Ten Ways to Improve Your Proposal Win-Rate

Often only a point or two separates a winning proposal from the second place finisher. You should do everything possible to improve your score. Following is a list of ten commonly overlooked things that you can do to improve your proposal win-rate.

  1. Research the project before the bid is released.

    Establish contact with the client in advance, if possible. Use the Freedom of Information Act and Open Records laws with government agencies to learn as much as possible about the project and the precise needs and expectations of the client. Create a dialogue with the buyer, if possible.

  2. Provide a clear solution to the client’s problem.

    Clients want to feel that you understand the problem that they are trying to solve and that you actually have a solution. On the other hand, they are suspicious of bidders who just tell them what they already know and provide only vague answers to their questions.

  3. Make sound bid/no-bid decisions.

    Your proposal win-rate will dramatically increase once you make rational, logical bid/no-bid decisions. You must make a thorough analysis of each bid to scrutinize your organization’s fit with the project, your competition on the bid, and the client

  4. Create the impression that your firm is superior to your competitors.

    The truth is that in most situations, several bidders are equally capable of meeting the client’s needs. Your challenge is to create an impression with your proposal that your firm’s approach is unique.

  5. Know your competitors.

    It is important that you know the advantages and shortcomings of your competitors. It is also important to know their bidding tendencies. By doing so, you can subtly address their shortcoming in your proposal and know how to position yourself against their tendencies.

  6. Highlight the major points of your proposal.

    Use everything from graphic design to repetition to make sure your major proposal points are understood and remembered. All major points should stress the specific direct benefits to the client.

  7. Organize your proposal writing effort.

    Proposal writing is a time consuming task. Don’t waste time and labor with a poorly organized writing plan. Allow enough time to review and edit it before your submit your proposal.

  8. Update your business information regularly to prepare for the next proposal.

    This will allow you to edit your material with an open mind and fresh pair of eyes and make important improvements on future bids.

  9. Perform the "little things" correctly.

    Don’t let small mistakes kill you. Omitting requested information, exceeding page limits, or word counts, ignoring proposal guidelines, placing information in the incorrect place, or failing to repeat or reiterate information in different sections are the small things that will cause you to lose points with an evaluation team.

  10. Make a strong, positive last impression.

    Whether it’s in final negotiations or on a site visit, give the client a new reason to accept your proposal. Sometimes this means making a price concession or adding more value to your offer. Sometimes it simply means presenting the client with yet more research on their project to show that you’re still thinking about it and working on it, even after the bid deadline.


Randall P. Whatley

Randall P. Whatley

Randall P. Whatley is president of Cypress Media Group, an advertising, public relations, and training firm. Cypress Media Group provides training primarily related to business and technical writing, presentation skills, and media relations. He can be reached by e-mail at randy@cypressmedia.net.

Cypress Media Group has been a government contractor for over 30 years and advises both businesses and government agencies on the proposal analysis, writing, and production process.

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