At its most basic, a written proposal is a communication that attempts to persuade the reader. It does this by offering something beneficial in exchange for something in return. Writing a winning proposal is not simply a matter of content, it is also a matter of structure and process. In other words, if you say the correct things in the correct order then you will have a winning proposal on your hands.
Think about your executive summary. This is seen by many as the single most important part of a proposal. Your executive summary should tell the story of your proposal in a condensed, comprehensible fashion and should be understandable by a layman. For this reason, an executive summary is usually written last so that no key elements of the proposal are left out.
Upon receipt of a proposal many people will make a decision on whether or not it is worth reading based solely on what is said in the executive summary, so it is something that you should be thinking about throughout the rest of the proposal-writing process.
Address the client and their need throughout your proposal. This conveys a message of empathy and shows that in addition to meeting their business needs in the manner described within your proposal you are also keen to build a collaborative relationship with them.
Reiterate your understanding of the client’s requirement so that it is clear that your proposed solution will meet the original requirements.
Describe how you will meet their requirement. This should be as detailed or high-level as is necessary.
Summarize succinctly your experience, which is relevant to how you will meet the client’s requirement. If you have past customers who have agreed to be used as a reference, then state who they are and how you helped them to achieve their goals.
Point to previous research that has been conducted, either by yourself or by others, and explain how you will use this to deliver on the client’s needs.
Set some milestones. State the deliverables that you intend to provide to the client and any service-level objectives relating to timescales for turnaround.
State your price to complete the work described in the proposal. Divide this into as much detail as you can, and where possible, explain how you have come to your price. For example, if you charge a flat rate per word translated (P) for one particular type of translation and the client has stated that there is a specific number of words that need to be translated (Q) then explain that your price is equal to P multiplied by Q.
Set up a charging schedule around completion of your milestones. For example, you could state that the client will pay 100 percent of the fee upon successful completion of all milestones, or it could be 20 percent of the total price upon completion of each individual milestone (assuming five milestones).
Write your executive summary. Remember that the executive summary should tell the story of your offer in terms of the customer’s issues, priorities and requirements. A compelling executive summary will focus on the customer’s goals and how they will be achieved, not on the details of the solution.
- Translation Journal: Teaching Proposal Writing to Translators
- Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win More Customers, Clients and Contracts, Tom Sant, 2004
- Powerful Proposals: How to Give Your Business the Winning Edge, David G. Pugh and Terry R. Bacon, 2005
Matt Waldram began writing in 2006 when he set up and ran an online magazine called And Cream. The magazine ran until 2009. Waldram is also a freelance writer for online magazines such as Environmental Graffiti, IMAGINOX and Skiddle.com. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in business studies from Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K.