling, in the end it all comes down to just
two factors: promise and proof. People buy what
things do, not what they are, and smart marketers
sell results (some call them "benefits"), not
things. That's why no one sells beer; they sell
good times at the beach or at the corner tavern.
They don't sell laundry detergent; they sell
freedom from embarrassment and the admiration of
others. They don't sell insurance; they sell se-
curity and the freedom from guilt.

It works just as well in proposal writing as it
does in selling soft drinks or automobiles. Gov-
ernment agencies and other customers who request
proposals award contracts because they want cer-
tain results--problems solved, headaches ended,
programs implemented, costs reduced, profits in-
creased, images improved, waste ended, criticism
stilled--and they are eager to listen to promises
of delivering those results. That is what they
really want to buy.


The promise is always something much to be de-
sired, and is an emotional appeal. (Virtually all
human motivation is emotional, not rational. Hu-
mans want love, prestige, security, appreciation,
and other such ego-gratification, even more than
they want food, warmth, and material possessions,
and material possessions are themselves valued to
the extent that they provide the emotional needs.)
And even the government executives evaluating your
proposal react to emotional appeals, because they
have personal stakes in the projects, as well as
a duty to their employers, and they usually have
little difficulty in finding that their personal
interests are identical with the interests of NOTES
their employers. Thus some seek innovative ideas--
romantic, adventuresome, challenging breakthroughs
into new and uncharted territory. Others seek
secure, tried and true, conservative and safe
avenues. Some want to be heroes; others want to
keep the lowest possible profile. Some want in-
volvement in the project--to be kept in touch and
consulted at every step; others want to have a
take-charge contractor who will "do it all," and
never need to be monitored.

Every effective sales campaign is based on making
the right promise, a promise that has the right
appeal, one that the prospects want with all
their hearts to believe. That's why Ponzi schemes
work; that enormous desire to believe in swift and
huge profits overcomes good sense and even honesty
quite readily, when the swindler has an even re-
motely plausible tale which enables the victim to
rationalize an irrational belief. And that is
where "proof" enters the picture: the customer
usually needs some help in justifying a belief in
the promise.

(This is not to suggest that the promise made in a
proposal, or in any legitimate advertising, for
that manner, should be made with fraudulent in-
tent. But even the most legitimate of promises
made must be accompanied by some kind of rational
justification, if the prospect is to develop any
degree of confidence in the validity of the prom-


Desire is not quite enough. Although the customer
wants to believe that your project will produce
spectacular results, solve problems, make him or
her loom large in the agency, afford an exciting
experience, or otherwise will benefit the decis-
ion-maker, the customer is not naive nor stupid.
The promise sounds great, but where's the proof?
Where's the evidence that your program is the
right program to produce those promised results,
that you are capable of producing the carrying out
that program and delivering on the promises, that
you can be depended on to carry out the program
faithfully and unfailingly?

The customer wants assurance in all those areas,
and your proposal must make the promises that the
customer wants to believe, but must then deliver
three proofs:

1: Your proposed program is properly designed NOTES
--is the right and best program--to produce the
promised results.

2: You have the qualifications--qualified
staff, relevant experience, and other resources--
to run that program and produce those results.

3: You can be depended on as a contractor,
depended on to do the job faithfully and to deliv-
er, as you have promised.


Proof, or perhaps we should say "evidence," is
whatever the customer will accept as evidence or
proof. Proof is not what might be required in a
court of law by the rules of evidence, nor does it
have to be absolute in any sense of that word.
It has only to be acceptable to the customer. Look
at what TV audiences accept as proof: A public
figure of some sort--a movie/TV star or a sports
star, for example--offers a testimonial. (Would
Bob Hope lie to you?) Or an actor who is made up
to look like Professor Albert Einstein or a white-
coated laboratory scientist "testifies" to the
quality and effectiveness of some product, perhaps
even offering figures tending to prove the case.
Or, at the opposite extreme and using the reverse
psychology, an ordinary housewife "swears by" the

Logic, testimonials, dramatizations, statistics,
and sundry other devices are used to "prove" the
case, some of the evidence nothing more than an
actor's claims that the product works! What is
happening here? How are intelligent people being
persuaded to believe on such flimsy evidence?


Being the emotional creatures we are (although we
like to believe that we are entirely rational),
humans are quick to believe whatever we want to
believe. All we need is a basis for rational-
ization. And the more earnestly we want to bel-
ieve, the less solid evidence we require to help
us rationalize that belief we have already decid-
ed--probably subconsciously--to adopt.

Note that carefully: The more the customer wants
to believe the promise, the less evidence required
to rationalize and justify the belief.

On the other hand, the more extreme or improbable NOTES
the promise, the more evidence the customer re-
quires to believe it.

The ideal, then, is to find the promise that has
great appeal--that the customer wants badly to
believe--and that is not extreme or highly improb-
able--that does not require a miracle or apparent
miracle to produce and make good on.


Credibility of style, discussed earlier, is then
only one element of persuasion, necessary although
it is. An equally important element is the custom-
er's desire to believe, and a large part of the
art of making an effective sales presentation lies
in the ability to find the right promises to make.
These are promises that you can make good on, of
course, but those qualities--validity and truth-
fulness--are not of themselves enough, unfortun-
ately. The promises and proofs must also be cred-
ible in that they do not tax the customer's abili-
ty to believe. Who would have believed you if you
promised to develop TV 100 years ago? Or if, even
20 years ago, you would have promised to develop
"briefcase" computers and business-card-sized cal-
culators with memory circuits? Don't confuse truth
with credibility; the truth is often harder to
believe than are outright lies.

In that vein, if you are taking an innovative
approach of some kind, make it an evolutionary
development, not a revolutionary one. Make it easy
for the customer to believe you. You may have to
promise less than you can deliver, in some cases,
to further the cause of credibility, to assist the
customer in finding the promise easy to believe.
It is far better to tone down the promise, even to
promise less than you are confident you can deliv-
er, if you can still make a promise of great
appeal that does not require a mountain of evi-
dence to back up..

  3 Responses to “Category : Databases and related files
Archive   : PROPOSAL.ZIP
Filename : SEM.II

  1. Very nice! Thank you for this wonderful archive. I wonder why I found it only now. Long live the BBS file archives!

  2. This is so awesome! 😀 I’d be cool if you could download an entire archive of this at once, though.

  3. But one thing that puzzles me is the “mtswslnkmcjklsdlsbdmMICROSOFT” string. There is an article about it here. It is definitely worth a read: