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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Winning Proposals

When you work hard to win the right to make a bid on a large sale, you don't want to lose the sale because of the way your proposal is presented. Consider the following important tips.

  • Your proposal must look professional. How you achieve that professional look depends on the size of the sale, the expectations of the person receiving it, and the technology you have to use. Be sure your facts are straight. Provide backup or references for statistics or conclusions you reach in your proposal. Have a colleague or even a team double-check your final draft.

  • Be sure there are no typos. Some people reject anything when they find a typo, however arbitrary that may seem. Get someone who is a great proofreader to read over your proposal. A good but time-consuming way to pick up typos is to have someone read it backward. That ensures that someone will not skip over a word that is misspelled by reading too quickly.

  • Organize the proposal in a way that is easy to follow. Include an executive overview that is no longer than one page. The overview should describe the major benefits of your proposal in terms of financial benefit and positive effect on the customer's organization and customers. It should also highlight how the proposal addresses the concerns and problems of the customer that you and members of the customer's team uncovered and a recommendation for the next step. Give an overview of what is in the rest of the proposal and why it is there.

  • Make your proposal easy to read. Readers should not have to struggle to understand jargon, bad grammar, or long run-on sentences. Avoid frequent use of the passive voice; it is confusing and weak. (For example, "The decision was made" is stated in the passive voice. "The project team decided" is stated in the active voice.) The active voice leads people to think that you believe in what you are saying.

  • If you can use graphics to illustrate a point, do so. A picture is quickly understood. Don't let glitz detract from the content. Don't overwhelm what you have to say with too much color, too many fonts, or unusual designs. Less is more.

  • Find ways to get your customer actively involved in reviewing the proposal. You could have a set of questions that you display and will answer as you go through the proposal. You can have a discussion and answer questions as you complete each part. You don't want to be the only one talking and you don't want to wait until you have finished to get customer feedback.

  • Address the concerns of others who may be reviewing the proposal. If you are presenting a proposal to your contact, who will then present it to a committee that you will not be able to attend, ask the customer if he or she is personally convinced your proposal is the right approach. Make sure you have addressed the concerns of the decision influencers as well as the decision makers.

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