3.5 Proposals

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If you have already established a relationship with the other party, you might not need the sales, the company background, or the statement of the problem component of the proposal. A carefully developed project plan might also serve as a good form of substantiation for your proposal. As you prepare your proposal, keep your number one selling point in mind and make sure that your writing reflects that focus.

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A business proposal is a bid for business, either solicited or unsolicited. That being the case, it’s important that you present yourself and your proposal in the best possible light. Generally, a proposal is written to either another company or organization, or to suggest a new program, product, or service to upper management within the organization. Either way, your proposal must accomplish two things. First, explain what the reader needs, and second how your proposal wil address this need. In this lesson, I will show you the important components of a proposal, provide some guidelines for format, and provide you with some tips for writing a great proposal. A business proposal can vary quite a bit, especially if it is in response to a formal request for proposal or request for bid. In general though, proposals will include a company overview, a statement of the problem, some background, the benefits of addressing this problem, your scope of services and deliverables, details of how to contact you, and references. When writing a proposal, you must be brief, but highly informative. If your proposal is unsolicited, it’s particularly important to write to the perspective of the reader. Remember, you’re trying to justify an action on their part, so you will need to understand where they stand on the issue or their estimation of the need. There is no one universal format for business proposals. The format that you should use depends on the intended recipient of the proposal and the scope of the project. Some companies and institutions require formal, structured and very detailed proposals. For example, government agencies requesting bids for use of public funding will typically have very explicit requirements regarding the information that they require and the format in which you submit it. It is critical that you you follow the instructions in the RFP, RFQ, RFSQ, RFI, or RFP precisely. It is tragic when a proposal that took weeks to prepare is rejected because it’s in the wrong format. This includes responding to every requirement and every question in the statement of work in the order in which they requested it. Such proposals can be very lengthy and usually require a cover letter apart from the proposals itself. Authors are more relaxed, they can be as short as one to two pages. If you have already established a relationship with the other party, you might not need the sales, the company background, or the statement of the problem component of the proposal. If a longstanding relationship exists, the proposal might only include a description of your deliverables, your pricing, and your terms. The format of some proposals is guided more by the scale or the scope of the project. Large projects will typically require a more detailed risk proposal, while proposals for smaller tasks can be written using a more informal format. If you’re not sure, identify a contact at the company or institution, and ask them how they’d like your proposal to be presented. There’s nothing wrong with asking. Be sure that your proposal is on target, meaning that you have identified what your target audience needs, and you are able to show that you have the best solution to the problem from their perspective. You must thoroughly demonstrate your claims by providing evidence, facts, and data, and be sure that the facts and the data you use truly support your recommendations. A carefully developed project plan might also serve as a good form of substantiation for your proposal. As you prepare your proposal, keep your number one selling point in mind and make sure that your writing reflects that focus. An unsolicited proposal will require a harder sell than the one that is solicited. It will be critical when preparing an unsolicited proposal that you do not provide generic arguments or explanations. You must demonstrate clearly, and with strong arguments that appeal to the perspective of the reader, that your proposal is the best option they have before them. In all cases, be extremely organized. Proposals tend to have many sections to them, so you must be careful to put the right information in the right place. Be clear and positive, and be optimistic. Many proposals come with checklists of items to include. Be ruthless in your assessment of the parts and pieces listed on that list. If a list isn’t provided, it would be valuable to use one of your own creation, and follow that before you submit your proposal.

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