Writing good: the basics of successful sales proposals

Have you ever received a sales proposal that suggested “engineering scalable channels,” or “optimizing intuitive mindshare,” or “monetizing cross-media infrastructures?” If so, we hope you showed it a quick path to the trash.

A successful sales proposal is about sticking to the basics. It’s about making your case clearly, quickly, and convincingly. And it’s as much about how you communicate as it is about what you communicate. In many cases, this can mean writing good rather than writing well.

Yes, we know: writing well is correct and proper grammar. But a business proposal that truly connects with prospects uses the everyday language they use themselves. So even if you spent your college years learning how to write well, sometimes in sales you gotta know when to write good.

This doesn’t mean your sales quote has “ain’ts” and “shouldas” and slang. But it does mean choosing clarity over demonstrating one’s complete command of the often antiquated rules of proper grammar. (Imagine if instead of saying, “High costs are something no business should put up with,” you followed every rule to say, “High costs are something up with which no business should put.” Ouch.)

how to write a business proposal simple

Forget the $64 words—make the sale, and keep it simple

The best proposals don’t drown the reader in polysyllabic buzz-words—keep it simple, salesperson. In the language itself, you should:

  • Be direct.
  • Use short sentences (no more than 20 words).
  • Use short paragraphs (no more than 2 or 3 sentences).
  • Use lists (no more than 3 bullets… ok, 4 bullets).

Successful proposals spell out the basic benefits

Your prospect wants one thing and one thing only from you: benefits. So move the focus from features, functions, and your deliverables to positive outcomes and the benefits your prospect will enjoy by choosing you over the competition.

Stay with the basics and keep a constant focus on the customer: the language they use, the business they’re in, the challenges they face, and the benefits they’ll enjoy by choosing you over the competition.

how to write a business proposal selfless

Keep the sale “selfless”

Most every “How to Write a Proposal” chapter in every business book suggests starting with an “About Us.” But we work exclusively in the quotes and proposal business, and we have seen that the most successful proposals almost always start with more of an “About you…” And they end not with a call to action as much as a demonstration of ROI.

Remember: your prospect’s only objective is to solve their problem, so your sales proposal should dig into the basics of their business, not yours. Proposals that focus on the customer from start to finish are proposals that win new business.

And always put your proposal everyday language: all’s well that ends well, even if you gotta write good sometimes to make it happen.