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Keep proposal texts to the point

Especially when it comes to proposals where you have to stick to the prescribed maximum number of pages, but also when it comes to other types of offers, it is important to stay to the point. To the point, yet complete and convincing. Sales professionals and proposal writers can have a hard time. The following advice helps to shorten longer texts without losing the core.

Main issues and side issues

Determine in advance what the customer or prospect needs to know and what is 'nice to know'. Additional notes or additional explanations can be added as an attachment. In this way, the customer or prospect immediately receives a clear proposal.

Choose one example

It is more comfortable for the customer or prospect when the number of examples is limited to one. It is stronger to choose one example and delve deeper into it than to overload the customer or prospect with examples. Giving multiple examples is tempting, but it prolongs the proposal, diverts attention and can even lead to confusion.

Kill your darlings and writing is deleting

“Kill your darlings” (William Faulkner) stands for: delete the words, phrases and even paragraphs that the author himself likes best. In most cases, these are the words or phrases that are not necessary to clearly describe supply and demand. “Writing is deleting,” was a proposal by writer and columnist Godfried Bomans. The Flemish writer Willem Elsschot based the Elsschot test on this. The trial is actually a kind of checklist that allows you to review the proposal text. In the Elsschot test, the maximum is deleted without losing the core or intention. The message becomes shorter and clearer at the same time. In addition, there is a good chance that the message will be well received and the proposal will produce the desired result.

Work with enumerations

Fact: Enumerations are always read. Use enumerations to split a long sentence into parts, or use enumerations as part of an AIDA proposal. AIDA offers are highly successful and are based on the copywriting formula of the same name. AIDA stands for Attention — getting attention from your customer or prospect, Interest — arousing interest and connecting, Desire — responding to the needs and desires of the customer or prospect, and Action — prompting action. An AIDA list has a prominent place in the offer. The list addresses the Desire of customers or prospects and highlights the benefits, results, or USP/UBRs (Unique Selling Points and Unique Buying Reasons) of a product or service. List a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 7 and the strongest points at the top and bottom of the list. Indeed, research has shown that the points at the beginning and at the end are best remembered (serial-position effect, Hermann Ebbinghaus).

Avoid cumbersome phrases

When proposaling, some sales professionals go along with the formal language used in the proposal criteria. However, this can cost them dearly, because this language is passive and that means more words anyway. Formal and passive language often uses “being” or “becoming” in combination with a past participle. Preferably write actively. In active sentences, the subject performs the action, while in passive sentences, the subject undergoes the action, as in the following example:

Jansen BV carries out the assignment
(active, because Jansen BV (subject) executes it)

The assignment will be carried out by Jansen BV
(passive, because the assignment (subject) undergoes it)

One way to stimulate active writing is to limit the number of verbs in a sentence to one.


When reviewing the proposal, it is important to check the text one more time for repetitions. Now is the time to further fine-tune the proposal. When you repeat, don't just think of long sentences or paragraphs; short sentences and summaries also include repetitions. For example, rising training costs as well as increasing purchasing costs. Finetune this in: rising training and purchasing costs.


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