Proposal Writers Are Salespeople

A couple weeks back, I published a blog post about the top three books I recommend when I’m delivering a proposal training class or seminar.

  • One is specific to proposals (Persuasive Business Proposals by Sant)
  • Another is specific to selling and prospecting for new business opportunities (New Sales. Simplified. by Weinberg)
  • And a third is about how sellers can influence buyers (Influence by Cialdini)

I was hoping someone would ask why my book recommendation list to proposal development professionals would include two books about selling, and only one about proposals. Unfortunately, nobody asked the question (online, at least) so I’m going to ask and answer my own question.

 Q: Dave, why does your recommended reading list for proposal writers include two books about selling and only one book about proposals?

A. Good question! It’s because proposal writers are salespeople, too.

Proposal writers are salespeople

Proposal writers are salespeople.

We sell products and services just like our professional sales colleagues. The difference is they do their selling verbally and in person, and we do ours on paper. We don’t have the same responsibilities they do, of course, we aren’t responsible for knocking on doors, networking through organizations, and all the rest. But we’re still responsible for doing our part to close the sale they started, to find the most effective way to reiterate what they’ve been advocating in person during the sales process, to build persuasive arguments that make our solution relatable to the unique needs of each buyer. What we do is different from what they do, but it is still an integral part of the selling process, and that makes us salespeople.

Let me be clear.

Too many people in the proposal development world think of themselves as technical writers. There’s certainly a technical component to many of the proposals we write; I’m not denying or minimizing that. But a proposal, by its very nature, is a sales document. It is presented within the context of a buying/selling process. This necessarily means we–the people tasked with writing the proposal–have to think more like salespeople trying to make a sale than technical writers trying to chronicle every feature and function and caveat.

Proposals are not inherently informational or educational–though they normally include both. Proposal ARE inherently a persuasive document. Proposal writers need to embrace this.

Proposal writers should broaden our view of our role

If we view ourselves as writers, and allow our organizations to view us that way, too, then we all tend to view RFPs more as writing projects to complete, administrative tasks to cross off someone’s to do list.

If we think and act like salespeople, though, if we focus on building the best sales argument rather than just answering detailed questions with technical responses, we do a better job helping the sales staff to close the sale they started. In the process, we become more valuable to our organizations, too.

David Seibert is a professional salesperson and consultant for businesses that respond to formal procurements in non-federal markets. Dave publishes a comprehensive curriculum of online, self-paced proposal training classes, delivers onsite and online proposal training programs for dedicated proposal teams, and provides proposal and business development consulting services for businesses that want to improve their win rates. 

Dave is founder and president of The Seibert Group, a proposal consulting and training organization serving businesses that sell to other businesses, A/E/C firms, schools, and to state and local governments. Dave authored the popular proposal book, Proposal Best Practices, is active with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and is a member of the APMP Speakers Bureau. You can contact Dave at

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