the store

Converting a Proposal Into a Story

When you sit down to write a proposal you don't normally think of it as literature. But when you are trying to take it to a higher level and improve your ability to tell a story in your proposals, you can learn a lot from literature.

So to learn a little and have a lot of fun, we've decided to make this month's training a contest!  We're going to challenge you to take a typical, boring proposal section, and drawing inspiration from literature transform it into a compelling story — something that the customer would want to be a part of.

Pick a Genre for Your Story

There are many kinds of stories, and even more ways to tell them. To participate, you'll start by selecting a genre of literature. Here are some recommendations:

  • Mystery. Help the customer solve the mystery and find the solution they're looking for.
  • Horror. Scare the customer into selecting you.
  • Science Fiction. Describe a future world that results from the partnership between you and the customer.
  • Adventure. Go on a fun-filled, action-packed journey with the customer. Will it have a happy ending?
  • Comedy. Humor can be insightful. Humor can inspire. Humor can make people want to be around you.
  • Documentary. Just tell it like it is. But make it interesting enough so that people will pay attention.
  • Tutorial. Show them. Teach them. Be someone they want to learn more from.
  • Infomercial. If they didn't work, there wouldn't be so many of them. Long format selling can be effective. Can you make it work in a proposal?
  • Drama. Tension. How will it be resolved?
  • Inspiration. Revitalize the customer by helping them to re-imagine themselves.
  • Musical. Can you take what makes a musical effective and translate it into the written word? (What's the matter — can't you think outside the box?)
  • Tragedy. Some times bad things happen to good people. There's a story in it.

How to Participate in the Contest

Start with a 1-2 page section from a proposal you submitted in the past or are currently working on. Remove the customer names and any trade secrets. Remove your own company name or any other sensitive details if you choose.

Then transform it by applying one of the genres of literature above (or any other if it's more suitable). There are many ways you can make this transformation:

  • Analogy. In your proposal you can explain what something is "like" and use an example inspired by literature.
  • Hypothetical. Describe a situation or provide a simulation based on details that you make up just to provide an example.
  • Role Play. Act out your role so they can visualize it.
  • Plot. The events on the project are like the sequence of a plot.
  • Surprise Ending. Normally in a proposal you don't want to build to the end and you don't want any surprises. But in storytelling you can achieve a greater dramatic effect with a conclusion that the audience doesn't see coming. Can you translate this into a proposal successfully?
  • Call to Action. What is the point of your story? How does it end? What do you want to happen after the story is told?
You can use any section of a proposal (technical, management, experience, pricing, etc.). Your offering can be of any type (product, service, etc.) in any market (B2G, B2B, international, non-profit, etc.).

When you are done, your proposal should read like the script to a movie instead of a boring response to the customer's requirements. Just keep in mind that it is still a proposal, and must explain what you are going to do for the customer and give them reasons to select you. But as a story it should also provide the customer with a vision that they want to be a part of. You want to enable the customer to imagine being part of the story you are telling.

Because it is an exercise to perfect our storytelling technique, we'll ignore whether you could get away with actually submitting it to a customer. So put that worry aside for now and tell a good story.

Contest Details

  • To participate, you must request a copy of the registration form. Then complete the registration form that we email you and follow the instructions inside.
  • Anyone may submit a story. In fact, you may submit more than one story.
  • Each story should be 1-2 pages in length.
  • Include both the original proposal text and your story so we can see the difference.
  • Submissions will be due on March 21st.  The winners will be announced the week of March 28th.
Prizes and Rewards
  • For the top winner, we'll make you famous. We'll feature you in our newsletter and 65,000 subscribers will know of your brilliance. We'll tell your story.  Seriously, it's a great way to demonstrate your expertise.
  • The two runners-up will also get mentioned, they just won't get as much fawning adoration.
  • Both the top winner and the two-runners up will also get a free one-year Premium Membership to our site (or a free renewal if you're already a member).

We're going to take all of the submissions and publish them in an eBook. While anyone may participate in the contest free of charge, only Premium Members of our site and the winners of the contest will receive a copy of the eBook and see all of the submissions.  Premium Members who participate may also include a brief bio and contact information in the publication.

For consultants, this is a great way to demonstrate your skills and promote your business, and every member who is a consultant should jump on the opportunity for some free promotion. For others, it's a great way to promote your company and your career, as well as to build your network.

If you are not currently a Premium Member and you join before the contest ends, you'll get a copy of the eBook as well as all the other benefits of becoming a member.


Here are some of the articles we've published related to telling a story in your proposal:

And visit our group on LinkedIn to discuss the contest or other topics just like this...

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

© 2018, LLC all rights reserved