How to write a winning proposal

How to write a winning proposal

Silje Stensland
05. Nov 2019 | 5 min read

How to write a winning proposal

A killer proposal is critical to win new business, so it needs to put your company’s best foot forward. After all, proposals aren’t selected but eliminated.


What exactly is it that gets a proposal in the bag? Undoubtedly, it boils down to relevancy and the numbers on your quote – but is that all? Far from it. A proposal that holds its ground in comparison to all the others succinctly conveys all the value your solution brings to your client’s problem.

To ensure that the proposal elimination process works in your favor, you need to write clearly, persuasively and efficiently. There are a lot of elements to get right, from the strategy to the message to the layout.

Read on to get actionable advice on writing a proposal that closes faster.


Set up a clear strategy

Your goal should be to write a proposal that cannot be eliminated on the grounds of content. The first step to ensure that your proposal covers all the requirements is to hold a ‘kickoff meeting’. This is where all the necessary contributors come together and discuss the components of the proposal.

The Proposal Manager will clearly define production schedules, the responsibility matrix, and potential pressure points that might arise.


Clarity above it all!

Nearly one in three proposals are turned down due to lack of clarity. The evaluators will have zero patience for sloppy writing, long-winded sentences and a confusing structure.

To demonstrate your offering is a genuine cut above your competition, lay out the information relevant to your client’s needs and requests, using clear, concise, and simple language.


Answer the question

100 % compliance with the Request for Proposal (RFP) is the best insurance policy you have against early elimination in the evaluation process.

Study the RFP, and be responsive. Make sure you answer the question, with both details and evidence. Don’t simply state that you are the best, but show the client ‘why’. Demonstrate how you will complete the task, and explain your experience. If your answer is evasive, your client will see right through you and move on to the next one. Use simple language, and leave out the fluff.


It’s all about your client, not about you

Show the client that you understand them, and talk about the benefits of choosing you. Provide information that matters, and mirror the issues and facts that were explained in the RFP.

The proposal most likely to be chosen is the one that is most clearly targeted to the client’s pain points. It should reflect the impact you will have on their business, not what your product or service is all about.


Set yourself apart from the competition

How are you different from other companies? Highlight the benefits for the client by linking your features to the benefits. Point out any alternative solutions you might think of, showing off your problem solving skills.

You shouldn’t assume that the client knows anything about you. So make sure you explain your capabilities and sell your services throughout the proposal.


Impress the client

Provide more than the client expects! Conduct research on your client and their competition, and impress them with your insight. Plus, make sure you customize your proposal every single time. Boilerplate proposals ain’t the winning kind.



First and foremost, a proposal is a sales document. You have to sell your technical approach, your project management expertise, your scientific wizardry, your state-of-the-art widgets – and not just clinically describe these things.

When you set out to sell in a proposal, you are really attempting to answer four basic questions better than your competitors can answer. These questions are known as the Big Four:

  • Why us?
  • Why not them?
  • So what?
  • How so?

Provide powerful answers to these questions throughout your proposals, making it easier for the client to choose you over your competition.


However… do not oversell

Experienced proposal evaluators develop a sixth sense for fluff and hype. Granted, a proposal has to highlight your company and your commitment to deliver top-notch solutions – but don’t overdo it. You’ll end up losing credibility, and your proposal will be at grave risk of not surviving long enough to be taken seriously.


Top it all off with a winning layout

You have put a lot of effort into writing persuasive content and fine tuning the message. Do you need to care about what it all looks like, on top of that? Absolutely.

Poorly designed proposals detract from your message and fail to effectively communicate with your client. The evaluators aren’t going to be wanting to waste their time figuring out what goes where, and how it’s related. They will move on.

Make sure you have the right tools to ensure that your proposal design is both functional and beautiful, grabbing your client’s attention in the right way.


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Read more: Increase your efficiency and save time with a proposal software

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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