Bids and proposals

The ‘Four Ps’ of proposal writing

3 minute read

People who have the gift of being able to write a persuasive proposal tend to go a long way, regardless of whether they’re in sales or the Civil Service.

Yet far from being a dark art, the skill of effective proposal writing is something you can learn. In fact, there’s one formula that can help to bring you success time and time again. We call it the ‘Four Ps’.



This is where you should start. Establish where the client or reader is at this moment. Your proposal might well be read by several different decision-makers – at different levels – in the organisation, but this will be the one thing that has everyone in consensus from the outset.

In sales, don’t begin with a long-winded introduction to your company: you’ll make a much better impression by showing you’ve taken the time and interest to get to know your prospective client.



Despite the name, this could be a negative or a positive. There may be a problem to address, or the opportunity of a lifetime could be in sight. All it means is making it clear that a change must be made.

Salespeople: again, the focus is on them, not you – their needs, not your product. Make it clear you understand those needs, using facts and figures as appropriate.



Here you can cover all the potential routes, including taking no action, with pros and cons for each. Don’t try to gloss over any possible downsides: it could look like they haven’t occurred to you.

Rise above trashing competitors by name, though you can argue the flaws of their ideas – if you know them.

If there’s only one option, you won’t need this section.



This is your recommended route, with your reasons for it. Be succinct and specific. Make it very clear how your proposal relates to what the client or reader has asked for. They should be left with no doubts about why they should go with you, why they should do it now and what they need to do next.

Ok, so we can’t completely guarantee you a win every time. But this is always the best p-p-p-place to start.

For more help perfecting your team’s proposal writing or your own, you can arrange an in-house bid, tender and sales-proposal writing course for your team or book a spot on one of our bid-writing courses for individuals.


Image credit: PiraPora / Shutterstock


Bids and proposals

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The Write Stuff

Rob Ashton (our founder) posts mainly about writing and the brain – a topic he's been researching for seven years. His personal website includes a free course based on his work.

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