Volume 15, Issue 1 - January-February 2011

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Professional Proposals Using Word
by Manny Hondroulis

This column marks the end of our Microsoft Office series. I have described how PowerPoint can be used to make sales presentations, showed how Excel can make estimating a breeze, and discussed how Access can help track your prospects and leads. The last component of Microsoft’s office suite is Word—a word processing program that allows you to write a professional proposal.

Start with a blank Word document and just type away. I suggest using a standard business letter format using Arial or Helvetica font for all of your proposals. Your company name and tag line, if applicable and appropriate, should be in the header. You can also include company contact information (address, phone, fax, e-mail, and website) in either the header or footer. Once you have the basics of your stationery done, you can begin customizing your document for any given project.

Include the date at the top, along with the name (salutation, first name, and last name), company, and company contact information of the recipient. Provide a subject line, similar to what you would do in an e-mail, to help the recipient know the purpose of the letter. Address the letter by calling out the recipient using salutation followed by last name.

The opening paragraph should be devoted to introducing the purpose of the letter. For example:

Dear Mr. Smith:
ABC Tinting proposes to furnish all labor, material, and equipment to install Brand X Sun Control Window Film to the following glass surfaces of 123 Main Street:

Now, here’s where we get fancy. The beautiful thing about Microsoft Office is that its various components can be used in conjunction with one another, meaning that you can copy cells from an Excel spreadsheet and paste them into a Word document.

“The beautiful thing about Microsoft Office is that its various components can be used in conjunction with one another, meaning that you can copy cells from an Excel spreadsheet and past them into a Word document.”

In this case, to describe the glass surfaces to which window film will be applied, start a quick Excel spreadsheet and label cells A1, B1 and C1, “Quantity”, “Width” and “Height”, respectively. Then describe the scope of work by entering the appropriate numbers into columns A, B and C. Copy the cells and paste them into your Word document.

Then insert the terms and conditions of your proposal. I like to communicate the duration of the proposal’s validity, the recommended film type, payment terms, warranty information, customer requirements, total project price and anything else you see fit.

Your closing remarks should express your appreciation for the opportunity to submit the proposal and instructions on how the recipient can move forward with the project. Finally, sign your name using a digital signature. To create a digital signature, sign your name using a blue felt tip pen on letter paper in landscape, not portrait, taking up almost
the entire eleven inches of the page. Scan the paper and save the image as a JPEG. Copy the JPEG and insert it into your Word document.

After writing your document, proofread it for mistakes and then run the spell checker – yes, Microsoft Word will tell you if you have misspelled a word.

When using a word processor, remember to use one space between sentences. The use of two spaces is for typewriters. If you want to increase the likelihood that the reader won’t overlook an important point in your proposal, place those words in a bold typeface.

Once the document is complete, save it, and then convert it to a PDF so that the recipient can’t edit the document easily. If you don’t have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, you can upload your Word document to a free online PDF maker such as PDF Converter (www.freepdfconvert.com).

A typed document always looks more professional than one that is handwritten. Consider using Microsoft Word when writing all of your proposals, especially for projects large in scope.

Manny Hondroulis is marketing manager for Energy Performance Distribution in Baltimore. Mr. Hondroulis’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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