When writing a proposal, it is a good idea to know the topic really well and to know exactly what the agency and topic manager are looking for in a submission. One of the best ways to find out, is to ask. Some agencies let you talk to topic managers up until the moment you hit the submit button, while others have a “Blackout” time a month or more leading up to submission time. If you are submitting to one of the agencies with a Blackout, that means you must make contact well in advance or they will not be able to speak with you.
This is your opportunity to ask technical questions of the topic and for clarification—not to sell them on your specific solution (that is what you will do in your proposal). Some topic/program managers prefer phone calls while others prefer e-mail. Either way, they are busy people, so give them time to respond.
Another great way to learn about an agency’s needs, to talk to the program/topic managers one-on-one, and make contacts with potential prime contractors and industry partners, is to attend the National SBIR Conference.
The next National SBIR Conference will be in Hartford, CT November 11th 14th. At this one conference you will be able to sit down and speak with representatives from all the agencies. Come prepared with copies of a one-page executive summary outlining your capabilities, the problem (s) that need to be solved, your proposed solution, and the potential areas of commercialization. While you can still register at the door, discounted registration closes on Friday, October 31st.