3 Tips on How to Write a Winning Business Proposal

3 Tips on How to Write a Winning Business Proposal

Lars Sanne
06. Apr 2021 | 5 min read

3 Tips on How to Write a Winning Business Proposal

In his excellent book Writing Winning Business Proposals, professor Richard C. Freed offers an insightful observation. He says of proposals:

“Although a few are outstanding, most aren't. Many offend with 'cut-and-paste' boilerplate, miss important opportunities to provide value, suffer from poor logic and organization, and focus more on you than on me and my organization. Although some do a few things well, some don't do much well at all.”

With all the time and effort that goes into compiling a business proposal, we definitely don’t want to be in the ‘don't do much well at all’ category! After all, proposals aren’t selected but eliminated. The last one standing is the only one that matters in the end. 

So how do you get your proposal to hold its ground in comparison to all the others?

Cover every ground

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 collaborators needed to put together the proposal have a detailed discussion on the components of it. 

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

A proposal team would ideally involve:

  1. Proposal Team Lead
  2. Technical matter experts
  3. Business manager/client liaison
  4. Writers
  5. Production and graphics representatives

Getting it right in the Kickoff Meeting contributes to ensuring that all aspects of the proposal are being looked into.

For a more detailed rundown on what goes into a kickoff meeting, check out Alan Tawse’s excellent blog article about it – you’ll find it here.

How XaitPorter helps: XaitPorter’s superb document co-authoring and collaboration features help to ensure that all contributors are on schedule and have access to the proposal in its different stages. It gives the Proposal Manager/Team Lead complete control over the process so he or she can ensure that nothing is being overlooked. 

Instead of having to wait until the whole proposal is compiled in order to identify discrepancies, the Proposal Manager/Team Lead will be able to identify and weed out mistakes or suggest additions, in real time.

Read more: How to Empower your Sales Team to Sell More

Do Not Oversell

Experienced proposal evaluators develop an intuition when it comes to fluff and oversell. Granted, a proposal has to highlight your company and your commitment to providing the best, so you will have to marshal arguments in your favor. But when you overdo it, you lose credibility, and the evaluators are likely to see the rest of your proposal in that light.

In one of its research papers on business proposals, The Association of Record for Bid, Proposal, Business Development, Capture and Graphics Professionals (APMP) offers some suggestions on words to avoid when writing a business proposal:

Avoid Use Instead
Best efforts Reasonable efforts
Ensure Will assist in
Guarantee Will use reasonable effort to
Will meet your needs/requirements Our approach addresses your requirements


Clarity Clarity Above All Things!

In a report compiled by evaluating the shortcomings of 605 proposals rejected by the National Institutes of Health, it was seen that nearly 28.8% of proposals are rejected because “The description of the approach is too nebulous, diffuse, and lacking in clarity to permit adequate evaluation.”

Remember that the evaluators are going to be sifting through numerous proposals. Wordy, long-winded sentences and a confusing structure is the last thing they need. 

Here are a few suggestions to instantly improve your proposal:

  • Keep sentences short (less than 17 words definitely!).
  • Arrange your material in a logical manner. Bullet points work wonders.
  • Stick to an approved format.

How XaitPorter Helps: XaitPorter makes it easy to create templates for business proposals that can be modified to suit every proposal’s particular requirements. Automatic formatting, layout and numbering will ensure that your content is presented in the best possible manner, contributing immensely toward crystal-clear clarity!

Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness

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Lars Sanne

Lars Sanne

Lars holds a degree In Marketing from BI Norwegian Business School. He has previously worked for energy and insurance companies as well as IT companies. Lars enjoys having a busy schedule and loves helping companies change the way they work. When not at work he is an avid outdoorsman and loves skiing and hikes in nature.

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