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A compelling proposal: Writing effectively for the intended audience

Training Team

Writing Effective Business Proposals
Writing Effective Business Proposals

When it comes to business proposals, it’s absolutely crucial that the proposal resonates well with the intended audience in order to generate interest in the idea.

Without the buy-in of decision-makers, a million dollar idea can be stopped short of production, and often this delay, or even complete halting of the idea, is the result of a poor proposal. 

We sat down with Penny Taylor, a trainer with over 20 years of engineering experience, to discuss some stereotypical challenges faced by proposition authors and to talk about her course Writing Effective Business Proposals.

Can you explain the importance of business proposals for engineers?

Generally, engineers are not good at persuasive writing, they are good with facts and figures. I often hear engineers I am working with say ‘I expect the numbers to speak for themselves’ and they don’t appreciate that you have to make the numbers tell a story. Being able to write a compelling business proposal is a key skill for engineers who need to get resources to support the developments they are working on. We’re not just talking about sales people writing proposals to win new business, but getting support, backing and investment for internal projects.

The course itself, what’s your 30 second elevator pitch?

My experience in industry and with my clients, is that engineering staff are not confident or skilled at writing a compelling business case. This is partly through a lack of financial understanding and partly through a lack of skill in putting together a clear, compelling argument. Both of those areas will be covered in this course.

Using the right language that will engage senior management such as ‘return on investment’, ‘payback period’ or giving figures as ‘net present value’ will help them understand the financial impact and benefits. If you don’t put it in their language, they won’t be interested and they have other competing priorities for their attention.

One of the aspects of the course is how to express numbers in an impactful way. How much of a difference will this make to a report?

Numbers on their own don’t mean very much, they have to be put into context.  If I tell you that you shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, that is quite an abstract fact, but if I tell you that you should limit yourself to 7 pints of low-strength lager, beer or cider or 1.4 bottles of wine per week, then that makes much more sense.

By giving you more precise, yet simplistic information, it can be more accurately adhered to, and no information is lost in translation. From a business proposal sense, it’s about exploring how to best convey the information you want to communicate to the intended audience.

What are the major risks that poor business proposals make a business vulnerable to?

The major risk is that a good project or product doesn’t get developed or worked on because the proposal was so badly written. 

There is a well-known example of a chemical company that developed a market-leading fertiliser, which became their most profitable product. When going back through their archives, they discovered that the exact formulation was developed some 10 years earlier, but because the report was so badly written, the board never invested in its production and so the company lost 10 years of profits from this product.

If you are the engineer working on a new product and you can see its potential to bring in revenue and help the company achieve its strategic ambitions, then you need to make sure that the decision-makers get to know the key facts and business case, so they can support and invest in it.

Meet the Trainer: Penny Taylor

Penny TaylorPenny Taylor leads the Writing Effective Business Proposals course at the Institution.


The course provides an invaluable tool for engineers throughout the world to help elevate the quality of their proposal. To find out more about the course, visit our training website or give our Training Team a call on +44 (0)20 7304 6907.


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