Five Things to Include in Every Proposal
By Natalie Rebentisch
There are several stages companies go through when they’re thinking about working together. Often, the initial stage is everyone trying to get a general sense of the match. Does this team seem like people you’d want to work with? Do you share similar values?
After that initial “getting to know you” stage, it’s time to “define the relationship.” This is where you and your team declare your true intentions and submit a proposal for the work at hand. Your chances of landing a major contract often hinge on the strength of the proposal you submit, because it is generally your first “official” interaction with the teams who will be awarding the work.
What you put forward in your proposal could be a make-or-break moment for you and your team. Here are five things to include in every proposal:
The Fit: Why you? Why now? Be sure to show a degree of compatibility between what you’re offering and what the client needs. A proposal is a great place to mention that you’ve worked with this client before or have been awarded similar work by other industry partners. They want it; you’ve got it!
The Scope: What is the actual work at hand? Generally this is discussed in those earlier conversations (e.g., “we need a 300-page book copyedited in the next month”), but it’s good to reiterate that information in the proposal so it’s documented and can be confirmed. But what if the scope is still being nailed down? Not a problem! Make recommendations for workflow, if you have them, to show that you are a thought partner who can help think through potential unknowns. Scope often shifts as you get further along in the process, so it’s not critical to have everything 100% solidified at this point. General assumptions about the work will do just fine to get things started.
The Numbers: This is the down-and-dirty part of the proposal. Most companies are looking for a price point that fits their budget, so this is a pretty important piece to get right. ScribeConcepts uses an estimate template that incorporates components, workflow, metrics (e.g., how long it takes to copyedit one page of text), and service pricing to give clients an idea of what the work may cost and also how long it will take to complete. At this stage, we are building in assumptions (especially with page counts), but even preliminary information can give clients a sense of what the work might cost.
Adjacent Opportunities: Cover everything the client has specifically asked you to cover in your proposal, but also introduce them to services they may be interested in but didn’t directly identify as a need. Typically, companies are focused on the deliverable, but are not as familiar with the various options to optimize workflow nor with everything you may offer as a service. Here’s your chance to share that with them! At some point in your proposal, mention what else you offer and, if available, link to a full menu of your team’s services and rates. Even if it doesn’t open doors for this specific project, you’d be surprised how often a client remembers your expertise and comes back to you when that need emerges down the road!
The Interest: You don’t need to go full-on John Cusack and hold up a speaker playing Peter Gabriel under their window, but be sure to show your enthusiasm about the work and the potential partnership. The best place for this is in your closing paragraph. You might sign-off noting that you are eager to begin the work and look forward to hearing about next steps.
Before you submit your proposal, double-check all of your information, click on every link, and confirm that everything is formatted correctly. If you have the resources, have someone else on your team read through the proposal and give you feedback. The more eyes, the better.
And remember: proposals can be quite an undertaking, but it’s important to put in the time and effort to get them right. A well-thought-out proposal can get your foot in the door and help you land the work.