A Memo to Proposal Reviewers: Be Concise!

To:   All SMEs
From:   David Seibert
RE:   Being concise

As I’ve been reviewing the proposal draft and all the edits we’re getting back, I have become increasingly concerned that, in parts, we’re trying to add too much. I certainly understand the concern; we don’t want to leave anything out. But in our efforts to be comprehensive, in our efforts to say everything, we’re running the risk of the really important things being lost in a sea of less relevant content. That’s never good.

  • Mark Twain said, “I wanted to write you a short letter, but I didn’t have enough time so I wrote you a long one instead.”
  • Voltaire said, “The surest way to be boring is to say everything.”
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Great minds think alike, I suppose, and the common lesson these great minds are all conspiring to teach us is to not say everything, just say the important things. Sometimes detail is important and necessary, and that’s OK. Other times, though, it’s just too much, or it’s irrelevant, or it’s redundant–and it needs to go.

I urge everyone, as we’re doing our final reviews of the document, to critically evaluate whether something really is relevant or whether it can be edited out so the other ideas–those that are really and truly important–have a chance of shining through.


David Seibert is a professional salesperson and consultant for businesses that respond to formal procurements in non-federal markets. Dave publishes a comprehensive curriculum of online, self-paced proposal training classes, delivers onsite and online proposal training programs for dedicated proposal teams, and provides proposal and business development consulting services for businesses that want to improve their win rates. 

Dave is founder and president of The Seibert Group, a proposal consulting and training organization serving businesses that sell to other businesses, A/E/C firms, schools, and to state and local governments. Dave authored the popular proposal book, Proposal Best Practices, is active with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and is a member of the APMP Speakers Bureau. You can contact Dave at [email protected].

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