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5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Starting With Proposal Development

What to avoid when starting with Proposals

Proposals are key to growth for companies in complex industries. Yet, too often proposals can pose operational difficulties, sapping time, energy, and resources.

If your company is struggling to respond to RFPs efficiently or win them consistently, you’re likely stuck in one of the common pitfalls of proposal development. Don’t worry, though. Stumbling over RFP responses is more common than you might think.

That’s why we’ve developed this list of the top five pitfalls to avoid for companies in the early stages of developing their professional proposal function. By steering clear of these common pitfalls, your company will be able to build a better process, write better proposals, and improve your proposal win percentage.

1. Recreating the Wheel

When it comes to proposals, too many companies convince themselves they are too busy to create an RFP template document or transfer their past proposal answers into a central repository. Yet, when a new proposal comes in, companies somehow find time to create a new document from scratch, search for old answers in scattered documents, and ask subject matter experts (SMEs) to spend time answering questions they’ve responded to many times before.

Advice: Streamline RFP processes by taking the time to create an RFP template document, establish rules for how to use it, and store your requirement responses in a central repository or with RFP software.

2. Drinking from the Firehose

Proposals are difficult and time-intensive, and companies falter when they attempt to take on every potential proposal. Without strong qualification processes, companies can take on too many proposals, draining employees’ time and energy, which could have been spent on other key initiatives.

Advice: Establish a strong qualification process that ensures every proposal your team works on is worth their effort and your company’s significant investment.

3. Flying by the Seat of Your Pants

Companies without documented and enforced Go/No-Go Decision Processes treat every new proposal opportunity as an exercise in informal political influence, spending countless hours debating the pros and cons of every opportunity. By the time the decision is finally made, the team is already behind schedule! Establish a firm RFP response process that includes a clear Go/No-Go Decision Process that gives plenty of time for the RFP response timeline.

Advice: Document and enforce a formal Go/No-Go Decision Process for all incoming proposal opportunities. Utilize RFP software like Patri Score to improve qualification speed, accuracy and communication and make more effective decisions.

4. Writing Without a Thesis

You wouldn’t write an essay without a thesis. But too many companies write their proposals without a clear win theme (the proposal’s version of a thesis.) Proposals should always contain a clear thesis statement, located in the executive summary, that explains why your company is the best respondent to the solicitation.

Advice: Write win themes for your proposal before putting pen to paper. Review your proposal to ensure the win themes are translated effectively into proposal copy.

5. Running with Your Shoelaces Untied

After countless hours devoted to a proposal, don’t just ship it off without checking for and addressing weaknesses in your response. At the very least, check your proposal for compliance and grammatical and formatting errors. For more depth, you might consider implementing the color team review system, an industry best practice review system to optimize RFP content and improve p-win. Regardless, you don’t want to join the ranks of proposal horror stories by getting disqualified from a promising bid for missing deadlines or instructions.

Advice: Always run reviews of your proposals to find ways to improve. At a minimum, check for compliance and grammatical and formatting errors.

A graphic of a woman working through her RFP process

Putting it All Together

For companies operating in complex industries, mastering proposals is not a luxury, it’s an operational necessity to unlock the next level of growth. By creating proposal template documents, qualifying every proposal opportunity, documenting and enforcing go/no-go decisions, writing win themes, and reviewing proposals for compliance, your company will be well on the way to establishing a high-performing proposal function that can rival your competition.

Download Proposals 101: How to Start (and Win) Proposals from the Ground Up to Learn More

For companies in complex industries, responding to an RFP is an essential tools to capture revenue and promote growth. But they are also costly and time-consuming.

Many companies either avoid proposals altogether, losing out on valuable revenue, or respond to far too many proposals without the proper processes in place to be successful, sapping energy and company resources.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

This eBook is a high-level overview of how to find, qualify, and respond to RFPs, RFIs, and RFQs. Intended for companies launching a proposal response function or seeking to understand why they aren’t winning more competitive solicitations, this eBook covers everything you need to know to establish a successful proposal function and win government contracts.

Download Proposals 101: How to Start (and Win) with Proposals from the Ground Up to learn the following:

  • The proposal terms you need to know
  • How proposals should fit in your company’s growth strategy
  • How to find and qualify proposal opportunities
  • Essential proposal management tools to satisfy compliance
  • The top five proposal pitfalls to avoid