Problem/Solution—Shipley Business Winning Tip: Proposal Graphics


Problem: Our proposals look boring, and we fear they’re missing the mark. 

High-level readers of proposals, those either making or influencing the selection decision, often only skim proposals, looking at the graphics that stand out, then reading the captions, headings, highlight statements, and the executive summary. These readers must be able to see why you should be selected without reading any body text. If your proposal graphics are not leading the evaluator to key information, then they are missing the mark. 

Solution: Plan your graphics early, even before you write the text, and use them to convey your message. 

Writers of winning proposals tend to both visualize and state why they should be selected. After a single reading, most evaluators will remember twice as much of what they see in a graphic as what they read in text. In addition, when evaluators both see and read the same point. They recall six times as much. The key elements in retention were repetition and dual modes of acquisition. 

Effective graphics leave overall positive impressions and can make it easy for evaluators to find detailed answers to questions. 

Too many proposal writers still think that their customers are different or that their readers might be turned off by graphics. Such writers justify their lack of graphics with statements like, “Our evaluators are scientists, engineers, or accountants. They just want the facts.” 

Graphics done well are the facts. Poor, inappropriate graphics are an insult to the evaluator. 

Today’s readers see professional graphics in business documents, magazines, newspapers, TV, and movies. They expect similar quality graphics on professional proposals. The wide availability of high-quality graphics, graphics generation software, and color printers make it feasible to create eye-catching, professional graphics and integrate them into a proposal. 

The most successful sales people save time and stay on message by using similar graphics throughout the sales cycle. Reuse essentially the same graphics in sales presentations, white papers, executive summaries, proposals, and finals or short list briefings. Repetition increases retention. Just adapt graphics to the situation and medium. 

Follow these guidelines when creating and using graphics in your proposals: 

  • Select or create graphics that demonstrate your understanding, emphasize your strategy, and highlight your discriminators. 
  • Conceive the graphics before you write text. 
  • Select graphics that best support your message. 
  • Design or modify graphics until they are understandable. 
  • Keep graphics simple, uncluttered, and easy to read, with one key idea per graphic. 
  • Introduce graphics in the text before they appear in the proposal.  
  • Integrate graphics into the text. 
  • Orient graphics vertically.  
  • Minimize cumbersome foldouts. 
  • Minimize text in graphics. Concentrate text in an action caption. 
  • Number graphics in order of appearance in major sections.
  • Include an interpretative action caption with every graphic. 

Customer-focused graphics are often the difference between good and better proposals. 

Want to know more? Check out the Shipley Proposal Guide.