Business Development Series Posted by David McDermott

Are you failing at the first hurdle because of poorly written proposals?

In our experience clients make the same mistakes again and again when writing proposals, mistakes that hold them back from achieving their business potential. The suggestions below can help you to avoid these common pitfalls.

  • Focus on the outcome
  • Write about the client, not just about yourself
  • Make sure every fact/feature has a benefit
  • Keep it short
  • Write plainly

1. Focus on the outcome

You have one singular purpose when you write a proposal: to get to the pitch stage in a position to win the business. Put aside notions of answering every possible objection, impressing with your literary abilities or showcasing your design agency skills. Focus on the key messages that will hook your reader into wanting to hear more about your business proposition.

2. Write about the client

When you sit down to write your proposal, your head will be full of facts, figures and your business capabilities. That’s all well and good, but make sure that you explicitly show empathy and an understanding of your potential client’s position and requirements.

If your proposal is filled with words like “our expertise”, “our capabilities”, “our scale”, without any reference to the client, you may run the risk of leaving them cold. This is especially true if you spend too much time talking about your growth and plans, which can leave them thinking that they’re just a cog in your business plan for world domination. Focus on them and their problems/challenges and use phrases like “your challenges” and “your needs” when describing your capabilities.

3. Write about the benefit

Of course you need to write about your capabilities and the features of your business. But wherever possible, make sure you explicitly draw a connection to a specific benefit for the client. For example, if you’re talking about your size, they might take it as a bit egotistical and self-congratulatory, unless you specifically say how the client will benefit from your scale to help them achieve their goals, not yours.

4. Keep it short

People start channeling their inner Tolstoy when they sit down to write. You need to focus on the win, not on getting everything down in a document. What specifically do they need? Write about that and put everything else in an appendix. Your executive summary should not exceed one page and should contain everything that key decision makers need to know to say ‘yes’ … and not one word more.

5. Write plainly

Research has consistently shown that if you write in a plain, objective and straightforward manner, readers see you as more intelligent, more organised, more trustworthy and more competent than those who write in a more academic, complex style. Given that, especially in modern service industries, the majority of what you are selling is competence and trust, can you really afford to unleash your inner English professor?

Remember, focus on the outcome and client needs and you can’t go too far wrong.

If you think your proposals could do with a little polishing get in touch with us to find out more about our ‘Writing to Win’ programme.

< Back to edoBuzz