When the time comes to prepare a new proposal, you may find yourself filled with a variety of mixed feelings. After all, on one hand, you have every reason to feel celebratory because creating a new proposal means that you have the potential to gain new business, and hopefully they will be a repeating client. On the other hand, with so much depending on the success of your proposal and so much research and careful details to put in it, having to actually write a proposal can be nerve-wracking.
Thankfully, there are a few clear steps for how to write a proposal that wins.
Let’s get started!
How-to tip #1: Do some research
The first step in any proposal, be it from a request for proposal or in the form of an unsolicited proposal, is to do some research.
Before you tender a proposal, you need to know exactly what you are proposing. That means you need to know something about the proposal recipient, as well as your market competitors. The more you know, the better your proposal.
Can you gain a strategic advantage by undercutting a competitor on price (while still remaining profitable)? Can you show the prospective customer that you have extensive experience and industry recognition tackling projects just like theirs?
You need to conduct research to be able to answer such questions – and incorporate your findings into your proposal. These are essential points that can help you differentiate yourself from the competition. The best proposals are driven by facts. By that, I am reffering to statistics and metrics to the fullest possible extent. If you are able to compile the necessary data you may want to think about how you can display it in the form of an infographic of some sorts. Visual stimulation is key in a proposal and helps break up the monotony of text.
How-to tip #2: Add in all the sections of a proposal
Proposals always have standard sections. Understanding the function of each of these sections helps you effectively implement them in your proposals.
Proposals most often include the following sections:
This section introduces your company to the recipient. Here you will summarize the services your company provides and tie them to the customer’s needs by explaining how the recipient will benefit from selecting your proposal. It is a brief overview, so it's best to keep this section as short as possible.
The proposal section proposes the project you aim to take on. This should involve a statement of the work or tasks to be performed, a timeframe for the completion of the work, and a description of the outcome of the work.
It would also be beneficial in this section to address the client's needs here. They likely came to you because you potentially have the ability to solve a problem that they have. Propose a solution to their problem and let them know why you are best suited for the job.
This section provides an overview of the specific services that will occur in executing the proposed project. Here, you will summarize all of the actions that will lead to the completion of the project. In this section, it is appropriate to outline a timetable for the completion of key milestones in the project and a tentative schedule for deliverables.
Adding interactive media in this section can also help a lot. It can sometimes be easier to demonstrate your services via a video presentation as opposed to just a written description. There is less likely to be any confusion of your services with a video, plus it breaks up the monotony of text. Visual stimulation is key and it could be the defining factor that makes you stand out against the competition.
Another tip for this section would be to add prior client testimonials that would be relevant to this new prospective client. Showing how you've helped others can definitely influence another party. Video testimonials also put real people and emotion behind it rather than just quotes.
In this section, you return to your company as a topic. Here, you celebrate your past successes, your expertise, and career accomplishments, as well as awards and accolades that you might have received over the years.
You may even want to identify the specific people from your company who will be tending to them and what their experience and accomplishments are.
This section is perhaps the most critical of all. The pricing section clearly lays out the estimated pricing of the project. Strive to be as accurate as possible here – no one wants to run into unexpected pricing issues after the proposal has been accepted.
Pricing tables also allow you to create error-free quotes and allow the prospective client to actually view all of your services, "check off" the ones they will need, and calculate their total.
Terms & Conditions
This section outlines the terms of the agreement you propose. Here, you will list the duration of the agreement, the timetables for completion, payment dates, and exit strategy for the completion of the project.
This section tends to have more legalese than any other part of the proposal. Having a pre-approved content library of legal text can help you prepare this section quickly.
Should your recipient have additional questions or simply want to give you a resounding “yes” to what you’ve proposed, you need to make sure you include contact information. If you list a phone number, make certain that you also list a time to call – even if it’s just your business hours. This section calls for action, so help the recipient have an easy time taking the desired action.
Proposal how-to tip #3: Follow up
One part of the proposal process where people often make mistakes is in following up. A helpful follow up sequence is essential to the success of your proposal.
Often, your recipient will be someone who receives tons of messages. This may make them a bit slower than you would like in responding. If that’s the case, it’s important not to badger them – doing so can cost you the proposal.
Be smart in following up. In your first message after submitting the proposal, don’t ask if they are ready to accept it. Instead, ask if they received it “okay.” This will let you know if there were any problems in sending the proposal, and will serve as a logical segue to allow them to ask you any questions that they might have with regard to your proposal
Further follow ups may be required. It’s always a good idea to allow at least 48 hours between calls or emails – it’s simply courteous. You don’t want to seem pushy, but you do want to keep the lines of communication open between you and the proposal recipient.
Document analytics can also help with your follow-up. First, you'll know exactly when the prospective client opened the document, receiving an instant email notification that they've done so. Secondly, analytics will show you how long they've spent on each page which identifies what mattered most to them. When you follow up, you can ask them if they've had any reservations about these sections.
Need more info on how to write a proposal?
The tips in this article are meant to help you write an assortment of proposals. We have a ton of templates to help you get going, as well as plenty of other articles here on our site to help you conquer specific types of proposals with winning results.
What kinds of proposals do you need to write? We’d love to learn a thing or two from you, as well as to add to our growing list of proposal templates, so suggestions are always welcome.