Every request for proposal should include a cover letter, even if your bid contains an executive summary. Each one serves a different purpose, and they work together not only to create a good impression, but also to prove you understand both the client and the job's requirements. However, because a cover letter should show you understand the client’s key requirements without becoming a mini-proposal, some people find it is more difficult to write.

Set the Right Tone

Your relationship with the prospective client, and sometimes instructions in the RFP kit, determines whether the letter should take on a formal or personal tone. As long as you are honest and sincere, personalized letters in which you compliment and thank the client often are the most effective. For example, include statements such as “I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all your help” and “your help and guidance proved to be invaluable” in the body of the letter.

Format and Style

Using letterhead stationery and a business letter format, divide the letter into three sections: an introduction, a body and a brief closing paragraph. Use a serif font, such as Garamond, Georgia or Times New Roman, as many people find serif fonts easier to read. Limit your cover letter to no more than one or two pages.

The Opening

Open the cover letter with a brief, relevant opening statement such as “Enclosed is the proposal I promised you” or “I enjoyed speaking with you about your proposal project.” Follow this with a paragraph in which you communicate full understanding by restating the specific requirements driving the RFP. Tell the reader whether the proposal includes any attachments, and if it does, briefly highlight the contents, and finish the introduction by specifying the time frame that the price quote is valid.

The Body

Include any required information, such as your business’s history, qualifications or references that the RFP may call for in the body of the letter. Focus the remainder of the letter on addressing up to four key client needs. For example, use bullet points to summarize how your product or service will meet the client’s most important needs. Then, expand on each bullet point in the remaining paragraphs.

The Close

In the closing paragraph, be sure to provide complete information for the point-of-contact person, including name, title, address, telephone number, fax number and email address. Include a “next step” or call-to-action, such as “I will contact you later this week to answer any questions you may have” or “I will call you next week to discuss this proposal” Finish with a polite expression and your name and title.