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Win More Contracts: The 5 Mistakes Suppliers Make and How to Avoid Them

Leanne Strickler
Published September 09, 2023

You’ve worked hard to build your business. You know your product or service inside and out. Your team has the skills and experience to deliver. So why can’t you win more contracts? The truth is, that even the most qualified suppliers make mistakes that cost them new business. Avoid these common blunders and you’ll be signing on the dotted line more often.

Not Understanding the Client’s Needs

One of the biggest mistakes suppliers make is not fully understanding their client’s needs. How can you provide a solution if you don’t know the problem? The best way to understand a client’s needs is to simply ask them during a discovery session.

Following up after the initial meeting to clarify any remaining questions is also key. The more you understand the client’s true needs, the more tailored your solution can be.  Tailoring your solution is one of the ways you win more contracts.

Submitting a Poorly Written Proposal

A poorly written proposal is a surefire way to lose a contract. As a supplier, you spend valuable time and resources responding to requests, so you need to avoid these common mistakes:

Submitting a generic proposal

Don’t just copy and paste the same proposal for every contract. Do your research and tailor your proposal to address the specific requirements and priorities of that client. Mention them by name and refer to details from their RFP to show you understand their needs.

Not following the instructions

Read the RFP thoroughly and follow all instructions precisely. If there are page limits, formatting guidelines, or a specific order to how information should be presented, adhere to them. Clients want to see that you can follow directions and pay attention to important details.

Using confusing language

Write in a simple, straightforward style using common industry terms. Avoid overly complex sentences, verbosity, and unnecessary jargon. Your proposal should be easy to understand, even for non-experts. Keep your language positive, constructive, and inclusive.

Missing key information

Ensure you include details on your relevant experience, qualifications, methodologies, timelines, and pricing. Provide specific examples and metrics on the outcomes and value you’ve delivered to other clients. Back up any claims with data and evidence. Leaving out crucial information raises red flags and hurts your credibility.

Not proofreading carefully

Careless mistakes and typos reflect poorly on you and indicate a lack of care or professionalism. Have multiple people review and edit your proposal to catch any errors before submitting it. Your proposal speaks volumes about you as a supplier, so make sure it’s polished and error-free.

With attention to these details, you’ll submit a compelling proposal and win over more clients. Now go out there and win more contracts!

Failing to Follow the RFP Instructions

One of the biggest mistakes suppliers make is failing to follow the instructions and requirements laid out in the RFP. This often leads to disqualification, even if you submitted an otherwise stellar proposal.

To avoid this pitfall, carefully read through the entire RFP multiple times. Make notes or highlight key instructions and deadlines to keep track of critical details. If anything is unclear or confusing, ask the agency contact for clarification before the proposal deadline. It’s better to ask questions upfront than have your bid rejected due to a misunderstanding.

Pay close attention to formatting and content guidelines. If the RFP specifies a page limit or word count maximum, be sure to stay within those constraints. Provide all requested materials like financial statements, references, work samples, etc. Omitting key components can reflect poorly on your ability to follow directions.

Use the RFP’s evaluation criteria as an outline for your proposal. Address each criterion in order and be very clear about how your solution meets the requirements. Don’t make the evaluators hunt for relevant information. Highlight your key qualifications, experience, and competitive advantages to showcase why you’re the best fit for the project.

Double-check that all forms, certifications, and signatures requested in the RFP are included before submitting your final proposal. Something as small as a missing signature can invalidate an otherwise winning bid.

Following the instructions in the RFP is one of the easiest ways to avoid losing a contract opportunity, and even win more contracts. Pay close attention, ask clarifying questions, and double-check that all requirements have been addressed. With diligence and care, you’ll submit a responsive proposal that gives the evaluators no reason to disqualify your bid.

Need help crafting an RFP? Check out this article.

Making Unrealistic Promises

As a supplier, overpromising to win a contract often seems tempting. But making unrealistic promises is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, damaging your credibility and relationships in the long run.

Unmet Expectations

When you guarantee outcomes you can’t deliver, your clients will end up disappointed and dissatisfied. They’ll likely take their business elsewhere for the next project. It’s always better to be upfront about what you can reasonably achieve. Underpromise and overdeliver—your clients will appreciate your honesty and be thrilled when you exceed their expectations.

Lost Trust

Breaking promises erodes the foundation of trust in any relationship. Your clients want to know they can depend on you to follow through. If you make pledges you can’t keep just to win their contract, they’ll see you as untrustworthy and unreliable. Regaining trust is an uphill battle that can take years of consistently delivering on your word. It’s not worth sacrificing for one deal.

Legal Issues

Some unrealistic promises could be seen as false advertising or misleading claims, opening you up to potential legal trouble. Be very careful about the guarantees and outcomes you market to clients. Only commit to what you’re confident you can achieve based on your proven track record. It’s always a good idea to consult a legal professional to review your marketing and sales materials.

Damaged Reputation

In the world of B2B, your reputation is everything. Making empty pledges to clients to gain their business will seriously hurt your reputation over the long run. Unhappy customers will spread the word about their negative experiences with your company, and your credibility in the industry will suffer. Overpromising will not help you win more contracts. Focus on sustainable, ethical growth by being transparent and only making promises you know you can keep.

In the end, avoid unrealistic promises at all costs. Be honest in your marketing and sales process, clearly communicate what you can deliver, and work to build trust through follow-through and consistency. Your business and reputation will be better for it.

Poor Communication Throughout the Process

Poor communication is one of the biggest mistakes suppliers make that costs them contracts.

Lack of clarity

If your proposal or pitch is unclear, disorganized, or hard to follow, the customer will lose interest quickly. Be concise and get to the point. Use simple language and short sentences. Explain how you will straightforwardly meet their needs and objectives.

Not listening

Suppliers often focus on selling their product or service rather than listening to what the customer wants. Ask questions to make sure you fully understand their problems and priorities. Clarify any confusion and be responsive to their feedback. Show you value their input. Digging deeper into your potential clients’ needs will help you win more contracts.

Failure to follow up

Don’t go MIA after submitting your proposal or pitch. Follow up with the customer to address any other questions or concerns. Let them know you’re interested in their business and available to provide more details or samples. Staying in touch demonstrates your commitment to high-quality service.

Lack of a relationship

Rather than rushing to close a deal, build a genuine connection with your customer. Get to know key stakeholders and their needs. Look for ways to add value, even if you don’t win the current contract. Strong, long-term relationships lead to future opportunities.


Ensure all communication and material from your company maintains the same professional image and key messages. Contradictory information creates confusion and damages your credibility. Carefully coordinate all interactions with the customer across departments and staff. Consistency establishes you as a reliable supplier they can trust.

Following up, building real relationships, communicating clearly, listening fully, and presenting a consistent image will help turn more prospects into loyal customers. Make these principles a habit and winning contracts will become second nature.


So there you have it, the top 5 reasons suppliers strike out and lose contracts they thought they had in the bag. Avoid these common mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to winning more contracts and getting great clients. Remember, do your homework, focus on their needs not your product specs, build genuine relationships, communicate clearly every step of the way, and never stop improving your skills and offerings. Implement these tips and you’ll transform from an average supplier to a trusted and valued partner in no time. The contracts and long-term customers will follow. Now get out there, build your business, and win big! You’ve got this.