Tutorials and resources for proposal writing and business development

How to Avoid Commitment in Proposal Writing

A good proposal answers the customer’s questions. A proposal done The Wrong Way sometimes has to avoid them. One reason is that if you somehow win the proposal, someone’s going to have to live up to any promises made. A good proposal wins because of those promises. Doing a proposal The Wrong Way might mean avoiding promises.

A good proposal avoids using passive voice. A proposal done The Wrong Way sneaks it in. In passive voice, instead of a noun performing the action, the subject receives the action or is acted upon. With passive voice, you can say that something will happen, or that the project will start, or software gets written without saying who will do it. Avoid using passive voice because it weakens the statements in your proposal. Strive for clarity. But, when you get into trouble, sneak it in to obfuscate what you’re saying. If the rest of your proposal is clearly written, it may not tarnish your credibility.

Another way to avoid commitment is to talk about your capabilities and experience instead of what you will do. Talk about how much you like marriage and kids, but don’t talk about dates or your plans for the honeymoon. Talk about the criteria that you will use to make decisions, and list the things you will take into consideration. Talk about having processes for getting things done without saying what the steps are. Talk about the benefits that will result without saying how you will deliver them. Talk about all the things that you can do for the customer, without saying what, when, or how you will do them. In all likelihood, this is completely true, since most companies will do anything the customer pays them for, and after award you can figure out what is included and what is an extra charge.

Finally, promise both sides. Say that you will involve the customer in decision making, but will not require any effort on their part. Offer them a single point of contact, but empower everyone on the project to solve the customer’s problems. Offer to hire all of the incumbent staff, but only if the customer likes them. You should separate conflicting statements by at least a paragraph, instead of putting them in the same sentence like we have done. Worded properly, you should not even be able to tell that there is a conflict.

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

Click here for more free articles like this one

Click here for hundreds more free articles we have published

The free articles on our site are samples of what's in the PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase. Our free articles openly discuss the theory and foundations behind our recommendations. PropLIBRARY provides the detailed templates, forms, and processes that make it quick and easy to turn theory into winning proposals.

See how our newest book makes it so much easier to figure out what should go in your proposals

Premium proposal tutorials, guides and samples:
How to Survive Your First Business Proposal
How to write a Management Plan
Proposal Sample Makeover
Proposal Formatting Guide
How to Write an Executive Summary
Business Development for Project Managers
509 Questions to Answer in Your Proposals
See all the proposal guides we publish

Get them all for half the price of purchasing them separately

Browse hundreds of free articles on all these topics:

Proposal Writing Advice
How to Write a Business Proposal
Proposal Management
Red Teams & Proposal Quality Validation
How to Create a Compliance Matrix
Process and Procedures
Win Strategies and Themes
How to Write an Executive Summary
Professional Services Marketing
Proposal Templates and Reuse
Training Program Considerations
Proposal Software Advice
Miscellaneous Tips
Proposal Graphics & Visual Communications
Storyboards and Content Planning
Oral Proposals and Presentations
Government Contracting
Request for Proposals (RFP)
Bid/No-Bid Decisions
Business Development and Marketing
Relationship Marketing and Customer Contacts
Sales Letters & Copy Writing
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
Small Business Development & Startup

About Us
Privacy Policy
Contact Us

Copyright © 2013. Please view the Terms of Use prior to copying or distributing. This site is part of the Network.