mistakes in contracts

10 Most Common Mistakes Made in Failed Government Contracts

Government contracts are not a light undertaking. From obtaining DUNS numbers, to determining NAICS codes, to registering in the System for Award Management (SAM), the path to a government contract, although rewarding, can be an arduous journey.

Although there is no surefire way to guarantee a successful bid, there are some common pitfalls that can be avoided. Read on to see the mistakes made most frequently so that your company can steer clear.

Inconsistent Formatting

One of the most common mistakes made in failed government contracts is not following proper formatting. The evaluation boards that have the power to approve or deny contracts want to know where to find the information they need without going on a hunt for it.

The request for proposal will outline a specific format, and it must be followed to the letter. Consider requirements such as page numbers, fonts, and printing requirements. Proposals should be separated into clear, well-defined sections that could stand on their own two feet. In other words, the committee should be able to read one section of your proposal without needing to reference another section in order to understand.

These boards have more contracts than they have time, and if your proposal looks disorganized, they will more than likely move straight to reviewing the next one.


Evaluation boards want to make an informed choice that leaves them feeling confident that they have selected the very best company for the job. If your proposal is vague and leaves the reviewers with questions, it is unlikely that it will be selected.

Avoid this by printing out a hard copy of the questions asked in the request for proposal. Treat these questions like a checklist. Go through each question and highlight the answer within your proposal. If the answer is not crystal clear, go back and edit your proposal to remove any trace of uncertainty.

Your job in crafting a quality proposal is to convince a board that you are worthy of their trust and money. Gain this trust by offering them clarity.

Blends In With the Crowd

The federal government doesn’t award contracts to just anyone. If you don’t tell them what sets your business apart, they will never know.

While writing government contract proposals, carefully consider what they are asking for. Is this something that your business does particularly well? Why? Highlight the pieces of your work that are the strongest and the most relevant to what the proposal is asking for.

Misinterprets the Criteria

All too often, we see government contracts not pass the evaluation board because they have not done their homework on what the request for proposal is truly asking for. One of the most important services we offer is collaborating with our clients to ensure a full understanding of what government solicitations are asking for, in order to ensure that their proposal is uniquely tailored to the contract at hand.

This is your chance to prove that you know what a solicitation is asking for. If a board cannot trust you to accurately nail down the proposal, how will they trust you to complete the project efficiently?

Underestimates the Competition

As we’ve stated before, the competition to win government contracts is fierce. One of the best things that can be done to ensure a strong proposal is to evaluate your competition.

Learn about the other businesses that might bid on such a contract and decide what makes them a strong competitor. Leverage this knowledge to write deliberately about ways that your business can top the competition.

Bids Too High Or Too Low

Although the federal government is looking for high-quality contractors to award their contracts to, they also have a bottom line to keep in mind. Bidding too high on a contract could cause you to lose it before you even get your foot in the door. However, bidding too low can also cause you to lose.

While it sounds crazy but bidding too low is not a good strategy either. When an offer is too high, the government considers it Unreasonable. When an offer is too low, the government will consider it Unrealistic. The government can determine the requirements can not be completed for such a low price and that its a high risk to award a contract for such a low price.

To prevent this from happening, consider identifying companies who have won similar proposals and try to determine what they may have charged. If you are coming in much lower or higher than what seems average, make sure you understand the requirements.

Misprioritizes Tradeoffs

Once the price is right, government evaluation boards will move on to non-contract evaluation factors, otherwise known as tradeoffs. Often, companies are not awarded government contracts because they don’t understand what the government is looking for.

The government is looking for a handful of things here. They will want to know about your past performance. Were you prompt and efficient with the budget? Did the project run smoothly? Did you deliver on time? They will likely want additional information on the technical expertise and personnel qualifications of your company. In other words, have you done this type of job before, do you have the right people to do it again, and do you have the resources to meet the government requirements?

These additional factors can be the difference between an otherwise perfect proposal making it through the evaluation board or being rejected.

Unclear or Overly Wordy

Again, the people reviewing your proposal are working on limited time. Avoid extraneous detail or discussing things that are not relevant to the proposal at hand.

Do what you can to avoid vague language or being ambiguous in how you approach your plan to get the job done. Your writing should be clear, concise, and error free.

Doesn’t Ask Questions

It is important that you have all the clarity you need in order to ensure your proposal is crafted accurately. Most requests for proposals have a formal process that they have outlined for asking questions.

Few offerors take the time to review the proposal instructions and evaluation factors and ensure they understand what the government wants you to submit and how the government will use that information to evaluate their proposal. If you are unclear and don’t fully understand what the government wants and how they’ll use the information, ask questions.

Ensure you ask your questions in writing and submit them by the deadline. If there is no time specified, assume you need to ask your questions earlier, rather than later. On the flip side, be sure to review questions that were asked on the date of the proposal to save your request from getting repetitive.


One of the golden rules of writing is that you need to let your writing pass through an unbiased set of eyes before final submission. The same goes for proposals to the government. Because you have likely spent hours working on your proposal, small errors are likely to pass right over you during the editing process. Allow a qualified company like DASG to review your proposal one last time before you send it out to be critiqued.

Save Yourself the Headache

As you can tell, there is a lot of nuance involved in passing a successful government contract. Reach out to DASG today to save yourself the headache by hiring a dedicated partner to go through this process with your company.



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