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The quality of your proposal is indicative of the quality of your solution. Decision makers and evaluators instinctively choose solution providers, in part, based on clarity, compliance, and professionalism. A professional proposal tells decision makers that they are important and you spent time improving your submission (and the solution). It speaks to the quality of support your organization will provide.

This is true for commercial and government proposals around the world. As long as humans are involved, the quality of the proposal will be one of five key factors when picking a winner. It’s no secret. For example, in a large government RFP from the U.S., the first bolded paragraph under the “Instructions to Offerors” reads

“Offerors are cautioned that the Government considers the overall form and substance of their proposal to represent the general quality of work expected to be performed under this contract. Accordingly, it will be considered throughout the review and scoring/evaluation process.”
—Bid referenced FAA AIMM (DTFAWA-13-R-00020), Section L.6.0.

Although common knowledge among proposal professionals, the above example is one of the few times this factor has been formally stated in an RFP.

Think about your buying habits. Do you buy only from trusted vendors and stores? Research proves that people buy from people (and organizations) they trust. When making a buying decision, you trust they will deliver a quality product, service, or experience. The quality of the solution provider’s materials, office, store, and/or staff helps you determine if they will meet your expectations. Perceived professionalism, based upon the quality of the proposal, intrinsically transfers to the solution and the solution provider. All content we deliver to decision makers must support our professionalism to build trust with them. No trust, no win.

Imagine receiving two proposals—both with the same solution. Proposal A is professional, clear, and compelling. Proposal B is unprofessional, noncompliant, confusing, and riddled with errors. Experimentation and experience proves the first proposal is more likely to win. What if Proposal A was priced higher? Again, research proves the higher quality proposal is more likely to win.

A side by side comparison between an effective graphic compared to a page of text

There are five critical success factors when choosing a winning proposal: quality, price, sales, reputation, and proof.  By far, quality is the easiest to accomplish. Use experienced proposal professionals and proven tools on your next bid, and you will improve the likelihood of winning.

Mike Parkinson, CPP APMP Fellow, is an internationally recognized visual communications expert. He is a partner at 24 Hour Company specializing in bid-winning proposal graphics. His Billion Dollar Graphics web site, “Billion Dollar Graphics” book, and Graphic Cheat Sheet share best practices and helpful tools with proposal professionals. Contact Mike at or call 703-533-7209.

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