Contractors that want to improve their proposal drafting skills (and win more contract awards) should always keep an eye on the news and learn from others' mistakes. Understanding an agency's award rationale can provide a competitive advantage and keep you well-positioned to receive the next contract.

And, sometimes, simply following instructions and staying within the lines can make the difference between winning and losing.

Take, for example, a recent GAO decision discussing the merits of an agency's technical evaluation. The protest argued that the agency unreasonably overlooked technical details included in the "past performance" and "personal experience" sections of the contractor's proposal.

The problem with this argument is that the details in question should have been included in the "technical approach" section of the proposal — as indicated in the RFP. According to the GAO, there is "no merit in the [argument] that the agency should have looked to other proposal sections for information regarding the firm's technical approach."

The takeaway here is an easy one – read the RFP instructions carefully and follow them closely. If technical data or other information is requested by one section of an RFP, provide that specific data in the corresponding section of your proposal. Don't assume that – just because you've already included the information elsewhere – the agency will take the time and effort to track it down (even if it appeared just a few pages or even paragraphs earlier in the proposal).

The general rule is that you want to make life as easy as possible for the person evaluating your proposal. Make it a routine best practice to check each proposal for the key elements required by the RFP before hitting send.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.