February 7th, 2011
Executives skim read. They’re busy people with lots to do. So your proposal needs to catch their attention and keep it. I hope that you read every word of your proposal to check it, but don’t expect that from your customer. People read proposals a bit like newspapers. They start with the headlines, then look at the pictures and captions, then start reading an article that interests them before turning the page when they know enough to move on.
Here are some ideas that will make your proposals easier to skim read:
1. Use dynamic headings that tell your story. Instead of ‘Costs’ say ‘Return on Investment’, then live up to that heading with your content.
2. Use pictures and captions to support your key points. People process pictures 60,000 times faster than text so you really can paint a thousand words.
3. Use white space. Your eye is automatically drawn to text surrounded by white space, even if the text says ‘This page left intentionally blank’. Use this knowledge to create impact on your divider pages and in the margins of your proposal.
5. Bullet or numbered lists and tables are easy to skim. But be careful not to make the lists or tables too long. People can only remember about 5 things at a time. So either shorten your list to include only important items, or group 3-5 items under subheadings to make a long list easier to digest.
Remember that you’re persuading your customer to part with money in your proposal. So if you lose his attention, you lose the deal. So get those key points to jump.