In last week's issue of MFTM, we identified The Most Common Sales Proposal Mistakes. This week we share tips for writing a better proposal:

Tell a Compelling and Relevant Story. The most interesting and compelling reading material for any human being is content about them, and customers are no exception. The plot of every sales proposal should be how we can help the customer eliminate problems and realize greater success. Too often, the proposal is all about our company and what we can do, and that is only half of the story. In other words, the sales proposal needs to go beyond features and advantages, and include benefits!

Beyond benefits that directly impact the customer, look for ways to personalize the proposal beyond the logo on the cover and automated "search and replace" of the client company's name. Include details unique to the client, reference client input during previous discussions or cite industry trends.

Get to the Point! Often, we are writing proposals in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI), and, in these cases, the scope of the content is dictated. However, even in these situations we still control how effectively and concisely we address each topic. DO address each topic requested. DO NOT use more words than necessary to convey key and compelling information. It may make us feel good to write epic prose and use big words to describe our products/services, but a novel with a proposal cover simply will not get read.

Budget Enough Time. Shortchanging yourself or your support team on the time needed to prepare, review and produce a top quality proposal will not only undermine the quality of the proposal itself, but your overall sales efforts and your relationship with support staff as well.  Assess the time needed for prep, and then pad it by a couple of days.

Have Structure and Process in Place. Do you have a system in place to support exemplary proposals? Establish a single point person(s) to maintain the latest and greatest standard template as the starting point for every proposal. This practice will produce a better document because you benefit from the ongoing input and improvements of other team members, and it is much more efficient than starting from scratch each time. Identify and recruit grammar/punctuation gurus to review every proposal before it goes out. Establish a standard process and timeframe for each step of the proposal development.

Consistent Format and Branding. When it comes to creating a superior sales proposal, the devil is absolutely in the details! Every organization should have a standardized template for new business proposals that includes cover art, font style, font size and page formatting. There is a lot that goes into "page formatting" including margins, size and placement of section headings, format of bulleted information as well as headers and footers.

Allow Ample Time for Proofing. Always have a fresh set of eyes proof your proposal before it is sent, and leave a reasonable amount of time for the proofer to do a thorough job.

Remember, the quality of our sales proposal may determine whether we get the opportunity to present and move forward in the sales process. Let's make sure we give ourselves every possible advantage!