10 Rules for Writing a Winning Proposal

Proposal writing is often relegated to the background when sales playbooks are written. Marketing does not give due focus to this subject when they provide support to their sales teams.

Writing proposals is perhaps THE most important aspect of understanding and delivering effective sales KPIs.

I have elucidated 10 simple to follow and implement rules that you could use to deliver winning proposals

  • RULE #1. Write the proposal as a sales document. Don’t fall into the trap of making it an information sheet.  Instead, define the problem/opportunity and present a workable solution/plan.
  • RULE #2. Make sure the customer knows you. Your proposal will go straight to the circular file cabinet unless you’ve established yourself with the decision-maker as a credible provider.
  • RULE #3. Focus the executive summary on reasons to buy. Don’t just summarize the proposal contents.  Instead. summarize the basic issues and the reasons the customer should buy.
  • RULE #4. Keep the executive summary short. Here’s the rule of thumb: a single page executive summary for any proposal less than 50 page, with half-a-page added for every additional 25 pages.
  • RULE #5. Hit everyone’s hot buttons. The proposal must address the concerns of different decision-makers. For instance, engineers want technology; accountants want ROI.
  • RULE #6. Focus on the customer, not your product. Nobody is interested in the history of your firm or your product. Make the proposal about how you’ll solve the customer’s problems.
  • RULE #7. Thoroughly edit the boilerplate. If you cut and paste from an earlier proposal, there may be references to a previous customer – probably a competitor of this customer.
  • RULE #8. Follow the customer’s outline. If the customer gave you a template (even one that’s weird or awkward) use it. If you don’t, they’ll assume you can’t follow simple instructions.
  • RULE #9. Don’t discuss costs in the executive summary. Emphasize increased productivity or reduced operating costs rather than how much money you want them to spend.
  • RULE #10. Edit out the meaningless jargon. Biz-blab words that have no meaning detract from whatever value your proposal offers.  Edit them out.  Mercilessly.