Your company may boast the highest-quality product in your industry, but if you submit a substandard or poorly targeted proposal, you've just undermined that product and likely will not get the award. Here are 10 common pitfalls to avoid when writing and submitting government bids and proposals:

1. Using complex language. Keep your proposal simple to read and follow. Use clear, concise, easy-to understanding wording and avoid long-winded sentences and paragraphs.

2. Submitting a bid on government contracts that will place your current government projects at risk. All too often, businesses submit proposals or bids they can't fully complete. When considering government solicitations, make sure you possess the skills and resources required. Otherwise, you'll find yourself scrambling to meet the contract requirements while your other projects suffer.

3. Not accepting credit cards for payment. Many government agencies now prefer to use merchant credit cards and government purchase cards to buy goods and services. If you don't accept plastic, you may miss out on these contracting opportunities.

4. Pricing an item in incorrect units. Experts say this is the most common mistake made in submitting a bid. A typical example is submitting a bid in gallons when the solicitation was for quarts. It may seem like a simple error, but it could cost you a contract.

5. Submitting messy bids. Just as you wouldn't hand a coffee-stained business card to a potential client, you should not submit a proposal that is unprofessional in style or appearance. Before you seal the envelope, double-check your document for typos, blank pages, unnumbered or misnumbered pages, smudges, rips and poor grammar.

6. Having preconceived notions about what specific agencies need. Don't remove yourself from consideration by assuming an agency doesn't need your products. You never know: the City of Seattle may, in fact, be looking for scuba equipment. Contact the agency before you decide. Businesses are often pleasantly surprised by what agencies need to buy.

7. Focusing on frills rather than fundamentals. Instead of trying to dazzle buyers with your marketing flair, you should concentrate on making your proposal or bid rejection-proof. Begin by responding to each and every requirement in the solicitation so that your proposal won't be rejected for being non-responsive. Next, make sure your proposal offers a clear and well thought-out solution that will solve the problem at hand while calling attention to the direct benefits of your product.

8. Not allowing enough time for preparation. With bids and proposals, the clock works against you from day one. Take into account the time you'll need to check and recheck your documents, complete required forms and compliance matrices, and calculate the time and materials necessary to fulfill the contract. And, of course, don't forget to allow enough time for your proposal to reach the agency office before the deadline.

9. Ignoring or underestimating your competitors. Differentiate yourself from your competitors in your proposal. How much more efficiently will you do the job? Why is your price better than theirs? What benefits will the agency receive if it works with your company instead of your competitor? If you haven't taken time to study and understand your competitors, it's unlikely that you'll beat them for the contract.

10. Inconsistency. Is your work plan in agreement with your budget and schedule? Do your figures add up? Are you consistent with measurements and any other elements that are vital to your proposal?