in the new millwnium means fierce competition, aggressive marketing
and strategic alliances. The extent to which a business succeeds or
fails often depends upon that business's ability to be awarded
contracts or to attract other businesses into Joint Ventures or
strategic alliances. To accomplish either one usually requires two
key items: good ideas and the ability to present those good ideas in
a superbly developed business proposal.
are developed for one of two possible reasons.
A business entity
has called for tenders or has invited you to submit a RFP (Request
for Proposal). In this case, your goal is to be "short
listed," meaning that you will be one of the three or four
bidders who is awarded an interview. Your proposal must stand among
possibly dozens of submissions.
You have an idea,
concept or project that you want to propose to someone with the goal
of gaining support, funding or an alliance. In this case, there is no
competitive bidding process. However, your proposal must make a
favourable impression and must explain all aspects of your proposed
concept clearly and quickly. A document that is vaguely written,
difficult to understand or that presents more questions than answers
will likely be discarded promptly.
eleven tips are guidelines that I keep in mind when I develop a
business proposal for a client of my writing service:
you begin to write the proposal, summarize the concept in 2-3
sentences, then show it to a lay person and check for understanding.
If they don't grasp the basic idea, rewrite until they do. Until you
can do this, you are not ready to start writing the proposal. How
many times have you received a document that you had to read over and
over before you comprehended the meaning? When this happens, it may
be because your comprehension skills are under- developed, but it's
more likely that the writer substituted clarity of thought and good
document structure with sloppy thinking, wordy, rambling
explanations, vague descriptions and heavy reliance on buzzwords and
jargon. It's worth saying once again: If you can't summarize it in
2-3 sentences, you are not ready to start writing.
communicate, not to impress. If you have a good idea and you
communicate that idea clearly and effectively, the recipients will be
impressed. If you try to baffle them with your brilliance, you'll
Error Free: Your
proposal will be competing with proposals prepared by professional
writers, graphic designers and desktop publishers. You may not have
those resources at your disposal, but you can be fastidious about
checking for typing, spelling and grammatical errors. Spell checkers
can only go so far; the rest is up to you. Ask someone else to check
your document for errors before you submit it, or wait a few days
before rereading it. If you have worked on a document intensely, you
will "learn" to interpret errors as being correct. It takes
a fresh eye to spot the typos.
Print and Bind:
Print your document on good quality, heavy-bond paper, using either a
laser printer or a good-quality bubble jet. Take it to an office
service for backing and binding. For less than $10, you can produce a
nicely done, professionally presented package.
laying out your document, format it so the body of the text appears
in the right two-thirds of the page. The one-third of the page to the
left contains titles and white space. The white space to the
left allows the reader to make notes. This sounds like a trivial
matter, but it elicits positive reactions from recipients.
Include visual elements sporadically throughout your document. Logos,
clip art, graphs, charts, tables and other elements greatly enhance
the visual appeal of your document and make it easier for many people
to read and comprehend. Pages of pure text are tiring to the eye and
a challenge to the attention span. Additionally, many people are
visually oriented, meaning the preferred method of learning is
through imagery and not text.
Begin with a Title Page that includes images (graphics, pictures,
etc.), the name of the proposal recipient, the name of the project,
your company name and address, the date, and your copyright symbol.
Correct. Whether you support political correctness or whether you
don't, the issue here is to avoid offending the people who will
receive your proposal document. Avoid any language that can be
construed as offensive to any group of people - including women, men,
persons with disabilities, persons belonging to visible minorities,
senior citizens, and so on. If you're not certain of correct
terminology, consult with someone knowledgeable before submitting
Write for Global
Audiences: Emerging technologies, immigration policies and agreements
like NAFTA have produced a global marketplace. Documents nowadays
should be written with the understanding that they may be evaluated
by persons living in other countries or by persons for whom English
is a second language. Even if you are submitting your proposal to a
local business, they may well have joint ventures with international
companies, and these companies may be asked to peruse your document.
Unless your proposal is local to a specific geographic area, avoid
references that would not be understood by persons living in other
areas (or explain these references if you must use them). Also, avoid
the use of slang or expressions from pop culture. When persons from
other cultures study the English language, they are taught to speak
formal, correct English. They are often unfamiliar with the use of
Jargon Free: Every
industry has its own
"language" - words, terms and expressions that are common
to that industry but foreign to people from other industries. Avoid
the use of jargon, or if you must use it, explain it. For example,
expressions like "branding," "turnkey solution,"
"E-commerce" are not necessarily understood by everyone who
is doing business. Also remember that your proposal may go to a
committee that is comprised of people from various walks of life.
Make sure they understand what you are talking about.
was just said about jargon goes double for technology. If your
proposed project involves the use of technologies, be very careful
with your explanation. The persons reading the document may have
little or no technological background. Therefore, in the body of the
proposal, it's usually recommended that you explain your technology
in terms of what it will do - i.e. "A data base that members can
use to search for information about your products."
There is a place for detailed information about the technology that
you are proposing - and that spot is the appendix. In many cases, a
non-technically oriented business will engage a technology consultant
to review your proposed technology. This person can use the detailed
explanations that you include in the appendix while other readers
will be able understand the proposal itself.
guidelines in mind and you will be off to a good start with your next
June Campbell is a
professional writer whose work has appeared in a variety of
international print publications.
She also provides
business writing services as well as offering online sales of "How-to
Booklets and Templates for Business"