In this episode, I’m listing 15 real-life mistakes others have made writing their RFP proposals. This comes from proposals that I’ve personally reviewed, either for a buyer or as part of my proposal support to bidders and are all traps you should avoid.

These are the things you should avoid:

  1. The proposal still has the term ‘NTD’ in the final submission. (The NTD means ‘Note to Draft’ and should be eliminated before finalizing the document.)
  2. The beginning of many responses takes up the first full line of text with the name of the bidding company and their partners, including acronyms.
  3. The following fluff was written in a proposal: “actively engage with Client’s vision to create a central organizational hub that allows Client to draw on its interdisciplinary strengths in order to pursue a client-centered philosophy within an improved and healthy physical setting.”
  4. This phrase from a proposal is not action-oriented: “technology is the cornerstone of our service delivery”. It should be written along the lines of: “We use technology to get results.” And then give concrete examples.
  5. A bidder didn’t refer to the specification requirements anywhere in the answer. They could have described how they will do what they’re asked. Instead, they talked in general terms that were very generic and boilerplate.
  6. The word ‘philosophy’ was used too much in a proposal. For instance, instead of “Good Customer Service,” they used “Good Customer Service Philosophy.” A philosophy doesn’t automatically translate into results.
  7. A bidder used too much qualifying language, such as “… efforts to ensure that the requirements of the specifications are met.” It tells the evaluator that they will try their best, but they aren’t very confident in succeeding.
  8. In one proposal a bidder didn’t seem to consider what might be important to the client – they simply pounded their chests about what they could do and how good they were.
  9. A large proposal described part of the service delivery in a way that didn’t match with actual site conditions. It seemed as if they didn’t read the scope and simply used boilerplate material.
  10. One company used the name of their computer system in their description of process without first explaining it. They presumed the evaluators were familiar with the specific application. They weren’t, and had a hard time following the document.
  11. The full question, which had two parts, was not answered. The bidder did the right thing and repeated the question as a header, but it was only the first part of the question. They missed the second part of the question, possibly because the writer didn’t have the full question in front of them.
  12. There were too many cross-references to other sections in one bid. Since sections were evaluated independently by different subject matter experts, and the document was actually split up, the cross-references made it much more difficult for the evaluators, even if they had bothered to follow the references.
  13. This phrase was used in a proposal: “innovative education and awareness programs proven successful for other clients could be leveraged for your requirements,” but it doesn’t say anything. The evaluator would have to take it at face value, except that they don’t have facts and evidence to support the statement.
  14. Sometimes bidders say that their approach or solution is ‘unique’ in the industry, as one recent proposal response did, yet the evaluators knew for a fact that it wasn’t unique and had become common practice. This hurt the bidder’s credibility.
  15. Claiming ‘unique expertise’ when you’re clearly not the only one with that experience or expertise can look like an inflated claim and hurts your overall credibility.


Our Book "Win More Business - Write Better Proposals". is now available at Amazon in many countries, including the USA , Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and France. You can also order it directly from the author on this website

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