Writing Effective
Business Proposals


Tom and James

James Gould MSOE, MILEVE & Tom Potter LILEVE

The standard of our proposals is higher since attending the course.

Verified by Vent-Tech

Vent-Tech is a Local Exhaust Ventilation company that provides bespoke dust and fume extraction services. Based in Bristol, the company’s technologies help to capture and control hazardous substances which would otherwise be harmful to operators and workers in factories, workshops, warehouses and vehicles, among many other environments. Currently employing 18 engineers and technicians, the firm has been in business for 20 years. Major clients include the Royal Mint, Cranfield University, and Leonardo.

Vent-Tech specialises in delivering bespoke systems, rather than simply supplying off-the-shelf products. They consult with clients, design and install systems, and then test and maintain them. They also offer training.


Why did Vent-Tech approach the IMechE for in-company training?

Adrian Sims, Vent-Tech’s founder and Managing Director has long believed in the value of professional development. Indeed, as part of each employee’s annual review, the company puts together a training plan which includes technical courses that are directly related to each individual’s job (such as air quality monitoring or noise assessments), as well as more general business skills. Many of Vent-Tech’s staff produce client-facing documents, and so the company approached the IMechE for training around professional writing.

Why did Vent-Tech choose the Writing Effective Business Proposals course?

Like most engineering businesses, Vent-Tech regularly submits business proposals to both new and existing clients when bidding for work. James Gould, EngTech and Technical Manager at Vent-Tech, explains that having compared their own proposals to those of their competitors, they felt they were of a good standard. Still, “we knew we could do this better”.

Tom Potter, a Design Engineer at Vent-Tech, adds that “the idea was to get everyone on the same page and using best practices when writing proposals”.

Vent-Tech employees had already completed two other business writing courses with the IMechE which they had been pleased with. So, when the Writing Effective Business Proposals course came up, it felt like the next logical step.

Training tailored to Vent-Tech’s work

The IMechE delivered this training exclusively to eight Vent-Tech staff during a day-long online session in October 2022. This approach allowed the instructor to customise the course to Vent-Tech’s needs and included an analysis of recent business proposals the company had produced. By keeping the training in-house, it also ensured that any sensitive information contained in the proposals (on pricing and processes, for instance) was kept confidential.

Tom says that “because the training was tailored to our company” it meant that when the trainer “went through the presentation, we could kind of interrupt and pause and bring it back to what we do”. The team could have a brief internal meeting, “and say, ‘Oh, we could do that in this proposal’. And then we’d have a little brainstorm and then carry on with the rest of the lecture”.

Key learnings from the Writing Effective Business Proposals course

James explains that the day began with training around “the language to use in proposals, and how to show what you are proposing is better than a competitor’s”. A lot of this is about readability and creating a narrative which is “at the appropriate level for the client”. Specialists are often guilty of using jargon and technical terms which can be confusing for readers who don’t have the same technical background. So, learning to adjust style and content for different audiences was an important take-away, James says.  

He also notes that there was plenty of emphasis on the layout and design of proposals. “You don’t just want paragraph after paragraph of text, because people get bored of that and just skip straight to the price” he says. The course tutor showed Vent-Tech how to use images and graphics to illustrate the document and make it easier to consume. Ultimately, this is about “highlighting what makes your proposal stand out” and has the added benefit of allowing firms to differentiate their services on more than just price.

Besides the theoretical learning, the course also included practical tasks. “We went into breakout groups [online] and discussed ideas on how to improve the proposal, then got back together and put across our comments as a group and discussed with the tutor as well”.

The course instructor provided a handful of practical tips for improving proposals too. James and Tom both mention the readability feature in Microsoft Word as a particularly helpful tool the company now uses (it provides a score of how easy a document is to read and gives pointers to improve that score).

Impact of the course

“When we proofread one another’s proposals now, you can already see there are a lot less comments than their used to be” James says. At Vent-Tech, colleagues have always proofed each other’s work to iron out any mistakes. But, since attending this course, the quality of first drafts has improved significantly, he reports. Tom also reckons “the standard of our proposals is higher” since doing the course.

It is also notable that when proofreading a colleague’s work, “you know straight away” whether they have been on one of the IMechE’s business writing courses. For those who haven’t attended, “there are a lot more mistakes in their reports” James says. More generally, staff who attended the course have a clearer idea of what good likes like, and the team all follow the same process. This means that producing business proposals becomes much faster.

From a personal perspective, going on the IMechE’s business writing courses has helped with James’s writing in general. He is self-deprecating about his Bristolian syntax: “sometimes I would write something down and then think, ‘oh that’s terrible!’” He feels that going on the courses has helped with his grammar and word choice when producing more formal documents.

For Tom, the course also provided some useful ideas around writing methods. “The tutor explained about writing everything down on paper first with bullet points, and expanding on them to get something to paper, and then coming back and editing it”. This, he says, avoids the writer “getting stuck on a sentence in your first paragraph”, and is something he now uses regularly.

Another benefit of the course is that writing clearer business proposals reduces the risk of later conflicts with clients. James explains that when reading proposals “clients may sometimes think ‘oh, electrics are included’” when in fact Vent-Tech does not offer this service. The course helped the team learn how to highlight more clearly what they do and don’t offer, thereby reducing the risk of misunderstandings down the line.

What’s next for training at Vent-Tech?

With Vent-Tech’s focus on continual training, the firm is always on the lookout for courses that can build up its employees’ skills. As James puts it, it is about “finding courses that suit the company and could improve further on what we currently do”. This may involve formal training, but also includes attending webinars. “Even if you pick up something small and can use it” James says, “it’s worth doing the course”.

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Writing Effective Business Proposals

  • Duration:
    1 day
  • Location:
  • CPD Hours:
  • UK-Spec:
    C, D, E



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