Monday, March 23, 2009

10 things to improve your proposals in less than 10 minutes

These aren't here to cut corners - there's no such thing in writing business proposals (efficiency yes, corner-cutting no!). They are here though to give you some ideas on how little things can improve your proposals, bids and/or your thinking.

1. Spell check.
I forgot to spell check something recently. Fortunately this wasn't a proposal so all it cost me was a little embarrassment when I got an email pointing out the typo. Don't let spell checking replace proper proof-reading, but it's a good place to start.

2. Reading blogs and newsletters.
Don't just read great proposal blogs like The Proposal Guysand Tom Sant'sMessages that Matter.Read something that might just give you a new approach to something. Try Seth Godin and Reed Holden as a good place to start.

3. Creating a front page with impact.
Have a look at the front page of your proposal. Imagine it with 6 other similar documents. Would yours be the one that you wanted to reach out and read first? If it isn't...

4. Talk to your graphics people
Graphics can create a powerful way to convey complex messages, explain, persuade and aid retention in the reader. Get you graphics people involved in coming up with ideas to get you message across effectively.

5. Get feedback from the client
Call them, ask for a meeting, give them a form to fill out. However you do it, get some feedback off the people who thought you weren't good (or just not) persuasive enough - and especially off the clients who thought you were. Why did they choose you? Find out and leverage it in your next proposal.

6. Make a wish list of what you'd really like to be able to say in your proposals
If the technical people weren't there to say it can't be done it that time, with that budget, what would your perfect solution look like when you write a proposal? Figure it out and then ask "how can we do it?"

7. Edit a piece of boilerplate
Your boilerplate library may be huge...some of it goes back years. So freshen up one piece of content every day. Add the latest product release details or freshen up that resume with the most recent assignments. And whilst you are looking at resumes...

8. Take a picture of your project team
Not bad pictures, good quality professionally taken photographs that reflect your organisations style. It makes the resumes in your proposal a lot more readable.

9. Have a competition
Do you need to get new project case-studies from the sales team (who don't want to do them)? Then have a competition, they can submit as many as they like and the best one wins a good prize. Credit to Tom Sant's messages that matter for that one.

10. Visit Learn to Write Proposals, of course! Just enough time to read our latest articles and subscribe to our newsletter, blog and twitter feed! And let us bring the best proposal resources, advice and information straight to you.