Saturday, December 27, 2008

Answering good questions about how to write a business proposal?

I enjoy asking and answering questions about proposal writing and some of these are often quite complex. I recently had the opportunity in a very short space of time to and write an answer to this question...which really gets straight to the point:

How does one write a proposal? Are there any specific guidelines or format to follow?

Here is my one minute answer - trying to think about what a proposal really is about: 

There are a lot of things to consider when writing a proposal. The most important thing is that you have to remember that the proposal is about the customer not about you - and that you are trying to persuade them to buy your products and services. 

So make your proposal persuasive - that means demonstrating you credibility, showing the value of your services and if you can provide evidence that you can do what you say.

The easiest trap to fall in when writing a proposal for the first time is to say "I can do this" and "this is what I've done before". Yes, that's important but not as much as writing about what problem the client has and how you intend to solve it.

Put a one or two page Executive Summary at the start of your proposal - some people aren't going to want to read 10, 20 or more pages - they read the beginning and skim the rest if you're lucky. More likely they just skim the beginning! So get you key selling points across here.

Match you solutions to what the client need is. Show that you can fix a problem and back it up (use examples of previous clients if you have them).

Go through each of your products or services one by one, listing in a table the features and benefits. Use colourful graphics - showing the before and after use of your products - again visuals will help you a lot here. If you are unsure about graphics ask a graphic designer for help.

With you pricing try and show some return on investment. Show the hidden costs and consequences to the client of they choose to do nothing. 

Providing evidence of your capability is a key to persuasion. If you have a testimonial from a previous client saying how great your product is other customers will buy it.

Just a thought about the format issue. Check the request for proposal (if you received one) from the client and match their document structure and answer their questions. If you need a proposal template get one for free here:​ew-all-products.html

Hope this helps - these are just some quick thoughts. If you want more information on proposal writing and business proposal resources, including ready to go templates and more, then please visit my website