Jump to content
PropLibrary Content

13 examples of how knowing how to do proposals the wrong way can improve their quality

In our continuing series on how to do proposals The Wrong Way, we’ve seen the power that comes from doing the opposite of what the best practices say you should do. In the webinar we did last week on the topic, we showed 20 different techniques for doing proposals The Wrong Way. These techniques are for dealing with adverse circumstances where the best practices don’t apply. Use them inappropriately and they can cause you to lose. But if you have no choice and may otherwise be unable to submit anything, they can potentially save the day. Or at least let you submit something so that the loss isn’t entirely your fault.

One of the benefits of learning how to do proposals The Wrong Way is that forever after, you will recognize when someone else is trying to pull those tricks on you. Most of the time, people do it subconsciously and not on purpose. But either way, you don’t want to see them in a proposal you are trying to win.

So now we’re going to turn things around again and talk about what to look for when you are trying to win a proposal and some well meaning fool is taking a shortcut that can undermine your chances of winning.

Learn to see what the writer is focusing on and question whether it is the right thing. Most of the techniques are forms of misdirection aimed at avoiding writing about what you don’t know.

Are they:

See also:
Dealing with adversity
  1. Writing about intent and commitment instead of what they will actually do?
  2. Writing about experience instead of how they will fulfill the requirements?
  3. Writing about capabilities instead of results?
  4. Using the words “like, about, nearly, almost, more than, less than, etc.” to avoid commitment?
  5. Simply stating that they will comply with the requirements, without saying how?
  6. Positioning to hide their weakness, as in "being innovative and bringing fresh insights and new ideas" because in reality they don’t know the customer or their environment?
  7. Dropping in words and phrases they found using Google instead of showing real insight?
  8. Using things like “flexibility,” being a “partner,” or preparing for “all contingencies” as a way of being everything to everybody and hiding that they don’t know what the customer really wants?
  9. Redefining the requirement or limiting it with assumptions because they don’t know the real scope?
  10. Writing about things instead of actually identifying them?
  11. Using passive voice to hide that they don’t know how something actually happens?
  12. Planning to have a plan instead of actually saying what they will do?
  13. Focused completely on compliance instead of the customer’s goals?


When you’ve used these techniques to cover your own lack of information or weakness, it becomes much easier to recognize them in someone else’s writing. That can help you get rid of them and replace them with something that will help you win. Turn the statements above around and you’ve got a good list of what you should write about in order to win.

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...