Are These The Seven Deadly Sins of Proposal Writing?

I recently picked up a copy of Tom Sant’s Persuasive Business Proposals. This is a commonly mentioned book about proposal writing. My plan is to read the entire thing, gulp, and compare it to Laura Ricci’s The Magic of Winning Proposals (which I liked).

In Sant’s book, he describes what he believes to be the seven deadly sins of proposal writing.

His deadly sins are as follows:

  1. No focus on the client’s business problems and payoff.
  2. No persuasive structure.
  3. No clear differentiation of this vendor compared to others.
  4. No compelling value proposition.
  5. No impact, no highlighting–key point are buried.
  6. Overuse of jargon, too long, or too technical.
  7. Misspellings and mistakes

These deadly sins are detailed in a document you can find at this link. What do you think? Are these the deadliest of sins when it comes to proposals?

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  1. My only feedback is on the construction of this mini-article. You’ve put into my head a numerical list when you used “seven” (twice), but the list is alphabetized. I would expect a numbered list for consistency and unerring identification.

    • Matt Handal says

      You are right. It has to do with the style sheet used. Subscribers saw it as a numbered list. Unfortunately, everyone else saw it as an “alphabetized list.”

      I guess I broke one of Mr. Sant’s rules! 🙂

  2. I really don’t give a rat’s rear whether you you used a numerical listing or alphabetized the listing. What I do care about is #1 (aka< “A”) on Tom’s list of deadly sins. You can pretty much commit the remaining sins, but as long as you get this one right, you will win. The trouble is that few people master figure out what a customer is truly looking for, then provide that customer with a solution that solves that problem. If you do not get this one right, you might as well not submit.

    • George,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I’m not sure focusing on the client’s business problems and payoff will, in itself, win you the job when going up against tough competition (Maybe if you are the only firm that does it). But I agree that it is probably the deadliest of Sant’s sins.


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