There are two kinds of business proposals – solicited proposal and unsolicited proposal. A solicited proposal is when the customer asks for a proposal, an unsolicited proposal is when you send a proposal to your customer when they have not asked for it. Solicited proposals are usually sent to customers who issue a Request for Proposal (RFP). A solicited proposal provides you with a description of what the customer wants. It may also provide you with formatting instructions for your proposal and the evaluation criteria that will be used to make a selection. An unsolicited proposal must be especially convincing since the customer has not anticipated, planned or budgeted for the proposal. With an unsolicited proposal you run the risk that the customer won’t even bother to read it, since they did not ask for it.
There are some things that tend to be similar across business proposals. These are tendencies and not rules. The only time there are rules is when the customer issues a Request for Proposal (RFP). Should an RFP have sufficient detail; it will tell you what should go into your proposal and how it should be presented. Sometimes the nature of a product or service being offered or industry practices provide guidelines for proposal composition or layout.
A typical business proposal might include: 1. An Executive Summary. This section introduces you (if you are writing as an individual) or your company, what you will do or provide to the customer, and how the customer will benefit from what you propose. 2. A Work Statement or Technical Approach describing what you will do or provide to the customer. 3. A Management Plan describing how you will organize and supervise any work to be performed. A schedule of major milestone and allocation of resources may be provided. 4. Qualification-it describes your capability to do or provide what you are proposing; relevant or prior experience is usually highlighted. 5. A Staffing Plan that describes how the project will be staffed is sometimes on a large service contracts. If a particular group of people are important to the project, their resumes are usually provided. If your proposal is going to be submitted to the government or any of its agencies, then the composition and layout of the proposal may have regulatory requirements.
The only thing that matters in business proposal writing is that of your client. The goal of business proposal writing is to answer your client’s question as well as to persuade them to select you. It should be more about your client than it is about you. Following a business template won’t help you with writing a proposal that speaks directly to the client. Your business proposal writing should answer any question the client has and you must be able to explain the benefits of your approach. If you want to perfect your proposal, you need to first perfect your understanding of your client. Only then can you write a proposal that is most effective.
You must be clear about your goal and turn that into a clear call to action in writing. Make sure that you have a personal follow-up plan that will be crucial for supplying additional information and validating what you put on paper. You don’t have to be pushy to following. Just be helpful and remind them that you can be even more helpful if they accept the proposal.
Your proposal will have to be persuasive. It must be able to persuade the reader and must be easy to evaluate. You must picture the evaluator with a check list in hand going through your proposal. You must be able to state conclusions that reflect the evaluation criteria and then explain how or why. Friend, never save the best for last. Give them what they want in firm, positive statements. Remember, the goal is not to deprive them of the necessary detail, but to give them what they want and in the order they want it. You have got to give them a reason to bother reading the detail.
There is no universal standard for layout or composition of proposals. A proposal is intended to persuade someone. What is required to do is up to the person being persuaded. If you want your proposal to succeed, you must know what your client wants. Never load the client up with a bunch of paper just because they might want something. Give them what they want. No more, no less.
The below are some questions you will need answers for: Who will do the work, who will manage the work? What needs to be done/delivered, what will it cost? Where will the work be done, where will it be delivered? How will the work be done, how will it be managed? When will you start, when will the project be completed, when is payment due? Why have you chosen the approach and alternative you have selected? This simple approach can help you ensure that your proposal says everything that is needed to answer the mail.
If there is not a written RFP, or if the written RFP does not specify outline or format, then there are no rules for the layout and design of your proposal. The only standard to apply to the proposal’s appearance is whether it fulfills the proposal evaluator’s expectations. If they haven’t told you what they are or written them into an RFP, then all you can do is make your proposal legible. Friend, your proposal layout should be highly readable. It should also be easy to locate information in it. You should make extensive use of graphics, because they enhance the readability of the document and convey information well.
If you are writing as an individual or as a consultant, your product is often the services that you will perform yourself. Sooner or later you will need to give your client a proposal either because they ask for it or because it can help you persuade them to approve the project.
Your goal will define the content of your proposal. People sometimes write proposals to persuade the reader to take an action, make a selection, reach a decision, spend money or offer a job. One person proposal often does not have a written request for proposal to provide guidance. You must anticipate the information that will be required by the reader to take the action you desire and then design a document that will achieve your goal.
Your proposal should be more than your resume and a work plan. As an individual, your proposal will be partly an introduction, a statement of qualifications, partly a work plan, partly pricing and partly an articulation of the reasons why the client should approve your recommendations.
Friend, your resumes only address your qualification and even then, a resume tends to address only in a generic way. You should customize your resume every time you use it to emphasize the qualifications that are most relevant to the person you are trying to persuade. You must be able to customize your resume to make the relevance clear, to prove that you have the qualification required to do what you propose and to support your rationale for why the client should accept your recommendations.
In addition to your resume, you have some explanation to do. What will you accomplish? How long will it take? What resources will be required? How will they benefit from the project? How much will it cost? Who are you to be making these recommendations? Why do they need you? Why should they have confidence in your ability to do the work correctly? Why should they accept your recommendations?
In order to answer the above questions your proposal should start with an introduction to what you plan to accomplish and how they will benefit. Then provide your work plan including methodologies, resources and schedule. Once you have laid the foundation, provide your pricing and rationale emphasis on the return on investment and value. Whether your goal is the signing of a contract or something else, and whether your proposal is delivered in the form of a one page memo or a three inch binder, the entire proposal should revolve around persuading them to take the action you desire.
(Chealy Brown Dennis is a marketing and business development consultant. He is also a much sought after motivational speaker and offers training in leadership, personal and organizational development, creative sales, strategic planning, team building and wealth creation. He can be contacted through email at: email@example.com or on phone at: 0886-264-611 or 0776545394)