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Rules to Better Proposals - 13 Rules

  1. ​Do you have a cover page with client's photo?

    Add a photo of the client on your proposal cover to make your proposal memorable.

    Search for the client photo in Google Images or Facebook:

    • "Tom Northwind" Australia
    • "Tom Northwind" Facebook

    Proposals ClientPhoto
    Figure: Remember to add a photo of the client

  2. Do you have a strong header and footer?

    A strong header and footer will make the client sure that document is from your company in any page he is looking at.

    Make sure your document contains:

    • Header - The company logo and contact information
    • Footer - The filename (hyperlinked with the URL) and the version number

    bad footer
    Bad example - The link is too long and messy

    proposal header and footer
    Good example - The header and footer are consistent, using the branding colours and all the useful information

  3. Do you have a table summarizing the major features and options?

    Use a table to summarize the major features of the project. Columns that are needed are:

    • Required
    • Desired
    • Option A (Recommended)
    • Option B

    Proposals OptionAHighlighted
    Figure: Highlight the option recommended

  4. Do you have a proposal template?

    A proposal Word template means that anyone in the company will be able to easily create a new proposal for a client following the standards. It can literally cut the time of proposal development in half.

    When creating the template, remember to add instructions to the user in yellow (things to be edited/deleted) and check you are following Rules to Better Proposals.

  5. Do you include "Commercial in confidence" in your proposal?

    "Commercial in Confidence" information is to be made known to anyone that the proposal in a confidential document. Competing companies are never to be given another company's information in regard to performance specifications or any aspects of pricing, quotation, tender, bid, nor any other commercial or proprietary information.

  6. Do you perform a thorough check on documents before they go to the client?

    Before any document goes to a client a test please for the document is to be completed. The first test is the technical test please. When that is passed the Design test please is to be completed.

    The necessary amount of time should be allocated. If there is a time limitation, the manager will inform which parts should be checked in prior.

    Technical Test

    • Document Body
    • Check all spelling mistakes
    • Check all calculations and cost in the document
    • Make sure all customised technical sections are technically correct

    Design Test

    • Cover page
    • Check the client details are correct
    • Company name
    • Company Champion name
    • Company champion email
    • Company champion position
    • Confirm date the proposal is sent
    • Confirm version Number
    • Check project name
    • Check author


    The header of every page should contain a field from the document properties section which is the name of the document. Selecting all and pressing F9 won’t update this. It has to be done manually.

    Document Body

    • Make the correct company name is being used
    • Check all spelling mistakes
    • Make sure the resource details correct in the "Resources" section: 
    • Name
    • Rates
    • Image
    • Make sure the images relate to the content and the captions are related to the images
    • Make sure the document is formatted correctly to the SSW standard
    • Headers
    • Bullet points
    • Fonts
    • Images
    • Spacing
    • Tables
    • Last thing to complete
    • Update all fields before final save
  7. Do you talk about the client first and about your company in the end?

    At SSW, our proposals are to be divided into 3 parts:

    • The white section: This is the document information.
    • The yellow section: The actual proposal, where all the information for the client can be found
    • The red section: This is the SSW section and contains a brief presentation of our company and appendices. Please note that this section is not as relevant to client and therefore comes last

    Proposals ClientPagesFirst
    Figure: Relevant information comes first on our proposals

  8. Do you to put the client logo on the pages that are about the client's project only?

    It's very important to make clear which part of your proposal is relevant for the client or not. Adding the client logo in the pages related to their company is a good way to do this.

  9. Do you use a consistent font for the whole document?

    The use of many different fonts in the same document is unprofessional. At SSW, we use Open Sans as the standard font.

    Also ensure that titles, subtitles and content are consistent. You can create this by using document styles.

  10. Do you use branding in the filename?

    It is important that the documents you provide are branded appropriately. This is not just the document's formatting, but the Title of the document and the File Name as well.

    At SSW our proposals Title and File Name are always prefixed with SSW. This allows for clients to easily recognise a proposal provided by us before even opening the document, it also immedietly identifies our documents to anyone else who may read them in the future.

  11. Do you use PDF instead of Word?

    When providing a proposal to a client it should be in PDF format. Reasons for this are:

    • PDFs cannot be edited without leaving a digital footprint
    • PDF is a universal file format across different OS'
    • File Size is decreased
    • Reading is free and is now built into browser, requring no unique software to view
  12. Do you use photos of your employees to make the document more personal?

    Include photos of the project manager and others involved in running the project not just names and rates. A photo helps the client see inside the company, making the relationship more personal.

    It is also valid and important when talking about a case study to visually show which employee was responsible for that piece of work.

    Proposals EmployeesPhotos
    Figure: Use photos of your employees to make the document more personal

  13. Do you use images in your proposals?

    An image tells a thousand words. Using screenshots and pictures can help selling your ideas and add confidence to your proposals by giving visual examples of similar projects you have done.

    Proposals Screeshot
    Figure: Add a screenshot of a related project

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