Jump to content
PropLibrary Content

Turning proposal best practices on their head

When to do the opposite of what the "best" practices say you should

Enough of all these best practices already. While we write a lot about them, it’s a whole lot more fun to write about how to cheat. What do you call it when the best practices no longer apply? Worst practices? That's not right. Best practices for adverse circumstances? That's too long. We call it cheating. When you can't do proposals the right way, you have to do them the wrong way. You have to break the rules. You have to cheat.

Sure, if you want to win you need to do everything you can to achieve the best practices. But what about when you’re starting late on a bid where you don't know the customer, aren't sure what to bid, can't get the information you need to write a winning proposal, have to bid because someone in authority says you have to, and it's all you can do just to survive the experience let alone win it. When people tell you that you should “no bid” that really doesn’t do you any good at all. It’s not like it’s your choice.

When you're caught in a circumstance like this, the best practices aren't going to help. You have to know how to cheat.

Remember, we're not talking about lying, breaking laws, failing to comply with regulations, or ignoring ethical standards. We’re talking about doing the opposite of the best practices.

See also:
Dealing with adversity

If the best practices say:

  • Avoid passive voice, but you aren’t sure who is going to do what, then embrace passive voice and use it on purpose.
  • Be direct and specific, but you don’t have the information you need, then talk about numbers without providing any, have a plan to have a plan instead of providing the plan, and avoid commitment.
  • Make sure you address the benefits of your approach, but you don’t know what matters to the customer, then just try to sound beneficial.
  • Compliance is not enough and you should exceed mere compliance, but you have no idea how that will be achieved, then just cite examples from the past where you have exceeded compliance.
  • Show insight into the statement of work beyond what’s in the RFP, only you don’t know anything about the customer or actual scope, then talk about the kinds of things you do instead of what you actually will do.

This stuff is so much more fun to talk about than best practices.

But first a word of warning. The worst possible outcome for a proposal specialist is not losing. It’s failing to submit the proposal on time. Cheating can help you make the submission on time. But if you cheat on a good proposal, you will probably ruin it.

Cheating, by definition, means turning the best practices on their head. Cheating means turning your back on the best way to win, in order to get something submitted. If by some quirk of circumstances you cheat and win, that’s just luck. You can’t cheat on every proposal and be competitive. At least not against companies that are employing the best practices.

On the other hand, when all the best practices in the world won’t save you, all you can do is cheat. Just have fun with it and don’t be consumed by the dark side.


Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

Access to premium content items is limited to PropLIBRARY Subscribers

A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.

It all starts with a conversation. You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.

Sign up for our free newsletter and get a free 46-page eBook titled "Turning Your Proposals Into a Competitive Advantage" with selected articles from PropLIBRARY.

You'll be joining nearly a hundred thousand professionals.

Sign up
Not now
  • Create New...