Simply stated, poorly written proposals are less likely to produce new sales or funding.
“Make no mistake—the best written proposal will not win money for a weak idea,” writes Robert Porter, Director of the Proposal Development Team at Virginia Tech. “But it is also true that many good ideas are not funded because the proposal is poorly written.”
But what about the reverse? Are better written proposals more likely to produce desired results?
To some degree, it’s self-evident that proposals need to meet a minimum threshold of professionalism. One survey found that nearly two-thirds of respondents will refuse to do business with an organization whose written materials include grammar and/or spelling errors.
But beyond a minimum level of writing quality, will higher quality writing produce commensurately better results?
This is a non-trivial question. Proposals are often essential to the organizations and individuals who produce them. A proposal for grant funding can spell the difference between continuing one’s research or operations and shutting down. For a business, a sales proposal is often a critical step in procuring new business and revenue.
So, it’s worth asking if your team has the writing skills to do their proposals justice and, if not, if it’s worth developing those skills.
The answer seems to be yes. One study looked at writing quality in published articles and the influence of those publications through higher numbers of citations back to them and found “To test whether there is a benefit to writing better, we converted our 11 components into a single quantifiable index we call the writing index. Our analysis suggests that influential articles [those earning more citations] had more positive writing components.”
The idea is that better written materials are clearer, more accessible, and more persuasive – and thus produce better outcomes.
But all of that is a matter of skill. Writing persuasively requires a different bag of writing tools and tricks than writing academically, for example. The latter needs an objective and dispassionate tone, but the former needs to cultivate interest and excitement. So, well-written proposals may need to incorporate style and strategies with which the writers may not be experienced or practiced, even if they’re accomplished in other domains.
Writing a proposal for granting funding or a business proposal isn’t the same as writing presentations, reports, articles, or even marketing collateral. It requires specific skills and strategies.
How can your team improve their proposal writing skills?
1. Understand what makes a good proposal. For more guidance, learn about seven keys to proposal writing.
2. Read both winning and losing proposals and assess how they’re different.
3. Practice: it’s impossible to improve any writing skill without putting it to regular use.
4. Get training. Since proposal writing requires a specific skillset, learn how to create winning proposals that produce desired results.At Hurley Write, we have business writing courses spanning multiple disciplines.