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A high quality proposal won’t guarantee a win but a low quality proposal can guarantee a loss.

What is it that gets a proposal in the bag? Undoubtedly it boils down to relevancy and the numbers on your quote; but is that all? “If the dollar numbers are low enough and the proposal addresses the needs of the client, that’s all there is to a good proposal. Surely they won’t have the time to read through the sheaves and sheaves of paper work.”  Correct? Not quite…

Just to have an inkling of the sort of fine tooth comb that an organization uses to evaluate a proposal, here’s an overview of the proposal receipt and review process of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This portion highlights the roles of the major procurement stakeholders in the evaluation process:

Contracting Officer (CO):

  • Business and Technical Proposals are reviewed to ensure that everything the contractor said should be there, has actually arrived.
  • Business and Technical Proposals are separated for review.
  • Business Proposal – Stays with the CO until after technical review.
  • Technical Proposal – Goes to the Technical Evaluation Panel for review.

Technical Evaluation Panel (TEP):

  • Reviews the proposals.
  • Listens to the oral presentation, if required.
  • Documents their questions for clarification.
  • Panel gets together to arrive at consensus on the evaluation of each proposal.
  • Deliver their report to the CO.
  • Repeat this process for the Business Proposal

Clients really mean business when they ask for a proposal.  They are looking for a proposal that is close to perfect in terms of technical soundness and visual appeal.  Here are some goof ups that are definitely bound to peeve your client.

Technically not so sound!

In the same report on its approach to evaluating a proposal, CMS had this example to show what it means by a bad proposal:

Specific Examples of a Bad Proposal:

  • Business Proposal Template and Instructions requested an illustration of  proposed FTEs and labor hours for each category proposed at the subcontractor level
    • Subcontractor hours were not illustrated
    • The total FTEs and labor hours reflected on the worksheet did not match the total based on the information on the worksheets for each CLIN
    • Note: When there are discrepancies such as this the Government is challenged with determining if adjustments are needed for purposed of cost realism
  • Contractor proposed a Company Officer to serve in Project Director (Key Personal Position) specified in the SOW. The proposed labor rate corresponded to the President’s salary. Company Officer salary was unreasonable, considering the role to be performed on the contract.
  • Calculation errors including not applying overhead rates consistent with accounting practices.
  • Proposed costs are not in accordance with accounting practices.

What do you think were the errors that could have been avoided in this proposal?  There were some obvious calculation errors, some mismatches and definite poor research.

How XaitPorter could have helped: By streamlining the entire proposal creation process, XaitPorter outlines exactly who is responsible for what in the document. We know that most errors happen when we are pressed for time.  Solution: Instead of having one person toil on the entire report or dealing with the hassles of compiling information from different departments to make one comprehensive report, Xaitporter allows everyone to work on the same document in real time. You have complete control over the entire process, giving you the ability and time to monitor, approve, and weed out errors.

Visual Appeal:

Spelling and Grammatical errors

You write: “The purpose of this proposal are to froge a strategic relationship between XXX company and YYY company.”

The CO thinks: “Hmmm, looks like they didn’t even bother with a spell or grammar check. I don’t think I’ll be ‘forging’ any relationship with them!”

Yes, clients aren’t looking to see if the CEO of your company is an English major but the way you present your proposal says a lot about the importance your company gives to details. They are bound to be thinking about what else could be wrong with your company.

And when there are a dozen more proposals to be evaluated, and consequently a dozen more options that they could go with, you can be sure they will move on to the next one pretty fast; and all because of a few grammatical errors.


Tables without appropriate headings, a missing Table of Contents, sloppy design, a long monologue without bulleted points, inconsistent margins, a shabby pie chart whose sections add up to a 112%, and we can go on. This could prove to be a costly mistake. The evaluators aren’t going to be wanting to waste their time figuring out what goes where and how it’s related. They will move on. Clarity is the key. Irritate an evaluator by unclear and sloppy presentation and you will see it in your score.

How XaitPorter can help: XaitPorter is a wonder tool when it comes to ensuring visual appeal. Ready to use templates, automated formatting, figure numbering, key texts, page numbering and such power packed features ensure that nobody can fault your bids and proposals in terms of its content and presentation.

Get your research and financials right and leave the rest to XaitPorter. You will never ever have a ‘bad’ proposal again.

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