How to create a winning proposal that will lead your clients to “Yes!”
After you have met with a prospective client, made a presentation that highlights your work and skills, learned more about their needs, and been given the nod to proceed to the next step, it is time to sit down and create a proposal to close the deal. Here are seven tips to help you create a winning proposal that will have your prospects saying “Yes!”
Define the project. Within the proposal, reiterate your customer’s needs and respond to them. In the first section of your proposal, list the overall project description and specifications—project name, the end results of your work, any components or general phases, and what marks the end of the project. Include the minimum acceptable quality level for materials and skill levels of your people. Make sure any goal is something objective and not a future source of contention.
Create a timeline. The type of timeline depends upon the work. It can be as easy as a project completion date for a simple project. It could be a list of milestone dates. For more complex projects, it may require a table of tasks or deliverables with information on each, such as effort and number of resources required, estimated completion date, whether you or the client is responsible, and what dependencies are not under your control. Be sure to note the impact of delays to avoid misunderstandings. For a project with complex dependencies, you may need to create a Gantt chart with project management software. Include a buffer for unexpected delays based on your experience with similar projects.
List your fees and terms of payment. Write a short paragraph or two as to how your fees have been calculated and whether this agreement is fixed price or based on time and materials with a good faith estimate. What does the scope of the work include and exclude? How will changes be costed and approved? If you anticipate extra services the client might want or need to complete the project, list those as well and provide an estimate, whether you or a third party would provide them. List your fees by phase, by job type, or whatever way you feel best serves the project, then provide a total indicate how you are to be paid—up front, upon completion, monthly, quarterly, on delivery of materials, or on a specific payment schedule. State how long the client has to accept the proposal for this pricing to remain effective.
Consider any other expenses. Are all your expenses included? Will you bill other out-of-pocket costs such as overnight delivery, service bureau charges, etc.? Unanticipated overtime or rework? If so, provide an estimate that gives you breathing room.
Outline how the project will be delivered. Consider how the project will be delivered, and state that in the proposal. Will a building be delivered completely finished, or framed? Will photographs and design be furnished at a specific size—printed or on disc? Be sure you and your client are on the same page as to what the end result of your services will be.
Add any other necessary language you need to protect yourself. If ownership of material or intellectual property is an issue (for example a website or architectural design, photographs, artwork) then state that. Does the work you provide remain in your ownership until final payment? Do you want to retain the ideas and concepts used (or not used) by the client? Is the client expected to archive any digital work themselves, or is that a service provided by you? Whatever you state you will do, be sure you can back it up! Provide signature lines for you and the client, as this should be binding for both of you when accepted.
Keep it neat and clean. Your proposal does not have to be elaborate. If it requires the use of graphics, keep them neat and at a minimum. Be sure that the proposal is well thought out and is written in an easy-to-read format and font. You can add style by bolding a section header, increasing the font-size, and adding a bit of color.