Proposals are particularly important documents to write well. An effectively written proposal can be the difference between winning business for your organisation – or not.
So what do you need to consider if your proposal is going to win the sale?
As with all documents, it’s crucial to first of all understand your audience.
When you’re writing a proposal, you’re writing to an external audience. They probably talk a different language to you – that is, they’re not familiar with your jargon or technical language – so avoid using any terms they won’t understand.
And they won’t be as familiar with your subject matter as you are. So you’ll need to bring them up to speed with it, without providing them with unnecessary detail.
You may also need to consider that there are different audience types for your proposal.
The primary audience will be the decision makers. Think about what information you need to include so that they can make their decision. But there may also be other audiences – for example technical experts who are advising the decision makers. If that’s the case you’ll need to consider what to include for their benefit.
Make sure that each audience type can access the information that’s relevant to them. You can do this by chunking your document appropriately, and providing effective headings to make it clear what information is where.
What content do you need to include in your proposal?
Your audience will be looking to see that you’ve clearly articulated their problem or need, and the outcome they’re looking for.
Then you need to explain your solution and show that you have the skills and experience to provide it.
Depending on the length of your document, you might need to write an executive summary aimed at the decision makers. We recommend that you write this last, and consider it as a document in its own right. It needs to have its own logical structure and sequence, as some readers will rely only on the information in this section alone.
The importance of editing
It’s important to allow time to edit any document you write. But it’s especially important for proposal documents. It’s easy to wreck the credibility of your proposal if there are errors.
So what should you look out for?
First of all, review the document to ensure that all the relevant issues have been addressed. Have you clearly identified the client’s need, the outcome they want, and your solution and its benefits? Is it easy for individual readers to find relevant information?
Then look at the writing. Is the document unnecessarily long? The days when clients used to measure the value of a document by its length are long gone! So make sure your writing is clear, concise and engaging, and check that you have avoided jargon, clichés and long words.
Are there errors? In particular look out for the accuracy of any $ figures, and the spelling of the client name. And pay particular attention if you’ve used text taken from previous proposals – it’s a definite credibility killer if you’ve left in a client name that doesn’t belong!
Putting it all together
These tips will give you a good starting point for creating effective business proposals of style and substance. For the full training experience, join us in Sydney or Melbourne on one of our Writing Business Cases and Proposals courses.