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A Strong Start to Representative Task Order Responses

A Strong Start to Representative Task Order Responses

Writing strong RTO responses is an artThe technical volume of many engineering service contract proposals needs to respond to one or more so-called Representative Task Orders (RTOs), or some similar section of the Request for Proposals (RFP). This is your opportunity to showcase your company’s technical process and prowess. As such, the RTO response is arguably the door-opener for selection, with cost and credibility closing the deal. The following are some tips on how to give this RTO response as strong a start as possible.

Assign Outstanding RTO Authors

The most important, unsurprisingly, is to assign great RTO authors for this crucial section. As mentioned elsewhere, using technical Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for this role can be problematical. It’s better to assign proposal professionals, and support them with top-notch SMEs in all technical areas relevant to the RTOs. Don’t forget to assign seasoned program managers from within your team as SMEs in how your company will actually respond to task orders once the contract is won, including e.g. skill mix, estimated effort levels, etc. They’ll also be able to provide the “flavor” of the team including the critical relevant past experience that should be interleaved as appropriate in the technical volume.

Once the above is taken care of, all that remains is to support your RTO authors by providing the best infrastructure before writing begins.

Define your Contract Team and your Proposal Team Early

If you wait for the final RFP to come out to start writing, let alone before you know what companies are joining you in the proposal effort, you’re almost guaranteed to be wasting your time, effort and money. Your team (including authors of all proposal sections and their supporting SMEs) should be identified and on-board months before the RFP is out and writing should start when the draft RFP is out, or soon thereafter.

Brief the RTO Authors (and the Rest of the Proposal Team) Early

Include procurement details, your proposal process, and the proposal team (names, assigned responsibilities and contact information).

Set up the Shared Online Workspace and Process Early

Make sure everyone who needs it has access to the specific area assigned for the procurement on your online file sharing system (e.g. Sharepoint) before writing begins. Communicate the folder structure and guidelines on what to post where, how and when as soon as the team gets access to the shared space or you’ll guarantee a fair bit of cleanup work for your IT support team. The guidelines bear repeating before each color review.

List RFP Requirements by Section, with Relevant Selection Criteria

Understanding the RFP requirements and how the selection board will evaluate your proposal sections is critical information when devising your response. Letting your authors write without knowing these is about as effective as asking a sharpshooter to hit a target without identifying it first.

Provide Win Themes and Discriminators Developed by the Proposal Manager and Upper Management

There are no “right” or “wrong” win themes. Each company has different strengths at different times. There are many points of difference between your team and your competition, but most are minor. If you look from the customer’s perspective, there are not many true discriminators. Find the few discriminators and themes that truly make a difference for the customer and you’ve given yourself a big leg up in winning the contract.

Provide Proposal Outline Developed by the Proposal Manager, Responsive to the RFP

This should be somewhat open to suggested modification from the RTO authors at first, but at an early stage it should be frozen. Writing to a shifting outline will frustrate the author and risks an inconsistent flow.

Assign a Strong Review Panel for “Color” Reviews

Even the best authors need multiple experts to review their product through its iterations. A strong review panel for “Pink Team”, “Red Team” and “Gold Team” reviews brings to bear not just expertise, but also good people skills to help authors hear their constructive criticism without becoming too defensive. The best reviewers don’t simply tear the draft to shreds. They offer practical solutions to the weaknesses they point out.

Following the above guidelines does not guarantee your proposals will always win, but skipping any of them will most certainly shrink your win probability.


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