6 Easy Steps to a High-Quality Winning Proposal

Published by on October 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm.

Win_a_High-Quality_Cost_Effective_ProposalThe Proposal is complete. The requirements are fulfilled. All those long nights spent looking over the RFP, planning out the outline, and writing a dozen or so drafts are all about to be worth the effort. Before you deliver the proposal to the client, you want to ensure that you have a high-quality winning proposal.

You want to give your client an attractive product free of any obvious errors, limited graphics, wrong word verbiage, or anything else that could make you and your company look unprofessional.  These 6 easy steps will ensure that you deliver a high-quality end-product.


  1. Finalize Graphics

    The most noticeable determining factor of quality in a proposal is the graphics. Good quality graphics take a long time to complete. Many Proposal Mangers make the unforgettable mistake of believing the graphics will not take much time and are unimportant to the client. While the requirements are the most important, you and your company will look unprepared and unattractive to the client if the graphics do not look professional.

    Hopefully, as soon as the draft RFP is sent out, you began work on the graphics you wanted to use. If you planned the graphics out too late, spend time with them now. A professional graphic artist may be worth having to ensure the graphics are polished and represent the proposal well.

    The graphics should flow well with the entirety of the proposal and improve the credibility. The production staff should ensure that the graphics are integrated into the presentation file. Remember, to dedicate time to the graphics. Plan and allow for several days of turnaround time for good quality graphics when you are finalizing your graphics.

  2. Perform a Copy Edit

    Misspellings, inconsistent formatting, and grammar errors can severely hurt your chances of winning a proposal. The task of performing the overall editing the text of your proposal is critical. A technical editor should perform this task. Often a good technical editor is also a good technical writer. So, if you did not hire an editor, you can have your writer perform this task. Having a separate writer and editor is ideal.

    Above all, the editor completing the copy edits must be competent of professional proofreading-editing mark-ups and symbols. The editor should be able to make the necessary edits without changing the overall message and tone of the proposal. After all, you have spent a good portion of your time deciding on the right message and tone.

  3. Double Check Compliance

    In step three, this should be the second and final time you complete a compliance check. A master compliance check list is available in the Proposal Planning Kit. The proposal manager needs to use this checklist to review the final document for compliance. If an error is found, take immediate action to correct the issue. The program manager should make sure that the error is rectified.

  4. Add Any Special Touches or Items

    Allow plenty of time to add any special touches or items to be submitted with the proposal.

    Special touches can be anything that a proposal team imagines and the customer receives. A recommended special item would be a laminated “bookmark” of the acronym list with the proposal cover graphic as its background. This special touch is practical and the customer will use it through the entire evaluation process, so the client receives the extra item well. Another possible special item is a wall chart with a process central to your overall proposal.

    These are just a couple of examples of special items that have been proven to work. You are only limited by your imagination when creating a special touch to the proposal. It is important to have at least one special touch to differentiate yourself from competitors. When creating a special touch keep in mind your customer’s culture. Although you want to stand out during the evaluation, you want the client to receive your special touch as well.

  5. Allow Plenty of Time for Production

    Do not rush the production and closeout actions. Take ample time to think through some of the practical realities. So many proposal managers believe that production is as simple as pushing the print button on the computer. At this last stage, small problems become enormous ones. A forgotten page, a broken printer, or loose binding could cause your proposal an automatic rejection. Take your time. Think through all the different steps it is going to take to produce a final version of your proposal.

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    • How many copies do I need to make?
    • How many pages is the proposal? 200? 500?
    • How many pages per minute is the copier actually going to produce?
    • How much time do I have to make all the copies?
    • Where is my back-up copier?
    • What else is involved in the production?
    • How much time do you think it will take to bind the proposal?
    • Have I checked the correct page and correct alignment?
    • Are all special items packed into the proposal?
    • Are the packing labels correct?

    These are just a few examples of the many questions you should be asking yourself at this stage to ensure everything comes together on time.

  6. Properly Execute Proposal Delivery

    Carefully, read and re-read the delivery instructions. All that hard work, time, and money that went it to your proposal will be absolutely wasted, if your proposal is not delivered properly.

    Remember these two proposal delivery rules:

    1. Send the proposal via two independent methods.
    2. Provide enough lead time to ensure the proposal arrives early.


Having two different methods gives you a much higher chance of delivering the proposal safely and on time. If you find out the proposal did not reach your customer, then hopefully you followed rule 2. Rule 2 allows you to rectify a delivery mistake. Consider any obstacle that could prevent your proposal from being delivered to the customer on time. How will you handle these obstacles? Your customer will not be lenient if outside forces prevent your proposal from being on their desk at a specific time.

If you follow these six easy steps you will have a high-quality proposal that will impress your customers. This is great to do at the end, but you should be thinking about quality from the very beginning stage of the proposal building process. When writing a proposal we try to remember, one of Dr. Deming’s 14 points for managing never-ending process improvement: “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.”