Ten tips for better sales proposals

Remember your prospect

Don’t get so carried away with what you’re offering that you forget the person that you’re trying to persuade. Always put the prospect first, by starting with their situation and the problems they need to solve.

Remember other readers

Are there other influencers and decision-makers who might read your proposal, and have you met them? If you haven’t, your proposal will be all they have to go on, so it’s vital that you address their naeeds too.

Show understanding

Impress your prospect by showing an understanding of their problems and how to fix them, rather than trying to dazzle them with how wonderful your company is. Your company facts and testimonials should just confirm that you know what you’re talking about.


You still need to sell the solution(s) you’re proposing, so remember to write a persuasive sales argument – don’t just let the spec speak for itself.

Check your facts

Simple mistakes will seriously undermine even the best offering. One senior buyer of billion-pound contracts told Emphasis that he always circled the stupid mistakes first – such as spelling product or place names incorrectly. Factual inaccuracies create a poor impression that’s very hard to shift.

Get the basics right

Likewise, don’t let your spelling, punctuation or grammar let you down. Basic errors do nothing to create a good impression.


Don’t waffle

You may be very proud of your proposal, but your prospect probably has several others to read alongside yours. Even if they don’t, they’ll certainly have a backlog of other documents to read through. In a recent Emphasis survey, some buyers said that 90 per cent of what they read was badly written or hard to follow. So write to ‘express’, rather than to ‘impress’ them with your splendid vocabulary.

Cut and paste with care

Cutting and pasting can be a good short cut if two proposals share common material. But it’s also fraught with danger. One Emphasis client told us of how they’d forgotten to take out a rival client’s company name when they did this. It sounds obvious, but it’s easily done. The answer is to get someone else to proofread what you’ve written, as you’ll miss many of your own mistakes. Remember: love is blind.

Take care with layout

No matter how persuasive your argument, presentation is key and a poor layout can still let you down. Keep your layout uncluttered, crisp and professional. Use plenty of white space, and resist the temptation to cram too much information into every page. Less is definitely more.

Talk them through it

Finally, if you want to win, take it in. Make an appointment to talk your prospect through your proposal if at all possible. That way you’ll be able to handle any objections there and then, and maximise your chance of a successful close.

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