Proposal Writing: 10 Top Tips for Winning RFPs

Katie Harrington


4 min read
Proposal Writing - Top Tips for Winning RFPs

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.

In the United States, government contracts account for spending 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. 

Word-perfect proposal writing 

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 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.

Using proposal software like VT Writer can significantly improve the process and quality of your proposal writing. It scores your writing for readability and grade level giving you objective feedback on the clarity of your content.

There is an art to effective proposal writing. You want to make sure your proposal is clear, concise and compelling. Here are our top tips for your proposal writing team.

1. Be consistent 

Keeping to a consistent template can support the use of a single tone of voice, coherence and efficiency. Create a repeatable format that can be used across various proposals, making the process more streamlined. 

This not only saves time and effort but also ensures that your proposals are consistent and professional.

2. Understand 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. 

It’s crucial to respond to the reviewer’s requirements in a cohesive manner while maintaining a consistent tone. You can use dictionaries and watchword lists to shape the style and control the complexity in your writing. This will enable you to deliver a well-crafted message that addresses the reviewer’s requirements effectively.

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. We’ve written a guide on how to write an executive summary that boosts win rates.

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

It’s important to ensure that you are compliant with this proposal. But you also want to make sure 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. Address the pain points and communicate your value proposition. 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 break 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 submits 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 tone of voice.  Use 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. Create a proposal writing style guide

Create a style guide that all contributors can use with key terms, references and themes. A style guide is a document that maps out the way you, as an organization communicate with your audience. It should include grammar, punctuation, voice and tone guidelines. The purpose of a corporate style guide is to house all the guidance your content creators need. Using a style guide in your proposal writing will help to deliver consistent, accurate, and relatable content that reflects what your organization stands for.

10. Use both human and robot proofreaders

When you’re getting ready to submit your RFP response, you should use both automated and human proofreaders. Proposal 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. 

The impact of automation on proposal writing

It’s 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.


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