Following is the second of our 2-part series of articles summarizing commissioning procurement practices.
Part 2: For CxPs: respond to Owner RFQs and RFPs; (Part 1: For Owners: CxP solicitation, evaluation and selection is available on the BCxA website.)
“If you cannot differentiate yourself in technical, contractual, service or management areas, then the customer will most likely choose based on price. To sell value-added, you must be able to identify concrete, positive differentiators.” … David G. Pugh, Ph.D. Proposing to Win.
No two projects are ever the same, no matter what the scope looks like in a solicitation. But many organizations “clone the boilerplate” and end up writing the same basic proposal over and over. Right now, boilerplate language must become a thing of the past—as a commissioning provider, you are addressing an expanding portfolio of Owner concerns: safety, health, reliability, resilience, efficiency, operability, and sustaining long-term performance, specific to this project’s requirements.
A responsive, compelling proposal gives you the chance to differentiate your company in a way that captures clients’ attention and holds onto it beyond pricing. The key is to start out by recognizing your client’s project drivers and expectations – not just a systems approach to getting the job done, but one that shows you understand the owner’s vision for the project’s long term success. Write down their critical success factors. Use them as your guide.
Writing a proposal is a journey of proof to help clients select professional services that are focused on their outcome, with high impact benefits. The opportunity to engage with a client beforehand, understand project needs and objectives, and perhaps even to influence drafting of the RFP or RFQ, also goes a long way toward winning work. With or without an existing relationship, competitive proposals will be evaluated (formally or not) side by side for what they deliver.
Most evaluators will first turn to the budget or pricing page, if included in your proposal – that’s only natural…but then they go back to the executive summary to read, and then read further if it’s worthwhile.
Before you write
Even a small project or a small proposal team benefits from taking steps to carefully construct a proposal. First, get your eligibility ducks in a row, for example, obtain a D-U-N-S number, and/or federal contracting certification.
The following steps can be expanded or contracted to meet the project at hand but should not be omitted. Here is an action plan for a successful proposal development process:
1. Read the RFP/Q thoroughly. You must understand the nature and scope of the entire project. The linked example includes a commissioning scope that is the most comprehensive we’ve ever seen, which can be used as a resource in drafting a proposal response; it begins on page 140. http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/rsf/annotated_rfp_ucsf.pdf.
2. Charter a proposal team. The proposal team brings specific skills and experience to the proposal: client relationship/knowledge; similar technical projects, building types, systems; persuasive writing; competitive knowledge; budget development and analysis. The purpose of this team is to:
· Evaluate project opportunity, Go/NoGo risk factors and client’s selection criteria
· Identify and analyze owner’s drivers and key issues for successful project completion
3. Create a compliance matrix to make sure mandatory requirements, important criteria, and persuasive messages for decision makers will be in your proposal document
4. List the ways your client will measure your ability to help them achieve success
5. Identify and analyze project risks and potential barriers to success (schedule, cost, technical capabilities, systems knowledge, quality, personnel, partnerships, etc.); conduct a SWOT analysis of your ability to win the work
6. Describe your differentiators – what do you offer the project that no one else does? Why choose you, and not “them”? What are your proofs?
7. Define your strategy. Storyboard it (sequence the story you will tell):
· Your value proposition
· Your approach to the project (applicable methods/practices)
· Owner’s expected outcome of your work (specific to this project) and how you will deliver that work
· Programmatic components
· Technical components
· Management methods and components
· Resources required
· How you will work with owner’s project team
· How you will keep the owner informed
· How you will mitigate risk to the owner and the project
A storyboarding session goes a long way toward making sure you continuously drive home your value proposition. If you take the steps above, writing can be the easy part.
Write the Proposal
You should always prepare an executive summary, and also “sell” your response by hitting target issues throughout your document. You should identify any elements of commissioning scope that are not clearly defined in the RFP/Q, and point them out in your proposal to ensure that tasks and pricing are correlated with your client’s expectations.
At minimum, the following components should be included in every proposal, large or small:
1. Executive summary: what decision-makers will read
2. Project understanding: your own description of the scope and objectives
3. Technical approach: how and why you will develop a project plan and implement it
4. Work breakdown structure (WBS): task list with schedule
5. Management approach: how and why you will manage the project; key personnel (bio, commitment, availability)
6. Key team member qualifications: knowledge, skills, abilities and experience that illustrate your competence to successfully complete the project; specific accomplishments that prove you – and only you – should be hired to provide Cx services.
7. Relevant details of similar projects completed.
8. References (always get permission from anyone you’ve referenced)
Document organization is often specified and, if so, should not be changed or ignored by the submitting firm. Owners expect to sift through qualifications by reviewing documents in parallel to analyze potential strengths and weaknesses of firms in order to rank capabilities. Changing the structure, which the Owner has spent time and energy defining, may be considered grounds for rejection.
Prepare for the Interview!
1. Review the RFP and Your Proposal
2. Do Your Homework
3. Prepare Presentation Material
4. Listen to Marketing!
Ace the Interview!