Reviewing a proposal is a critical step in creating a winning proposal, but one we don’t often talk about. Fred Wilson has a great post about Checking Your Work. He’s talking about blog posts, but the lessons apply to any kind of writing, especially sales proposals. There are pieces of proposals that are part of your template and you rarely if ever vary. But the critical parts are the ones about the specific customer problem and your specific solution. The ones that will vary. And the ones that make all the difference not only for the proposal, but for the success of the project.
Some companies have approval processes or other formal reviews. For complex proposals where multiple people have input, you need someone on point to validate not just the individual contributions, but how they fit together as a whole.
Most proposals are simpler, involving only the sales rep or business owner. This makes putting the proposal together easier– you don’t have to coordinate. But it makes reviewing harder. Reviewing your own work is tough because in your mind, you can read what you meant to say, or what you thought you said, sliding past misspeled words bad grammar. Even worse, parts of your proposal may be unnecessary, or, while grammatically correct, poorly written.
To get your proposal in great shape, make sure you allocate time for reviewing and changes. If your proposal is due at 5pm, don’t finish writing at 4:45, give it a quick once-over, and send it out. Ideally, finish the draft at least a day before the deadline. Some of the issues arise from ambiguity in requirements and it’s best to go to the prospect with questions.
Now that you’ve carved out space in your calendar, here’s the simple trick:
Read your proposal aloud, slowly, as if you were presenting it in a meeting with your prospect(s), including people who have no idea who you are.
This will help you catch:
- spelling and grammar errors
- poorly written phrases (do you sound like a pompous clown because your proposal is full of jargon– your high school english class may be ruining your proposal)
- bad flow and organization
Then, go back and make your fixes. Then, read it again. Then go back and make your fixes. Then, do it again.
The number of iterations will depend on how much fixing you need to do, and the level of polish required for the proposal. I won’t pretend that all proposals need to read like F. Scott Fitzgerald, but the act of reading them aloud when you don’t have someone else to review will get you to the appropriate level.
(In Mimiran, there’s a “Preview” mode, which shows what the prospect will see. I open this up in one window, and have the edit view for that section in another window.)