"In any battle you need a strong team. I would prefer to have you on my team than my competitors.”  Past Blog Contributor

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nFold has two blogs you can follow to improve your proposals and keep in touch. Read the latest posts below or click on the tip names to see the blog archives.

nFold Proposal Tips

Based on best practice and experience, these tips from Sandy Pullinger on a wide range of proposal topics will inspire you as you learn the art and science of proposals and tenders.

Proposal Adventures of Wendy Word

Relax and enjoy the tales of friendly witch and proposal pioneer Wendy Word as she keeps you in touch with the latest news in the local South African proposal community.

nFold Proposal Tips

Recipe for Success

ingredients of a good template


I have two sons who deny that they are made of frogs and snails and puppy dogs tails. I must agree that to me they seem to be made of sugar and spice and all things nice. But how does this relate to proposals and what makes the perfect proposal template?

Let’s explore!

Before creating a proposal template, I look at both the bidder and the buyer’s websites to get some insight into their corporate identity and marketing messages. This helps me to decide what fonts, colours, styles and pictures will work in the template.

Grab Attention

I start any proposal template with a striking title page that includes a picture or design linked to the win theme of the proposal. I create a headline sized style for the strong title that links to the win theme slogan and a slightly smaller style for the subtitle that will emphasize the reason to pick the bidder. I also create styles for details such as the proposal due date, the bid number, the key decision-maker and the sender details. Since these details are less important, they appear in a much smaller font size.


Add a Splash of Colour

I generally choose no more than 3 colours for my proposal. One colour matches the corporate identity of the buyer and I use this for the main headings and for emphasis such as bold text, bullets, captions and call-outs. I choose colours for the secondary headings and text to match the existing bidder template. I co-brand the proposal with both logos, putting the client’s logo first. I generally do a web search for the buyer logo and choose an image with high resolution to match the bidder logo.

Use Hot Headings

I define styles for 3 levels of heading, usually in alternating colours using 2 colours only. I start with a huge 24 point level 1 heading and make each level smaller than the last but bigger than the normal text size. I use bold or italics to make the headings different from each other. If the proposal is long enough then I create styles for numbering the different heading levels.

Next, I create styles for the contents page. I usually put confidentiality or disclaimer notices after the table of contents. I also create a cover letter template from the letterhead and any other templates needed for the bid, such as CD stickers or spine labels. Getting this done early in the bid leaves more contingency for things that may go wrong on the bid.

Save White Space

Our eyes are immediately drawn to words surrounded by white space. Leaving white space in the template is important. Use the one-thirds two-thirds layout creatively. Make divider pages for the different sections to slow down the pace of reading and create interest. If something is really important, then say it in a way that catches the reader’s eye.

Pick Pictures

Choose a style for pictures. I usually create diagrams for a proposal in slide format using the main colours for the bid. I re-draw or change existing pictures for consistency. Then I paste the pictures into my proposal as ‘enhanced metafiles’ or ‘jpg’ images so that they are easier to move, format and size in the proposal. Be careful not to choose grainy images. I have a library of images that have a resolution of 600x400 pixels or higher so that I can include them to support the messages in my proposals.

I also create pictures that give context in my proposal. For example, for different elements of the solution or for key goals the client has outlined. Visual context makes your proposal easier to skim read. Provide it to give your client clues about the proposal structure. Keeping these cues in the presentation also helps to provide consistency in your messages.

Create Captions & Call-Outs

Create sample action captions and call-outs in your template. Use figure numbers that update automatically for the action captions under each picture. Create call-outs for important claims or proof points and use them to draw attention to what matters. When you read a magazine, the call-outs alone give you clues about the story.

Share the Recipe

When your template is ready, save it to a template format such as .dotx so that your team can start using it to create sections of the proposal. Creating the template early in the proposal process saves a lot of time later when you’re doing the final collation.


Now bake the perfect proposal

It’s not enough to create a fantastic template. Once the proposal is written, you should improve the layout to make it consistent for the reader and easy on the eye. Allow enough time for this step. Ideally, allow one day per 20-40 pages for layout before printing.

Finally assemble, package, hit send or submit and wait to win.

Posted 162 weeks ago

Proposal Adventures of Wendy Word

Having a bad hair day

Sandy says that when she hit send on her last proposal tip, she began to feel chronic symptoms related to holiday brain fever and error mania.

Have you ever typed an email, got distracted, hit send in a hurry, and skipped the quality checking step or paid it lip service only? Heard the expression more haste less speed?

Then maybe you too have had the same symptoms. Nausea. Emotional trauma related to a perfectionist making any error whatsoever. And turning bright red because you haven’t done anything quite so stupid since you were 3?

A tip to the tipper…cutting and pasting introduces errors. Only use it in a proposal or email campaign when your source content is ‘clean’ of date or customer specific details.

Sandy’s response is the same one she gives to her children. Sorry! Guilty as charged. Do what I say, don’t do what I do.

Posted 169 weeks ago

Getting it right the first time

On the 8th of October 2015,  an eager bunch of Group Bid Office recruits attended the two-day Right First Time Bid and Proposal Management training at the EOH Head offices, along with several people from other business units.

In the session Sandy Pullinger covered everything from creating a compelling Executive Summary, writing efficiently all the way to ensuring that delegates create a compliant and comprehensive winning proposal.

The normal expectation for training sessions, such as these, is that you listen for 16 hours over a 2 day period and hope that you have something useful to report back on. Most Bid Mangers in the EOH Bid Office already have extensive experience in running a tender process with years of experience behind them. Still, they said that the session taught them something new and helped them to discover practical ways to enhance what they already DO know.

Posted 179 weeks ago

Winner takes all

Last night I attended the APMP annual general meeting. It was the last meeting chaired by Sally Jacques. We’ll miss your sense of humour and inspirational leadership, Sally. I’m flying some flowers to you on my broomstick to say thanks for all you have done to take the association to the next level. Our new APMP chair person is Izane Cloete-Hamilton. We expect great things from the new boss lady. Onward and upward.

I was excited to find out that Barclays Africa won the last nFold proposal award. Well done Marlize and Elmien on your steady progress year by year and the truly excellent proposal that you submitted this year! Finalists in 2015 were Tracy-Ann Damons for quantifying the payback and Reza Forouhar for differentiation. For 5 years, nFold has sponsored the award.

Here is a happy snap I took of all the winners with their cheezy trophies. From left to right, Marlize Schwar (Barclays Africa) 2015, Belinda Engelbrecht (Aurecon) 2011, and Larissa Cornelius (EOH) 2012-2014. You go girls!

Posted 182 weeks ago

To certify, or not to certify

…moot is the question. Another 18 brilliant proposal people passed the APMP certification exam in August, bringing the total in SA to about 130. Yee haa!

APMP is the first best and only globally recognized certification for proposal pioneers like you and me.

Tell your friends to register for the next certification event planned for April 2016. Study group sessions kick off on 18 January, so be sure to register before then. You can book online: https://www.quicket.co.za/events/11967-apmp-foundation-certification-and-exam/#/schedules.

Be there or be square.

Posted 187 weeks ago

Of Cowboys and Soldiers

I attended the 6th annual APMP SA Conference on 23 July. The topic was Prepare Produce Propose Present. Try saying that quickly three times in a row after a glass of wine and you’re sure to put your tongue in a twist!

Sandy spoke about what to do before the RFP arrives and presented a tale of two bids: one managed by cowboys where everything goes wrong, and another managed by soldiers where planning pays off. She made the point abundantly clear that you cannot rely on luck but should rather plan to win. Sandy looks good in a cowboy hat, but not as good as Clint Eastwood.

Posted 193 weeks ago