7 Tips for Guiding First-Time Proposal Writers

Experienced proposal managers understand that well-written and high-scoring proposals are vital to securing new contracts. However, one common challenge to developing winning proposals is first-time proposal writers assigned to support them. These first-timers are usually subject matter experts (SMEs) who understand the solution but lack the finesse to turn the ideas into winning proposal text. In this blog, we share seven tips, combining professionalism with a friendly touch, to help you guide and mentor these newcomers, allowing them to make significant contributions to your proposal writing tasks.

Tip 1: Understand a proposal is a scored document, not a technical paper

Most first-time writers are accustomed to producing technical descriptions, white papers, and presentations. However, before they dive into proposal writing, take the time to review the RFP instructions and evaluation criteria with them. Teach them how to tailor their content to maximize their score. This step bridges the gap between technical expertise and proposal success.

Tip 2: Emphasize your strengths and discriminators

Teach first-time writers how to craft proposal strengths that set your company apart from your competitors. Explain how showcasing your unique value can grab the evaluator’s attention and distinguish your proposal from the rest. Highlighting your differentiators is a strategic move that can significantly influence the proposal’s overall score.

Tip 3: Focus on the evidence and proof points

Teach the practice of substantiating claims with solid evidence. Whether it’s supported by case studies, compelling statistics, or expert opinions, backing up assertions enhances the credibility of the proposal. By providing evidence, writers make their points more persuasive and instill a sense of trust in the minds of the evaluators.

Tip 4: Understand the purpose and audience

Begin the coaching journey by ensuring your new writers understand the proposal’s purpose and target audience. Building this understanding enables them to create content that aligns precisely with the proposal’s objectives, leading to a more focused and compelling narrative.

Tip 5: Follow the customer-provided writing instructions

Follow customer-provided formatting, style preferences, vocabulary, and content requisites. Equipping writers with explicit instructions minimizes confusion and compliance issues and eradicates potential inconsistencies, resulting in a more polished final submission.

Tip 6: Use clear and concise language

Encourage novice writers to steer clear of jargon and convoluted language. Emphasize the importance of crafting content that is both clear and concise. A well-articulated proposal ensures that evaluators can readily grasp the merits of the proposal, even without specialized expertise.

Tip 7: Provide a writing buddy

Acknowledge the inherent stress in proposal writing, particularly for those new to the process. Consider offering strategies for managing this stress, such as setting realistic expectations, taking periodic breaks, and seeking support when needed. A practical approach could involve pairing them with an experienced “writing buddy” or mentor who can provide guidance, reassurance, and insights throughout their proposal writing journey.


Guiding first-time proposal writers is a nuanced endeavor that demands a blend of mentorship, patience, and skill. By embracing and applying these seven tips, you can empower new writers to navigate the intricacies of proposal development confidently. Remember that the time and effort invested in coaching today will yield substantial returns through compliant, compelling proposals and contract wins.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals. As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $170B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.