Credit: Mitesh Solanki

A proposal is only as good as the sum of business it can secure. Professionals in business development often struggle to effectively communicate how they will overcome business challenges.

The solution in building well-received proposals isn’t to expand on additional narrative or top-it-off with more information about your company and it’s success. The answer is simple, but the execution is difficult as it will stretch the way you think. A proposal should provide solutions to business challenges, and effectively communicate a ‘goal oriented’ approach. The decision ultimately is between the value that you will provide to a prospect and in exchange how much they will need to compensate you for such rendered services. The key principle in business is that a company rendering a service must always provide more in value than what it charges for the service. If this is not a key consideration, then the length-of-time for the business engagement may fall short of the expected duration.

When starting my business in 2006, our strategy entailed targeting the US Government for contracts. It was a sure-fire way for us to build liquid into our company through all the various small business set-asides it offered. We quickly began the process of proposal writing, an invaluable skill we crafted through this process. Writing proposals for the Government is much different than writing for the private sector.

When creating a proposal for the Government, you are required to disclose intimate details about your business, its financial condition, and detailed processes that require you to rethink how you will remain competitive when winning these contracts. Over the course of time, we learned the art of proposal writing and today we walk-in with world-class proposals. It is not because we have a special method in design, nor is it our company capabilities. It is simply the art of writing, which is the most valuable asset to your prospect.

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The largest mistake most organizations make is talking about themselves in the opening of a proposal. Within the opening it is important to lay the groundwork for strategy and vision. Communicate to the prospect that you have researched their business challenges, and aligned a strategy that will satisfy the objectives. Be concise here and indicate how you went about your research. Mention the discovery meetings you may have had with key executives in the company, documents they provided for review, and additional resources you may have come across. This sets the precedence that your proposal is specific to their needs and not a copy-paste narrative. This will further demonstrate your organizations ability to listen to the client.

Competitive Analysis

competitive analysis


No matter what you are selling to your prospect, it is important to show both a narrative and visuals that outline what their competition is doing. You are not selling the prospect, you are merely educating them of what is occurring in the market, and what other organizations are doing to solve such business challenges. If you are a web designer, consider taking apart the functionality and design of competing websites. Show the prospect what competitors are doing to present a meaningful experience to their end user. If you are a marketer, look at competing websites search rankings, web traffic, and social media presence. Break it down so that your prospect can have a comprehensive and meaningful representation of what their competitors are doing to stay ahead of the game. If you are a CPA find relevant case studies of similar companies and how they restructured and pivoted their business to best align themselves for financial growth. This competitive analysis is doing all the hard work for you. Your services practically sell itself.

The Pitch

proposal pitch meeting

Now that your prospect has seen what their competitors are doing from your professional point-of-view, it is time to present your strategy. The strategy narrative and visuals should demonstrate the following by section:

1. Identify the Scope-of-Work

outline the scope of work for an effective proposal

It is important to detail the services that will be performed to satisfy the business objectives. Outline a summary of the overall framework of the work that will be performed.

2. Identify the Objective

identify the proposal and business objective

Objectives are always measurable and this part of the proposal is critical. You will provide an understanding to your prospects that if you complete X, they will achieve Y results. Depending on the depth of the proposal you may have a lengthy narrative as there maybe several key objectives to outline. The objective must be quantifiable within the end result.

3. Outline the Strategy

outline the business strategy

Since your prospect is clear on the scope-of-work and the overall objective of the end result, it is important to provide detailed information on the strategy that will be utilized. Be detailed and precise as to the tools, technology, and other materials required for a seamless execution. Remember, value can also be seen based on unique skillsets and tools that they do not have access to internally. If you have industry specialized software that has expensive licenses, its wise to let them know. In the end, price can further be justified as they will be exposed to your invested resources.

4. Timeline

proposal timeline and milestones

In this section be as detailed as possible. Indicate each major milestone and the estimated time for completion. Place a favorable project start date (1 week from proposed date) indicating you are ready to begin work right away. Ensure you place the amount of time (hours) it will take to complete each major milestone. Transparency is critical for the justification of value (price for your services).

5. Performance

company performance and case studies

For the entire proposal thus far it has been about the prospect and their business interest. At this juncture they should learn about your organizations ability to perform on the proposed scope of work. It is vital that you include case studies, testimonials and references. This will help promote your organization and build credibility as you move onto the cost proposal. This is also an excellent section to add additional value propositions of what ‘more’ your business could potentially do for them as a service provider. Sometimes prospects don’t understand all the services you render. Educate them through your case-studies.

6. Quality Assurance & Project Management

Quality assurance and project management

Depending on the size of the project and its demands, it is strongly recommended to include a summary of your quality assurance process and project management. Discuss general occurrences if client is delayed in providing timely response as to how it may affect the schedule and labor coordination. Detailing this information within the proposal maintains a mutual understanding and holds both parties responsible for project execution.

7. Cost Proposal

cost proposal when pitching for new business

Create a neat and well organized table with each service item and its cost. Be sure to include hourly rates and rush fees that may incur as a line item, indicating transparency and understanding before engaging in a business agreement will save you time and the potential grief that may occur in case an invoice is called into question.

8. Closing


closing and final section for a proposal - ask for the business

Once you discuss price and project timelines, prospects become distracted. It is at this juncture that clients are thinking about the following: the overall cost impact, the value that you are proposing, trust that you can deliver on the proposal that was presented, etc. This is an opportunity to address these and many other concerns. Leave a quick closing statement for the next steps. Ask them to follow-up with questions after going through the proposal on their own. Tell them you will send over a working-agreement within the next two business days for their review. Being proactive with regards to next steps will ensure you stay in the game.