1. Business Proposals: Know Your Readers
Before Trump meets the government agencies, or
firms that he wants to work with, he researches into their background. Why? It’s
so that he can use these to break the ice when he meets them at presentations or
The more you know about your
target readers (aka those with the funds your
after), the more you can understand their needs, their underlying issues, and
also human things, such as how you can flatter them.
At the end of the day, we’re dealing with people. And regardless of how good
bid is, someone sitting in an office is
going to have to approve it. How well do you know this person?
How would Trump do this?
While you may not be able to do this, you can:
The key is to find ways that you learn about their needs BEFORE they issue a
Request For Proposal. If you have this inside knowledge, then you stand a much
greater chance of getting short listed (and giving a presentation) and having
your bid accepted.
2. Business Proposals: Make Your Bid Interesting
There’s always been a show biz element to Trump.
It’s part of his ‘persona’. What’s interesting is that his ‘persona’ is a
deliberate way to draw attention, show his star quality and push rivals into the
How do you do this with business proposals?
Catchy Document Titles – make the document title
more interesting than others. Read
how to write catchy titles here. If every bid
has the same heading, then how will yours stand out?
Use Color – you don’t have to stick with black and
white. Use color effectively in your proposal documents. Add a little splash and
make sure you have a rocking cover sheet. Look at these examples from
Get on Stage – videotape yourself when making a
presentation. What do you see? Riveting or boring? Don’t be too hard on
yourself. Most of us never learn to give presentations – which is a bit like
acting, it’s just that the audience is different – so hire a drama teacher.
Learn to improve your presentations and make a much bigger impact when you
3. Business Proposals: Identify the Pain Points
You need to identify what really hurts your
clients. In business talk, this is called ‘pain points’.
What keeps the funding agency awake at night?
What’s the worst thing that could happen if the solution doesn’t work?
How will it impact their career?
If you watch Trump on TV, watch he gets to the heart of the problem immediately.
You need to do this same in the bid document, though the language needs to
reflect the readership.
Avoid flowery, pretentious writing.
Don’t use double negatives.
Focus on the positive.
Write ‘you’ not ‘the user’ or ‘the reader’ or ‘one must’.
Keep the reader engaged. Imagine them sitting across the table from you. Write
the bid so it is:
Tip – Don’t use tiny fonts. Many business people have poor eyesight. Make the
fonts that little bit bigger than usual, eg Times Roman 12.
The biggest mistake you can make in proposal writing is...
Not asking for the money. I know it sounds obvious but according to the authors
of The Thirteen Most Common Fund-Raising Mistakes, ‘Doing everything but asking’
was the biggest mistake inn grant applications.
State what you want clearly.
For example, "Our High School requests $5,000 from the Gates Foundation in
support of the City Rejuvenation Project."
4. Business Proposals: Develop a Writing Style
How to write a compelling proposal?
The problem is most of us learnt to write a certain way in high school. But that
doesn’t really work in the business world. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?
In school, you're taught to write essays. They are long, padded, lengthy
sentences, with few graphics and with no call to action.
Writing the proposal narrative
In business writing, you need to flip this around.
Write short sentences.
Use the active voice.
Make the reader care.
The narrative describes the project, including the
needs it addresses and your plan of action.
Start with a
Statement of Need. This identifies the problem that could be
alleviated by the project. The Statement of Need describes the needs your
project will address - not organizational challenges faced by your organization
(eg funds, equipment, personnel etc.).
Next, in the Project Description, outline the project and how it will meets the
You can do this by identifying the:
Goals for the project,
Objectives (make them specific, measurable activities)
Project Plan (describe
each phase of the project plan so that the funding officer
understands how your staff will approach the project
Work Breakdown Structure
Including a timetable that shows:
what will be done
when it will be done
who will do it
for each task.
Don’t write something you can't deliver. Grant teams appreciate a realistic
proposal that does not promise more than can be delivered.
5. Business Proposals: Value For Money
The cheapest bid doesn’t always win. If you think
that submitting lower priced bid than everyone else will win the contract...
Low priced bids are often a sign of desperation, not understanding the
requirements, or lack of expertise.
Business Proposal Template - Costs
Regardless of how well you write the solution response, understand the
requirements, or have the right track record, you still have to offer value for
This means that when you write the cost sections –
also called budget – you need to show that your costs, even though higher than
your competitors are good value.
How to do this?
Upfront Payment – don’t demand too much payment in
advance. Some will ask for 30%, which will scare the funders. They have budgets
Payment Schedule – look for ways to stagger the
payments, for example, every month, every quarter or by deliverable. When you
finish a piece of work, you get paid.
Currency – for large projects, see if it suits them
to pay in a specific currency. This may work to both of your advantages.
Expenses – clarify what you will (and will not)
claim as expenses. This helps the grant givers understand what you may claim and
they can budget accordingly. With expenses, be realistic and don’t exaggerate or
underestimate the costs.
6. Business Proposals: Be Confident
When writing the proposal document, find a way to
blend your own confidence with details of your track record.
Why do this?
We all know that people tend to be more confident
when they have mastered an area, subject or skill. It makes sense. So, when
writing your document, introduce ways that show:
Where you have achieved these goals
Endorsements you have received from others
Press coverage about the deal, solution or product
Your goal is to show the funding team that you have
to accomplish the project.
To do this:
Write short sections that outline your core values
and how this aligns with theirs
Outline your company history (i.e. why the
organization was created), and
Summarize your achievements
You can further enhance this by referencing other organizations and institutions
with which you have worked with. Include quotes if possible.
7. Business Proposals: Include Supporting
The final step in the process is to include all the
necessary support documentation. This may include:
These all serve to remind the readers that your firm is well placed to deliver
the services they require. Remember to send them in Adobe PDF format so the
quality is not changed when printed out. Microsoft Word documents may print
different on different PCs.
If you follow these seven steps, you will start to get more positive feedback
from the grant-giver, donor, or agency that supplies the funding.
You will also get more confident in starting new proposals as you will have a
track record of material that stands to you. And, the more you discuss your work
with others, and listen to their feedback, the more you can refine your writing
style. It’s a snowball effect. Every proposal you write is one step towards
mastering this skills.
Proposal Writing Tips
Business Proposal Pricing
Writing a Proposal in Plain English
How to Write Business Reports
7 Steps toward a
Proposing a Solution or a
Product? Which Sells Best?
Golden Rules For Proposal
Difference between Features and Benefits
Writing Effective RFPs
How to Write Effective
7 Skills for Business
1 Minute Exercise For Writing Great Benefits
for Proposals (RFP) Resources
for Writing Public Policy Documents
Checklist for Writing Business Proposals (RFPs)
Ultimate Proposal Checklist