How to Write Losing or Unsuccessful Proposals

How to write losing proposals is not a particularly positive topic to discuss. However, many federal contractors seem quite adept at preparing such proposals so the discussion is most likely a worthwhile one. A small book could be written on the topic but, in an attempt at brevity, we provide the following list for your consideration:

The Keys to Producing Unsuccessful Proposals

  1. Bid on projects that your management determines that your company is eminently qualified to perform but you haven't sold in advance. This is probably the single biggest reason for proposal losses.
  2. Refuse to hire an experienced proposal manager and make multiple persons responsible for proposal management. Give the proposal project to a team so they can all pass the buck.
  3. Begin the writing process by assigning multiple tasks to different staff members. Ignore the fact that the writing process should begin by the creation of a detailed outline.
  4. Decide to work on numerous proposals simultaneously so your writers are stretched thin.
  5. Overwork your creative writers.
  6. Begin the process at the 11th hour because management procrastinated on making a decision on whether to bid or instead recently discovered the opportunity.
  7. Fail to recognize the amount of work that will be needed to produce a quality proposal. The rule of thumb is to take your estimate and triple it in order to come up with a reasonable estimate of the effort needed.
  8. Work your writers nights and weekends to make up for the poor resource estimate.
  9. Use generic, boiler plate text instead of tailoring the text to fit the RFP's specifications.
  10. Submit generic resumes which haven't been revised to meet the RFP's requirements.
  11. Provide more resumes and corporate experience descriptions than requested in order to demonstrate your superior capabilities.
  12. Boast about your company's eminent qualifications to perform, your highly-qualified staff, and corporate reputation without proving your mettle and presenting a creative solution.
  13. Don't give the agency what it asked for; instead, give it what your technical staff determines it needs.
  14. Pick and choose those RFP requirements that your staff deems of merit and ignore those it finds silly.
  15. Repeat the RFP requirements verbatim.
  16. Present too much information.
  17. Provide an Executive Summary that is boring and lackluster.
  18. Ignore the fact that you should include a Compliance Matrix.
  19. Panic if business is going south and write more proposals.
  20. Forget what is outlined above and repeat your mistakes.

The foregoing tips may be too much to digest at one time. So, consider initially focusing on the first two issues and many of your problems will be solved. Work on the remaining suggestions later.


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