Thursday, February 12, 2009

The anatomy of a proposal...what to include in your business proposal

If only there was a holy grail answer to this question...

Let's look firstly at the anatomy of the business proposal and following on from our articles on the business development activities that go on before you write the proposal, in our next postings we are going to break part down and look at what to include, and how to write, for each section when you write a proposal.

Let's start by agreeing that each proposal is different. It's important to follow the structure of the Request for Proposal (RFP) or Invitation to Tender (if one has been issued) and if not, then you have to make judgement calls on what to include based on your particular circumstances.

For instance, a proposal for an IT system for a large corporate is going to have a very different scope, specification and pricing model than a proposal for catering services to a school district. It is at least going to have different content - content that needs to be written by the team preparing the proposal with knowledge of the client's needs and problems and solutions to those problems. That's why 'generic' proposals and sample proposal content should be looked on with a little suspicion - whilst it is possible to provide outline templates and guidance any sample content can't possibly have true relevance to the situation that you are needing to provide a proposal for.

What we can do is provide a structure in which you can create your proposal. A good proposal has core elements and tells a story. Here is a basic anatomy of a proposal:

•Executive Summary    
•Our understanding of your requirement
   • Scope of required work    
• Our proposed solution    
   • Table of compliance    
• Schedule    
   • Project plan    
   • Key dates    
• Costs    
   • Table of costs
   • Budget assumptions
   • Invoicing schedule    
   • Estimated expenses    
• Project team     
   • Project team structure
   • Project team profiles
• Our profile    
   • Company overview    
   • Previous experience
   • Project management
   • Quality assurance

I'm sure that there are some sections that some of you would add in, and others would in equal measure take some sections out - what is important is that you format your proposal so that your response is appropriate for the message to the client

The proposal starts with the information that you need the client to read - what it is they need and continues into how you resolve that need - this is where you are selling to the client. Of course being able to deliver on time and costs have something to do with it, but this comes after the hook - solving the problem is the hook. In a much more condensed way this is exactly what you have to do with your executive summary - but we'll be revisiting that shortly.

Our next articles for our how to write a proposal guide are going to go through each of these sections - I recommend downloading our free proposal template from our downloads are or for even better understanding and to create really great winning proposal, I'd recommend getting our First Time Proposal Writer's Toolkit which includes not only a proposal template but also some of our bid management and quality tools.

Next...a closer look at the executive summary.