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7 golden rules to write better proposals

7 golden rules to write better proposals

Silje Stensland
27. Aug 2020 | 5 min read

7 golden rules to write better proposals

Proposals are critical to your company’s success. To write winning proposals, you need to persuade prospective clients that you’re better than the competition.

Winning business is about more than just delivering a sales pitch, though. You must develop clear, concise and compelling proposals that illustrate the benefits of your service offering and demonstrate your capabilities.

It sounds simple, but your competition is trying to do the same thing.

To help you focus your efforts and give the client what they expect, we’ve put together seven simple rules you should use when writing proposals.


1. Know what your client wants to hear

Understanding your client's needs and how you can benefit them is critical. You can’t win unless you know what will influence your client. Speak their language. Focus on issues and information that will matter to them, not what you like and are comfortable with.

Do your own research beyond the RFP. Don’t stop at looking the company up on the web; go one further and find past employees to help you understand them on a deeper level.

In short: Consider their needs from their perspective. Read between the lines, do research and understand them better. 


2. Have a great solution – and a strategy to win

You write proposals to win, so before you start writing, do your research, hold a strategy session and identify what you need to do to convince the client to select your proposal as the winner.

Many companies make the mistake of assuming their prospective client’s needs and proposing a ‘canned’ solution that they can get from anyone. This is what loses a proposal.

Don't start writing until you have a strategy. Understand the client, find information that proves your value, and hit their hot buttons. 

Once you know that your solution, including pricing, meets your client’s needs and is compelling in the first place, you can write about it – using details and evidence that proves you can help them.


3. Follow instructions 

Read the bid instructions carefully, so you don't get disqualified or make the client think you didn't put much effort into the proposal.

Following the client’s instructions precisely – be it maintaining the same order when answering questions or submitting mandatory requirements in the form specified – is about respecting the client and showing that you can follow instructions.

Read more: Gain control over approval and version control challenges with a document management software


4. Answer the questions

A proposal is a one-way discussion, so it's essential to give the client the information they need, since they can't ask follow-up questions and you can't clarify things that aren't clear. This is why you need to make sure you really understand what they are asking.

Follow their format, use their questions as your heading, understand what they are asking, and answer it clearly.


5. Skip the fluff

Your potential client is sophisticated, so don't give them fluffy sales pitches and boilerplate material. Their eyes will gloss over. Instead, sell your benefits and convince them with details, evidence and examples that prove you can do the job, not just talk about it.


6. Get your point across

You've spent time deciding what to say in order to win. Don't bury vital information with data, examples or other material that doesn't directly support your message and get your point across. Deliver an easily readable and visually/structurally compelling proposal that focuses attention on what matters.  

Well-designed proposals that communicate their content effectively, clearly, and engagingly immediately have a competitive edge.


7. Make it easy for evaluators

Your proposal must convey all your information to your prospective client so that the proposal is easy to evaluate, and you’re awarded the highest possible evaluation score.

Answer any questions the evaluators are likely to wonder about. Give them information they can use to evaluate you and differentiate you from your competition. Use introductions and summaries to help the evaluator link what you say to their question or evaluation criteria.

The best way to deliver your message in a way that makes it easy to evaluate? With a proposal that you write using co-authoring and automation software.

If you want to create winning proposals, faster and more securely, move to a complete all-in-one document collaboration solution to automate and streamline your proposal process – and win more business.


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Silje Stensland

Silje Stensland

Silje is Marketing Manager of Xait. She holds a Bachelor in Marketing Communication and an Executive Master in Business Administration. She is an analytical, efficient and results-focused marketing and communications professional and her career spans over 15 years within real estate, oil & gas and IT. When Silje is not busy growing the Xait brand, you can find her at her family cabin in picturesque Sirdal, Norway, hiking, trekking and cross-country skiing.

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