You should always regard the audience for your proposal as skeptical.

If you don’t know me, I’m Dr Clare Lynch of the Doris and Bertie Writing School, and I’m on a mission to help you become a better, more confident, more persuasive writer.

Today I want to answer a question that one of my students asked me about writing business proposals, and specifically business proposals that’ll be read by a variety of different readers. Here’s his question.

In a multi-level sales process, who is my audience?

I’m a leader with a management consultancy firm, and approving our work often requires multiple levels of leadership to read our work. Sometimes it’s the end user who does the reading and then recommends his pick to the buyer. Other times the top buyer does all the reading. In cases in which a writer doesn’t know exactly whom to write to, how do you choose which reader you should be channeling?

So that’s a really great question and one I’m sure lots of business writers can relate to. So writing business proposals aimed at multiple audiences is always going to be a challenge but, and you’ll be glad to hear this, it’s an easy challenge to overcome.

It’s absolutely possible to hit different readers in the same document. The secret is to create a clear structure and equally clear signposting.

So, I know what you’re thinking.


What’s signposting? And what’s it got to do with business proposals?

So what do I mean by signposting? Well in the real world street sign posts help guide us to a destination. Similarly, in a business proposal signposts are those elements that help you get where you want to be. For example:

·         headings

·         subheadings

·         contents pages

These are all elements that help a reader navigate your text, and these devices allow your reader as well to scan your document and to pick and choose what they want to take from it.

Whether we like it or not, all readers scan. It’s why newspapers and magazines front load their articles so all the crucial information is in the headline and the first sentence of the story. After all, how many of us get to the end of a news article, or even the second or third paragraph.

Similarly, busy business readers will be grateful for a business proposal that helps them scan the document, especially if different readers are scanning for different information.

So for example, let’s say you’re putting together a proposal to switch over to a new software package across your organization.

The CFO is likely to be interested in how and why the new software will increase revenues and cut costs.

Meanwhile the customer services manager will be more interested in what the new tech will do for their customer satisfaction metrics.

Meanwhile the IT team will want to see evidence of how easily the new software can be integrated into the organisation’s existing infrastructure.

So if you want to persuade all three parties the structure and signposting of your business proposal need to make it easy for the CFO to learn about the financial benefits of your service. Likewise your structure and signposting need to make it easy for that customer services bod to dig into what the software will do for her KPI’s. And again, similarly, you need to make it easy for the IT person to find your evidence that the new software can be easily integrated into the organisation’s existing infrastructure.

So, if you need to hit different stakeholders with different, I don’t know, shall we call them persuasion points, then my advice for you would be to do the following.

First of all develop a very very clear idea in your mind about what motivates each particular type of reader - in our example, the CFO, the marketing professional, and the IT bod. And when you’re planning your report, craft a separate message or messages for each reader.

Then, structure your business proposal around these three separate messages, or however many people it is you’re targeting. For example, group all the messages aimed at the finance types together in one section, and all the messages aimed at the marketing team in a separate section. All the messages aimed at the IT decision makers in a separate section still.

And here’s the key thing – make that structure of your business proposal really, really clear by labelling each section with headings and subheadings. Headings and subheadings that allow that CFO, or the marketing bod, or the IT professional to find what’s relevant to her.

And equally, actually, that allow her to safely ignore what’s less relevant and what’s designed to persuade those other stakeholders. Don’t expect everyone to read every part of your proposal. Instead give each reader permission to skip the parts they don’t need to read.


One final tip

Be sure to work on the wording of your labels, to make them as compelling, specific and dynamic as possible.

For example, let’s say a section of your proposal is aimed at a decision-maker in the customer experience team. Which of these two headings is going to grab their attention better.

Implications for customer satisfaction metrics


Boost customer satisfaction metrics by 25%

For me, the second of these is much more compelling because it offers a much clearer and more specific benefit. What customer experience expert wouldn’t want to see a 25% uplift in how their performance is measured.


To sum up

So, to sum up, successfully producing a proposal that’s aimed at different decision-makers involves a four-stage process.

1.       Put yourself in each reader’s shoes - consider each decision-maker separately and make separate notes on what motivates each one

2.       Structure your report into separate sections aimed at each decision-maker

3.       Label sections clearly, with headings that make it clear what they’re about and which reader they’re aimed at

4.       Polish your labels so they grab attention by really bringing out the benefits of your proposal for that particular decision-maker


Ok, so let me know if this video’s been useful. I’d love to hear your comments below!

For more writing advice, enrol in my online course, Writing With Confidence, available at the Doris and Bertie Writing School.


You should always regard the audience for your proposal as skeptical.
You should always regard the audience for your proposal as skeptical.



You should always regard the audience for your proposal as skeptical.

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What five 5 elements are normally included in the body of a formal proposal?

The body of a formal proposal can contain any or all of the following elements: facts and evidence to support your conclusions, the proposed solution (what you have to offer), the work plan, a statement of qualifications, and a breakdown of costs.

Why is it important to package your proposal attractively and make it inviting and readable?

Make sure your proposal is letter perfect, inviting, and readable. Readers will prejudge the quality of your products or services by the proposal you submit. Mistakes can cost major opportunities.

Which of the following can be used to assess the reputation of an organization and the emotional quality of the online conversations about it?

Sentiment analysis is the process of detecting positive or negative sentiment in text. It's often used by businesses to detect sentiment in social data, gauge brand reputation, and understand customers.

When drafting website content How does the inverted pyramid style of presenting information help the reader?

2. Inverted pyramid gets your point across. Placing your article's information in a descending order of importance means that your reader will get the main point of your article within the first few sentences.