Writing a proposal can be a bit intimidating. You’re putting yourself out there, pitting yourself against competitors, trying to demonstrate your value, and attempting to strike a good balance with the price you set.
Your proposal represents you, your team, and your capabilities. It’s the first impression you make on a client, so it’s crucial to get it right. A proposal is about more than just describing your value. It requires doing adequate research, knowing your scope, setting a good tone, and including all the elements that are necessary to win over a client and their trust. This guide shows you how to create a proposal.
What Is a Project Proposal?
A business project proposal is a document that contains all of the important information about a business, in order to persuade other businesses or investors to buy the product or service or invest in the product or service.
A proposal could be solicited or unsolicited. It usually has a similar structure, regardless of the circumstances.
Some businesses find it complicated to create compelling business proposals, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy to create them.
Prepare Your Proposal
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you start writing your proposal, it’s crucial that you spend some time learning about the project. Your impulse may be to start right away, and you don’t want to wait too long. But make sure you have a good handle on things.
So what kind of info will you be looking for?
Ask your client about their past experiences. Try and find out what their pain points have been, so you can address them in your proposal.
Demonstrate how you’ll improve on their previous experiences.
The next thing to consider is the project’s budget. Some projects may not have a budget yet, so be sure to ask. You’ll also want to do some calculations, and determine what you’ll be likely to spend as you work on the project. The client will appreciate having this information ahead of time.
DETERMINING YOUR SCOPE
Figure out the scope of your project, and keep it nearby as a reference tool when you write your proposal.
- Who will be doing the work, and who will be managing it?
- What is your goal, and what resources will you need to complete it?
- Where will you be doing the work, and who will receive the finished product?
Come up with a timeline that includes your start time, your interim goals, and your deadline. Decide how you’ll deal with important tasks, such as quality control and customer service. Perhaps most importantly, explain the whys. Why have you chosen your methods and goals? And why should the client choose you?
Project Proposal Outline
The next thing you should include is a cover letter, which is great for introducing yourself before you jump into project details. Provide the client with a brief background of your company.
Give a short, friendly summary of everything that makes your company a great fit for the project. Don’t forget to encourage questions, and end by thanking them for their consideration.
- Focus on describing the benefits you can bring to the project, not on the features.
- Identify the problems they’re having, and propose your company as the solution. People make decisions based on how you make them feel, not on the raw data you present them with.
- When you’re writing, keep your tone and target in mind. You wouldn’t write the same way for a young start-up team as you would for a more mature, established client, would you?
Now it’s time to get into specifics. You need to explain your prices, logistics, and timeframes.
One good way to begin is with a grid that itemizes the services and costs involved in the project. These grids are great for explaining your basics in ways that are easy to understand and inspire confidence.
Talk about what your approach to solving their problem will be, and be as specific as possible. Make sure the client knows you have a plan that’s specific to their needs, and you’re not just sending out the same boilerplate proposal to everyone.
Your plan should feel customized, detailed, and geared towards their needs and concerns. Remember that you should have a description for each item you promise to deliver.
Be clear, and don’t assume your client knows the scope of services you’re outlining. If you proceed as if they don’t know anything about your plan, you’ll avoid unfortunate misunderstandings later in the process.
Simplify the process by breaking it down into stages. How long will it take for each milestone to be reached, and who is responsible for making each one happen?
Technical Elements to be covered in the proposal
1. Regarding the understanding of the requirements and objectives and discussion of problem areas
- Understanding of the objectives (what is the product/methodology to be developed, to which maturity level should it be developed and tested, what are the final deliverables etc.)
- The current state of the art (what is the technical context, what are the existing solutions that could be used as a starting point, are there any similar developments/products in other fields, etc.)
- Discussion of possible concepts and trade-off (what could be the possible solutions – at least 2 to 3 – that could be elaborated during the activity on the basis of the Company/Consortium experience and the technical state of the art, what are the criteria that can be used to compare these solutions and how do they actually compare when performing a first trade-off)
- A critical assessment of requirements and possible limitations with corresponding justifications (analyzing each requirement and confirming compliance, proposing limitations and even new requirements whenever appropriate, justifying in detail all non-compliances or partial noncompliances)
- Discussion of problem areas (what are the technical challenges that are expected to be addressed during the development and what are the mitigation approaches established to address them)
2. Regarding the quality and suitability of the proposed program of work and adequacy of an engineering approach
- Identification of the selected baseline (what is the “best” proposed solution from the ones explored)
- A detailed description of the selected baseline (what are in the detail the specification, work logic, work breakdown structure and work packages to develop this baseline)
- Compliance matrix with comments (what is for each requirement the declared status of compliance to be able to judge in a synthetic way how the proposed baseline address each of the SOW requirements)
- Elements to allow the assessment of the credibility of the proposed program of work (is there for instance a back-up plan proposed in case the selected baseline is not retained during the activity, are risks and problem areas well tackled, are all constraints built-in in the overall program of work e.g. a constraint for availability of a specific facility)
Often, the most difficult part of a proposal is budgeting.
It isn’t easy to simultaneously build trust with your client and keep everything efficient and profitable. Resist the temptation to win the client over by offering a low budget. For one thing, you don’t want to become known as the cheap alternative, and you’ll be less likely to gain any long-term clients with repeat business.
Instead, you’ll attract clients who tend to hop from low bid to low bid and show no loyalty.
Remember that people make decisions based on the way you make them feel, so you want to make them feel comfortable with your team.
People want to know they’re dealing with a team they can trust and get along with. So provide them with your team’s photos and social media accounts, so the client can start putting faces with names and getting to know them.
It also really helps to add backstories to the faces of people who will be taking care of various aspects of the project. Since projects are about more than getting the work done, explain a bit about yourself and your background by providing this info:
- Your motivation
- Your mission
- The reasons why you’re uniquely qualified to tackle their problem
- Your unique selling points, abilities, and experience
- The specific strengths of each team member can bring to the table
- You want your clients to understand exactly who they’re dealing with.
When you’re concluding, don’t forget that all-important call to action (CTA). Encourage your client to contact you for further information.
The best CTA is one that prompts the reader to immediately do something, even if that action is as minor as checking out your website or contacting you for further information.
If you want to include the contract agreement in your proposal, it should go in this part of the proposal, so create spaces for both you and the client to sign and date it.
You should also include caveats, which are basically your terms and conditions. It’s not uncommon for a client to try to overextend your job description. Extra things may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but they can become major headaches and liabilities after you actually start working on them. Therefore, protect yourself with caveats that clearly articulate your responsibilities and prices.
Writing a Project Proposal can feel like a colossal undertaking, particularly if you don’t have much experience communicating with a client. Before you can write a proper proposal, you need to put in the research, so remember that preparation is a key.
Proper writing skills are also very important. Your unique value won’t count for anything if you can’t effectively communicate with a client. Keep your proposal short and simple, trim away anything repetitive, and don’t be afraid to include an appendix.