Proposal Writing Mistakes Most Companies Make

Even the most qualified bidder in the proposal process can lose because of various mistakes made when presenting their information. Often, extremely competent contractors are technically adept and expert at what they do, but when it comes to marketing their services, they struggle. It can be very frustrating when your proposal does not win the bid, especially when you have spent a great deal of time and effort writing it.

One major error that companies make is acquiring a proposal template sample and then cutting and pasting their information into it. This is most often a serious cause of failure and there are many reasons why. The major reason is that every RFP is different, and the minutia provided in the requirements can easily be overlooked. The truthy is that each proposal needs a customized response targeting the specific goals, objectives, and requirements of the solicitation.


These common mistakes should be avoided when preparing your proposals:

Focusing on what you want to say rather than on the government agency’s goals and objectives

You want to focus on what your client wants to know and how you are going to provide a solution to their needs. It must be clear how you will solve their problems or service their needs in order to achieve their vision for a solution. Demonstrate exactly how you will achieve their requirements and prove that you have the experience and project team to do it successfully.

Failure to demonstrate to the client that they will receive a significant return on investment

Describe how your client will receive a return on their investment. Based on facts of the project, you will stand out from your competition. This does not have to be monetary, but rather a series of benefits and tie together with their goals and objectives for the project.

Lack of the use of images and graphics

Use graphic, figures, and tables to support and/or present some of the critical information you want to communicate. These methods make it easier to read and visualize the information that you are trying to articulate.

Failing to differentiate your business from the competition

What strategies or technical approaches/methodologies will you bring to the project that are unique in the industry or proprietary to your business that sets you apart from you competitors. Emphasize methods you use or additional value that you bring that other companies do not. Compare the typical approach to yours, why the other approach is weak and why yours is superior. Be positive by stating that while you used to use those methods, over the years you found a more effective approach.

Being too wordy and over describing your approach

Keep your content to what is requested and be sure to make your responses clear and concisely written. Use more graphics. Use bulleted lists. Use tables and charts.

Not responding to every detail requested in the RFP

Provide some kind of response even when you don’t have a good answer or don’t want to address the item. You can always state that upon contract award you’ll implement this or that program.

Copy and Paste, Typos, and Grammar Issues

Be sure you have the appropriate people to prepare the copy with the correct grammar and punctuation. Do not just copy and paste information from previous proposals or use a proposal template sample. Customize that information specific to the proposal at hand. Often, previous client names get left in pasted content causing an unprofessional response to say the least.

Not demonstrating how your company will add value to the client

By understanding your client’s needs and requirements you will be able to demonstrate how your service will create real value for your client. This is typically something new, adds more value, or results in a better end product. This will be specific to each client.


Not being compliant and following the specific instructions

Just because you know that you can provide the services requested better than any other company, the client usually does not have a clue. You need to explain that to them and prove it. And a key component of this is responding to each and every detail they request in the RFP regardless of if they ask for the same or similar information multiple times. They have a checklist, and you want to get checked off for responding to every item.

Be sure you can meet all of the minimum requirements. You can have the best proposal overall, but if you cannot meet all of the minimum requirements, you are not going to be win the bid…Don’t bid on that one.

Not focusing on the client

Throughout the proposal, focus on the client’s goals, objectives, needs, and wants, not those of your company. This is a common mistake.

Not using a third party to review the final proposal before submission

Often, when writing and reviewing the proposal content, the key person putting together the proposal inputs words and punctuation that are not there, as they understand perfectly what they are communicating and do not see the errors. Have a third-party good at grammar and punctuation review the final content to ensure that it is understandable and written correctly.

Not requesting a debrief

When you do not win a competitive bid, find out where you were weak in order to improve your responses for future success. You can also request a copy of the winning proposal and compare it with your submission.

Even when you do win, find out what it is that made the difference between your proposal and the others. This way you can continually improve your proposals going forward.