Winning sales proposals… how to make them stunning…

…you’ve done the hard work… or at least you think you have… but what else creates the success?

In the previous blog on how to write wining sales proposals we touched on a few points about the layout… such as makes sure that certain sections were numbered and cross referenced, include the client’s logo with yours on the front page (your logo always on the right had side). To be honest every section should be numbered and the subheadings too.

If it’s a long proposal, include a contents page at the front; having used the headings functionality in Word or equivalent tools all sections will then be listed in the contents so it makes it easier for everyone to find relevant sections, refer to them in meetings and conversations etc.

You may even consider adding a wide notes margin on the page for the person reading the proposal to use.

Most proposals are sent as a PDF to clients/prospective clients these days but ask if it would be helpful for them to have some hard copies as well. This saves the client having to print the copy before they can read it. Let’s not kid ourselves, many people will want to print a copy to take write on, take to meetings etc.


If it’s a long document especially if the nature of the proposal means graphics are included then consider producing a true e version of the proposal. Lots of people use smart tables, and many use kindles to read all of their books these days, and so this might be a great way for them to read it and also make digital notes or add digital book marks as an alternative method.

If you are part of a full public/open tender process the client may specify the media and format responses should be delivered in – if they haven’t considered an eBook version then ask them if that would be useful or simply deliver it that way in any event.

The size of font and the particular font used makes a real difference; personally I always choose a sans serif font as I find it easier to read. And if using an eBook version you may have to consider which works best for both or use different fonts for the two formats.

Make sure there’s plenty of white space and that the minimum font size is 12.

If you are printing a copy of the proposal use good quality paper, 120 gsm as a minimum and use colour to break the pages up, I always use my corporate colours for the headings.

Don’t overload the client with copies, only send them as many as they need. If you are sending them corporate brochures, annual accounts etc. then ask if its OK for these to be sent as a PDF version.

If you are sending hard copies then this may mean that you have to complete the proposal earlier then the deadline to be able to deliver the hardcopies within the deadline. And don’t forget to use good quality envelopes and or packaging.

If you’ve been asked to provide names of clients who will act as references then make sure these are provided, too many businesses will say these will be provided when they have reached the next stage, usually to protect the person acting as the referee/reference site from receiving too many calls. If that’s the case then perhaps its time to ask for some more testimonials and ask if these people would be prepared to act as referees for you in the future.

Consider how you can include a section within the proposal which is in effect a partially completed order form, call it something different though as people are averse to completing forms. If you’re simply using the document to confirm everything that’s been agreed and it’s a formality then this is a key part of the document.

And consider how you can make the proposal as personal as possible, remember people buy from people and its about a partnership.

Using the information gathered from previous meetings and conversations include some questions that will generate ‘yes’ answers. This starts to build a pattern; they are soft yeses and will start to create a pattern.

Use language patterns that the client uses; again you’d have recognised and noted these in the information gathering stage. All the information you’ve gathered should be gone through with a fine toothcomb to make sure that every nugget is used wisely and effectively.

Check and recheck spelling; print a full copy to proof read as well as proof reading on screen. We see things differently when reading from a paper version to reading on screen. And get someone else to read the proposal through the client’s eyes…. Does it provide full answers and solutions? Has too much jargon been used? Does the information flow in a logical way?

If you are a sole trader or micro business and there’s not someone in the business who can do this sort of proof reading then use a VA to at least proof read the document. And if using Word or its equivalent isn’t your forte then use them to also make sure the document layout is consistent. Its a good investment for the success of the proposal.

Don’t forget to recheck the layout after things like track changes have been taken out and make sure that the version saved is the final version and not final showing mark up. Double check that every track change has been accepted or rejected. Again if you use a VA they can do this for you as part of their brief.

This may seem like basic 101 of document preparation but you and I have seen these mistakes made by others on more than one occasion I’m sure and if you’re like me you’ve also made that school girl or school boy error too. But just the once…

Bind the hard copy proposals or at least put them in a folder, not only does it make the proposal look more attractive and professional but protects the document and makes it easier for the client.

And remember speed stuns… the sooner you deliver the proposal after a conversation the better… the conversations and or meetings will be remembered and it again demonstrates the professionalism of the business but never sacrifice quality of information, responses, spelling and presentation for speed. Diarise the preparation time and treat is like any other client deliverable. And ensure that others in the team do the same.