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Government Contracting: 10 top tips for winning RFPs with proposal writing

According to the World Bank, public procurement accounts for 13-20% of GDP for countries worldwide, amounting to $9.5 trillion. Your response must be word-perfect to make the shortlist and eventually win the contract. Here are our top tips for your proposal writing team.
4 min read

Katie Harrington


Proposal Writing - Top Tips for Winning RFPs

In the United States, government contracts account for spending of more than $500 billion each year. On everything from ballpoint pens to fighter jets. 

So, it comes as no surprise that proposal writing teams invest so much time in government contracting. Winning these contracts can take a lot of time and effort. However, the rewards are great: long-term, profitable relationships with reliable government partners. 

How to write a word-perfect proposal 

For competitive RFPs in the government sector, there are a number of stakeholders involved in the final selection process. The decision is most often made by a team of subject-matter experts from the relevant departments, including finance executives and senior managers. Your response must be word-perfect to make the shortlist and eventually win the contract. Here are our top tips for your proposal writing team.

1. Choosing the RFPs you can win

Competition for government contracts is fierce and comes with an added compliance burden. There can be reams of regulations to meet and extra layers of bureaucracy. The commitment of time and resources to pursuing an RFP can be massive. So it’s important that you choose the right ones to pursue.

It’s crucial to your success to prioritize government contracts your company is in a strong position to deliver on. Chase the RFPs you have the best chance of winning. You can do this through software like VT Docs.

2. Understanding the requirements 

Government contracts are lucrative – but winning them can be an arduous process. Your proposal writing must demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of what the department or agency needs. And that you meet every compliance requirement. 

Proposals are often vague or unclear. Missing a single requirement on an RFP can be a fatal mistake that disqualifies you. It’s important to address every requirement in writing, so make sure to shred the RFP accurately.

VT Docs can help do this without the time-consuming process of doing it manually.

3. Make a good first impression

In a competitive RFP process, making a strong first impression is crucial. The opening sections often include a cover letter and an Executive Summary. While these come first in your presentation, it’s often helpful to put them last in the proposal writing process. Use these sections to focus on what’s different about your organization. Highlight why you’re best placed to help the department address its challenges.

4. Use irrefutable proof points and case studies

How do you ensure that you are not only compliant with this proposal, but that your capabilities and past performance align perfectly with the proposal? It’s easy to make big claims about how you will meet a government agency’s needs but how does the hiring team know that you can deliver? 

Proof points are important – provide solid examples of where you’ve carried out similar projects in the past. Introduce the team that will handle the contract and highlight how their experience has prepared them for the project. Use detailed case studies, statistics and examples to back up your promises and showcase your ability to deliver.

5. Include visual aids

Use visuals to present big or complicated ideas in a way that’s easy to digest. They can help visualize a journey, as well as breaking up sections of dense text. Tables, charts, maps, or infographics can illustrate data and are useful storytelling aids. Photos, videography, and animations can also play a role, depending on your budget and the scope of the project.

6. Outline your strategy to meet deliverables 

Most government RFPs will offer a clear set of deliverables the contractor must meet. Give a clear overview of how you’ll hit them, including your strategy and timelines. Flag any challenges or opportunities you see, and how you will address them. You should outline the team members who will work on the project and the resources you intend to allocate.

7. Personalize any boilerplate content

If your proposal writing team submit multiple proposals a year, you should have some boilerplate text you can use. This is a useful time-saver. But it’s important to ensure it’s relevant and personalize details where necessary in each proposal.

Accidentally copying and pasting information from a past proposal that doesn’t make sense in the current one is an easy mistake to make. But it looks deeply unprofessional and it is likely to cost you the proposal.

8. Write with a single voice

For major government contracts, it’s likely that you’ll have a whole team of people involved in the RFP response. You might have input from Marketing, Finance, Project Management, and Subject Matter Experts. How can you tell a compelling story without sounding fragmented?

Proposal Writing - Tone of Voice

It’s important that you write with a single voice – using the same tone and style of language, the same technical terms, and the same tenses. Avoid overusing jargon or abbreviations. VT Writer can help ensure the whole team speaks with one voice.

9. Use both human and robot proofreaders

When you’re getting ready to submit your RFP response, you should use both automated and human proofreaders. Software can pick up problems like sentences that are too wordy, grammar mistakes, or overuse of passive voice. Colleagues from your proposal writing team can review the text for less tangible features like how the writing flows. 

10. Understand the impact of Covid-19 on proposal writing

Due to the pandemic, businesses are not getting to pitch for contracts in person as often as before. Without the ability to meet face-to-face, the documents that proposal writing teams submit are more important than ever.

It’s also easier for things to slip through the cracks as teams continue to work remotely. Automation can help prevent this by ensuring that everyone knows their assigned responsibilities and what their deadlines are. This aids collaboration so your team can effectively meet their deadlines.

Proposal writing: The pathway to lucrative contracts

With billions of dollars as the prize for the winners, government contracting is likely to remain highly competitive. Through a combination of choosing the right team and the right automation tools, you can give your company the best chance of securing lucrative contracts with reliable government partners.