Lesson 15: The Proposal Grilled Cheese
Part 1: Compliance

Okay, so you’re probably wondering what grilled cheese has to do with proposals, but I promise, it’s the perfect illustration for compliance.

Creating a Request for Grilled Cheese (RFGC)

At face value, a grilled cheese only requires two things: cheese and grilling. Additionally, you could argue that it also requires bread, but that’s merely implied through our personal experiences with grilled cheese, not explicitly stated in the name.

If we were to request a “grilled cheese”, we may get a dish that’s  unlike the beloved sandwich we were imagining. For instance, what if someone unfamiliar with the term “grilled cheese” delivers a piping hot plate of Greek sagnaki? Are they technically delivering a grilled cheese? Well, yes. A brick of flaming halloumi cheese could be considered a “grilled cheese.” But is this what we were hoping for when we made our request? Not likely.

However, if we request a “grilled cheese sandwich”, we are explicitly stating that the cheese must be between two slices of bread – as per the requirements of grilled cheese plus the definition of a sandwich: “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between” (via Merriam Webster).

Creating a Compliant Grilled Cheese

So, to get what we want, we request a “grilled cheese sandwich”. And if our clients deliver anything less, they are not compliant. Let’s take a look at our contenders:

  • Client 1 delivers a sandwich made from a fresh baguette with layers of brie, goat cheese, and sun-ripened cherry tomatoes. Client 1 is sure to state that the baguette is from an authentic French bakery, the cheeses are imported from Switzerland, and they we able to save costs by growing the tomatoes in their very own garden. Sure, the bread isn’t toasted, and the cheese isn’t melted, but the craftsmanship more than makes up for those small details.
  • Client 2 delivers an open-faced sandwich comprised of one slice of grilled sourdough bread topped with melted swiss and provolone cheeses and a hearty scoop of fresh basil pesto. They grilled the bread, melted the cheese and chose to present an open-faced creation.
  • Client 3 whips up a true American classic: Wonder Bread smeared with Hellman’s mayonnaise, topped with long-lasting Kraft American Singles – grilled to golden brown, melty perfection.

Does Compliance Matter If My Solution Is a Knockout?

Many bidders think that compliance is secondary to cost-effectiveness or innovation. However, a proposal can be tossed out if it fails to comply with even one element of a request (especially in government procurement).

Let’s look at the compliance breakdown:

Compliance Breakdown:

Client 1

Client 2

Client 3






Client 1 and Client 2 may have delivered delicious creations, but they do not fit the requirements of our RFGC. So although client 3 might be considered boring and far from innovative, this client met all requirements and finds themselves with a contract for five years of grilled cheese making.

When Compliance Isn’t Enough

So your proposal ticks all of the requirement boxes. But that’s not all you can do to make your grilled cheese the winning grilled cheese.

Therefore, in part two we will discuss the added benefits of pairing compliance with responsiveness and how this killer combination can make your submission a true winner.

Photo by David Thielen on Unsplash

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