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Tips for writing a proposal

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A good proposal is essential to getting new business. It’s important that the proposal shows potential clients exactly what your business can offer them. Here are some tips to help you with your proposal.

How do I write a proposal?

The first rule for successful proposal writing is not to view the process as a tedious chore. Instead, adopt the positive view that your proposal is the final marketing tool that will clinch the deal.

How much information do I give about my business?

Make the opening to your proposal a simple statement that advises your client that you’re putting some of your ideas to them that perhaps you could further discuss at a face-to-face meeting.

Remember, however, that it’s all about satisfying the needs of your client. Don’t think about what your business can gain from the proposal. That will naturally flow if your proposal is successful. Concentrate on the needs of your client.

Define these needs concisely. How can what you offer in your proposal assist them in their business?

How much research should I do about the client?

You need to really understand their needs so you must do your research. This can be done by learning as much as you can about them via their website and other marketing material. You could also set up an initial meeting and have a list of questions that you can ask them – but they may not give you the time to do this. In that case you will need to anticipate their needs. Keep working out pertinent questions, so your proposal makes it perfectly clear that you understand and that you are focusing on them.

Is there a better way to set out the proposal?

Stress how the client will benefit from doing business with you. Be concise – don’t make the mistake of overloading them with information.

Break the proposal down into parts

Firstly, identify clearly what you’re proposing. Prove there is a need for change and argue that your business can provide the solution.

Explain step-by-step how you can provide a solution and the outcomes and benefits to them. Indicate the method you propose to use, explaining why it will work best to solve the client’s problem. Sell the desirable results of the services you will provide.

So that’s it?

No – every solution has a risk element, so recognise any potential risk and work out how you’ll manage them. Don’t pretend that there aren’t risks. Sound businesses anticipate hiccups in any project. Explain how you plan to deal with any problems that could arise.

How much information do I give about my business?

Tell them what is relevant. Give a brief history of your business, how many staff you have, who your key people are etc.

Your prospective client needs to know how established you are to get an idea of your suitability for any project. You’ll need to convince them that you have the necessary qualifications and/or experience and that you can really help.

Provide two- to three-paragraph CVs of the staff members who will work on the project. Emphasise their credentials relevant to the project. Include testimonials provided by other satisfied clients.

Be sure to establish timing requirements at the initial interviews. Documenting the timeframe will lessen the chances of your competitors winning the job if you have failed to address the subject.

Do I include the price or is that discussed later?

That’s probably the first page that a client goes to so you need to provide a lot of detail here. Give a breakdown of all the costs outlining each stage and what it costs. Provide an analysis of known and estimated costs for the project. Include applicable fees, travel expenses, venue hire, course materials, printing, etc.

And you should clearly spell out payment terms. For example: payment of one-third at commencement of project, one-third halfway through the project, with the balance due on completion. Include details of cancellation fees and late payment charges.

Finally, on a separate line – or page state the validity of the proposal: This proposal is valid to 30 June 2012.

A proposal issued in this format can form the basis for a contract by simply adding a few sentences, for example:

For authority to proceed with this contract, if you agree with the conditions detailed within this proposal, please sign at the bottom where indicated and return the original in the enclosed reply-paid envelope.

Should you have any questions or suggestions relating to this proposal, please contact me on [phone number, fax number, e-mail address, mobile number].

Do you have any other tips?

Run this by your legal adviser to ensure your proposal and wording is in order.

Edit your proposal until it shines. Be sure your proposal addresses everything the client brought up during your meetings, and that it convinces the client why you are the only person to take on the job. Put the proposal away for 24 hours if possible, then do a final check for errors that may signal carelessness to your prospective client. Confirm that you have supported all your claims and arguments. Consider whether you need to provide additional supporting information.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Friday, January 20, 2012

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