How to Improve the Business Proposal Writing Process

Updated on March 27, 2018
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Stephen Bush is a business writing and business proposal expert. He is the CEO and Chief Business Writer for AEX Commercial Financing Group.

Improving Business Proposals
Improving Business Proposals

Are You Overlooking Business Proposals?

Writing business proposals is a popular and effective business development strategy that is nevertheless overlooked by many business owners and managers. Technical writing expertise is often required for business proposal writing, and it is certainly possible that the lack of these specialized capabilities contributes to a reduced usage of proposals. But whatever the circumstances, proposal writing should be fully understood by organizations of all sizes. This is especially true of businesses that are not currently emphasizing proposals as a business development tool.

Twelve statements about understanding and improving the proposal writing process are displayed in the following table.

Writing Business Proposals: Why and How
Effective business proposals can revive a business.
Government agencies and companies routinely request proposals.
Unsolicited business proposals are misunderstood and under-utilized.
Successful proposals can be as short as one page.
Business proposals are cost-effective marketing tools.
Successful proposals usually lead to immediate business.
Proposal writing is often the best business development strategy.
Unsolicited proposals are frequently more successful than requested proposals.
Business proposal writing has fallen into a state of disrepair in many organizations.
Collaboration is an important ingredient in successful business proposals.
Business proposals can be difficult to improve with a low-bidder mentality.
Business proposals can impact “first impressions.”
12 Observations About Business Proposals

More details are provided below. Please remember that an effective process for using proposals can involve specialized and technical writing — there are likely to be potential problems to anticipate and avoid as any company attempts to include business proposals in their strategic efforts to increase sales and revenue. The following quote is one of my favorite reminders that good business writing can always become better writing.

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.

— James Michener

Effective business proposals can revive a business.

Do You Need to Revive Your Business?

When a struggling company is evaluating methods to turn things around, an immediate emphasis on proposals should be considered. While no stone should be left unturned in desperate business circumstances, business proposal writing deserves priority attention due to a solid history of producing positive and timely results. Business proposals can involve a need for some technical and specialized writing capabilities, and the inclusion of proposal experts is one solution that can remove such potential obstacles. Because effective proposals can lead to immediate business, this sales development tool can serve as a key strategy for reviving businesses during a vulnerable period.

Government agencies and companies routinely request proposals.

Who Uses Business Proposals to Award Contracts?

Starting with the good news, there are regularly thousands of companies and government agencies publicly announcing that they are actively looking for candidates to do business with on an immediate basis. The bad news is that there are usually very specific requirements for qualifying and submitting proposals, and businesses might need some expert help to participate successfully in any business development opportunities involving proposal submission.

However, the current economic climate is proving to be challenging for almost all companies, and many businesses are struggling to remain solvent and profitable. It seems only prudent in such an environment that a company wanting to increase their sales and improve their bottom line would start by communicating with prospective customers that have spent both time and money to openly announce their immediate product and service needs via a request for proposal (RFP) process.

Easy-to-read is hard to write.

— Pam Zollman

Unsolicited business proposals are misunderstood and under-utilized.

Do You Use Unsolicited Business Proposals?

The best-known variation of a proposal is generally considered to be one that is requested formally by a Request for Proposal (RFP). In a direct contrast, an unsolicited proposal is produced and submitted without such a formal RFP solicitation process. There are many situations in which either unsolicited or informally solicited proposals can lead to successful business opportunities. This approach (using unsolicited proposals) is one that smaller companies should especially consider for a number of reasons. For example, unsolicited and informal proposals will almost always involve less direct competition from other prospective suppliers of similar goods and services.

Successful proposals can be as short as one page.

Business Proposals: How Long?

While most formal proposal processes will require submissions of varying length that can range upward to hundreds of pages, there are multiple situations in which a one-page proposal will work just fine. As appealing as the shorter version might be, the challenge is to know how and when to choose this route. One viable possibility is when a company is pursuing an unsolicited proposal, and a one-page submission can prove to be an ideal attention-getter if done properly.

Business proposal writing has fallen into a state of disrepair in many organizations.

The Value of Specialized Business Writing Is Often Misunderstood

Some small businesses have actually decreased their use of activities like business proposal writing because of a belief that it is not important enough to justify the effort. The increasing visibility of companies through internet exposure has shifted much attention regarding business writing to concepts such as blogs, online articles, specialized internet publishing sites and company websites.

Internet business writing success involves a shifting group of parameters. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are a vital part of any written content on the Internet. SEO strategies have come and gone during the past 10 years in part because search engines such as Google have constantly changed how their algorithms find and define high quality content. This point cannot be overlooked because in practical terms business writing published on the Internet is ineffective if the search engine results do not include it.

The standards for what constitutes successful business writing are evolving on a daily basis. Perhaps an analogy to advertising campaigns is appropriate. Marketing strategies and advertising content are regularly updated to keep them fresh and as contemporary as possible. With business writing, new approaches are also needed.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

— Mark Twain
Business Development Improvements
Business Development Improvements

Business proposals can be difficult to improve with a low-bidder mentality.

Is Business Writing Becoming Less Important or More Important?

Many organizations and individuals are paying freelance business writers less and less for writing assignments. Typical examples include $5 to $10 for press releases and other short pieces. Is it any wonder when an "important" press release does not achieve the desired impact after someone selects the "lowest bid" to produce it?

Writing business proposals can also suffer from the over-zealous attempt to win critical business development contracts with minimal cash outlays. In the prevailing ultra-competitive business environment, are you more likely or less likely to succeed by choosing the low bid for business writing projects?

Business proposals can impact “first impressions.”

Your Organization's Content Writing: Long-term First Impressions

The all-important "first impression" of your organization is often formulated after someone reads a business proposal. However, it is equally possible that other forms of business writing will “get there first” and serve as the basis for first impressions that are usually lasting ones. The lesson to be learned is that business writing quality matters in multiple contexts — emails, case studies, press releases, white papers, extended articles, proposals and all other forms of written communication deserve everyone’s full attention.

Writing business proposals is an effective business development strategy that is overlooked by many business owners and managers.

— Stephen Bush

© 2015 Stephen Bush

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