A Checklist for Avoiding Common Proposal Pitfalls

When was the last time your company actually finished a proposal ahead of time, with hours to spare before the final deadline? In 1998? Never? We’re not surprised…in our experience, most proposals are completed in the nick of time. And that means we frequently shortcut some last minute quality checks that can make a big positive – or negative – impression on our clients.
Here’s a very tactical checklist, in question format, we use to ensure proposals go out the door in as perfect condition as possible.

  • Does the proposal include a short and succinct cover letter to the client that clearly thanks the client for the opportunity, describes a solution to solve the client’s issue, describes our approach, our point of view and our differentiators in less than two pages (at most)?
  • Is the cover letter signed? Is it dated?
  • Are the client’s name, title and address correct? Is the client’s company name spelled consistently throughout the proposal?
  • Does the proposal comply with our firm’s graphic standards? Does the document include the copyright symbol with the current year in the footer?
  • Will acronyms and/or abbreviations that you use be understood by the client? If not, spell these out.
  • Does the document contain any words or phrases that are not used at the client?  For example, if the client refers to employees as “associates”, do we use the word “associates” throughout the proposal?
  • Are the profiles of the consulting team relevant to the proposal? If not, re-craft them.
  • Will the team you propose to staff the project potentially change before the project is launched? If so, indicate on the proposal that the team may change depending on the timing of the work.
  • However, if that has to happen, team members with similar backgrounds and experiences will be assigned to the project in question.
  • Do you use active, versus passive, language throughout the proposal?
  • Are you responding to an RFI or an RFP? If so, make sure that you have responded to each and every question.
  • Has a “fresh” set of eyes reviewed the proposal one last time before you send the document?
  • Do the fees for the project add up correctly?
  • Have you done a final spelling and grammar check?
  • Have you saved the proposal as a PDF before sending it to the client?

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