After you’ve obtained a copy of a request for proposals (RFP) or invitation for bids (IFB), you’ll need every day before the deadline to prepare your proposal.

Start by dissecting the RFP or IFB, perhaps with the help of a few other staff members. Review your company’s past proposal examples. Make sure this is really a government contract that your company can fulfill and would benefit from winning.

Consider everything you know about what the government agency wants, what the competition will likely offer and what your company can provide that’s unique. Then decide what your competitive strategy will be and how you’ll write your proposal.

If you find elements of the RFP or IFP unclear, you may be able to submit written questions to the contracting officer. But be aware that responses to these questions will be distributed to all your contract competitors — which means you’ll want to word your inquiries carefully, lest you reveal part of your strategy.

Now it’s time to put together your writing team. You might want to bring in a freelance proposal writer to help you through the process and ensure a professional product.

You should hold an initial kick-off meeting to make sure everyone understands the strategy and knows who’s doing what, as well as what the deadlines are, what the page limits are, and what format to use. You may want to assign an individual or a group to each major section of the proposal, including the technical, management and the pricing sections.

In writing the various sections, do not skimp on details or attempt to gloss over certain issues. For example, don’t leave any required RFP sections blank. If you’ve already dealt with a particular issue elsewhere in the document, say “Please see Section XX.”

Don’t assume that the evaluators will have any special knowledge about your business or industry, such as the fact that your company is the oldest or the largest or the most award-winning. Evaluators are supposed to base their decisions solely on what’s in the proposal or bid.

Wherever possible, use tables, charts and other graphic elements to summarize information and help the evaluators understand your proposal or bid. Graphic elements also serve to break up long stretches of type.

Throughout the process, members of the writing team will need to communicate on a regular basis. You may want to hold periodic team meetings to make sure everyone is on track and there are no surprises. You’ll also need to make sure that members of the team understand that all deadlines are firm. Remind them that much important work still remains after they’ve finished writing and that the agency’s closing date is absolute.