Selling a product, service, or idea is not easy.  But, it is a skill that can make — or break — your business. While a healthy dose of charm doesn’t hurt in business negotiations, the know-how to write a solid proposal is a foundational step in getting any partnership off on the right foot.

Here’s how:

What is your pitch? If you don’t know, your potential client or partner certainly won’t.  State what you are trying to accomplish in the first two or three sentences of your business proposal – and do this as accurately and concisely as possible. Encapsulating your idea in the very beginning will help your reader understand exactly what they are about to read.

Inspire confidence. Before any potential partner pulls the trigger on a business deal, she will need to feel confident about what it is she is getting into.  A stilted or convoluted business proposal can make her uneasy or even suspicious, so it’s better to be straightforward and conversational.

Avoid jargon and uncommon terms. Use “the mother test”: If your mother, or someone with no insight into the deal, will not be able to understand the proposal, it is probably too complex. Make sure you explain every idea as thoroughly as possible in a way that is accessible to everyone.

Pay attention to flow. Your proposal should read like a story — with a beginning, middle, and end. State your objective as clearly and concisely as possible, and make sure to present information in an order that best supports your main idea. Use visuals (photos, charts, graphs) to help build that narrative.

Be accurate. Your proposal must be flawless with respect to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Nothing cries “amateur!” like a messy proposal full of typos.  Any type of mistake – especially a mistake that could have been easily corrected with a quick proofread – speaks volumes about the diligence and aptitude of your business and professionalism.

Remember that your business proposal is likely the culmination of that awesome idea you’ve been working towards for months. It is a blank canvas for you to bring your plans to life, so take advantage of it by impressing your readers with your attention to detail and thoughtfulness.