Proposal Writing Myths and Realities

Many business people avoid new business development that requires written proposals. They believe common myths about the subject that are, in fact, false. The following five myths about proposal writing refute and demystify the process.

  1. "If my proposal has all the right 'buzz words' in it, I will win the contract."

    Reality: Good proposal writing is very important! However, it is only one of four strategies to employ to win new business. Proposal writing is part of the presentation strategy. The other three, of equal importance, are the technical strategy, pricing strategy, and competitive strategy.

  2. "If we bid on this job and lose, we will at least get our name out."

    Reality: A losing bid rarely makes a good impression. Clients usually receive many proposals for each request for proposals that they issue. Their elimination process is swift and harsh. Unless you are one of the top three finalists, your company name probably won't even be recognized a week after your proposal is reviewed. Proposal preparation is too difficult and too expensive to frivolously bid and lose. Only pursue business that you have a realistic chance of winning.

  3. "Our company will stand out because we're different. We have great customer service, computers, good reports, etc."

    Reality: All your competitors think the same thing. Your company will actually stand out if you have a winning combination of the following six factors:

    1. Price
    2. Technical proposal
    3. Experience
    4. Personnel qualifications
    5. Location/facilities
    6. Special considerations
  4. "Our written proposal isn't important. It's our price/insider contacts/oral presentation, etc. that will really matter."

    Reality: Your pricing, contacts, oral presentation, and numerous other factors are important. However, you should never take the impact of your written proposal for granted. What you put in writing is a definitive statement about your company. It can be revisited by reviewers. It can even be held against you legally. Most importantly, your words can make your company look unprofessional, even unqualified.

  5. "Jobs that require complicated written proposals are impossible to get. It's not worth the trouble to go after that kind of business."


    1. It is not any more difficult, time consuming, or costly to respond to RFPs than it is to pursue other marketing options. All marketing vehicles require effort and/or expense.
    2. Because so many of your competitors believe this same myth and are not pursuing business that requires written proposals, there are often fewer competitors for these projects.
    3. From a new business development perspective, it is probably unwise to overlook any marketing options. What if you are wrong in your judgement? If you lose out on an opportunity, it may be several years before you have a chance to compete for the contract again.

Now that these common proposal-writing myths have been debunked, consider pursuing new business development that requires written proposals. This marketing tactic could become a successful and lucrative one for your company.


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

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