Writing effective callouts

Callouts are short text strings set in an eye-catching font and/or colour block designed to draw attention. Proposal teams use the attention-grabbing power of callouts to ensure evaluators note and remember key messages. This post explains how to use callouts to greatest effect.

How to write strong callouts

Effective callouts are:

  • Brief: Limit callouts to 15 words or less. Editing a callout to this length is hard work, but brief callouts are more likely to get read and remembered.
  • Benefits-focussed: How does the feature you’re emphasizing benefit your prospect? Even if the benefit is obvious, state it in the callout.
  • Responsive: Address your prospect’s known hot button issues to ensure callouts resonate with evaluators.
  • Unique: Reserve callouts for claims other vendors can’t match. This means focussing on narrow features and benefits—but in a close competition, evaluators need only remember one or two things about a section to lift your score above the others.
  • Factual: Use facts, not empty claims in callouts. This is standard advice for all proposal content—but especially true here.
  • Specific: Make callouts more powerful by adding specifics. Instead of: “Our process will reduce costs by 30%,” consider, “Reduce current cycle time by 42% and labour costs by 30%.”

Define and use a callout style

Define a callout style that attracts attention and works with your proposal template. In MS Word, you can use a combination of the following options:

  • Type attributes— font, size, bold, italic, colour
  • Border—boxed, rule above and/or below and/or to the right and/or left
  • Shading—tint the text block containing the callout

Style and place callouts consistently

Because evaluators typically scan proposals quickly, consider using callouts in the same style and location(s) on each page. This, plus persuasive writing, increases the chance evaluators will see them as reliable summaries of your sales arguments.

Position your offer to win

Remember, the goal is to differentiate your offer in ways that matter to your prospect. That’s what the attributes described above aim to accomplish.

Will every callout include all six desired attributes? Likely not—but even if you manage three or four, you’ll be on your way to submitting stronger proposals.

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