How to write winning proposals

write winning proposals

Writing proposals is a job that is both demanding and rewarding. Understanding the components of a successful proposal can mean the difference between winning and losing a job bid.

A proposal can take many forms. It may be one page or several, with multiple categories or a few. To convince a company that you can do a good job, however, means that you should take the following into consideration when organizing a bid for a particular job:

  1. List your credentials. Start with the most recent or the most significant. These can include licensing, certificates, awards, and degrees. You also can list other clients of note, although you may need to get permission for this. Take this opportunity to showcase your expertise in a way that will convince prospective clients that they must have you for this job.
  2. Those who are seeking bids obviously look for the most competent person(s) to do the work. Sketching a tentative timeline will show that you understand what must be done and when. Some companies provide a list of dates for the various phases of a project, while others simply ask that work be completed within a specified amount of time like a year or eighteen months. Breaking down the large, complex project into parts lends an air of confidence to your proposal.
  3. Describe the resources needed and indicate who will provide them. These typically fall into several related categories that may include the following:
  • personnel (full-, part-time, or temporary staff)
  • equipment (hardware and software, rent or buy)
  • office supplies (postage, telephone, copies)
  • communications (meetings, connections, reports)
  • budget (estimated)

You may be able to offer some of these, like equipment, while the company will have to agree to provide the others. All possible expenses, including subcontracted work, must be figured into the overall projected budget.

  1. Explain clearly how this work will prove advantageous to the company and why you are the person/organization to do the job. This section may be titled “Goals,” “Outcomes,” or “Benefits” as long as the client understands the rationale behind it.
  2. You may want to add a brief “challenges” or “possible obstacles” section. This should be managed in such a way as to convince the readers that you are prepared to handle contingent or actual problems associated with the project. This should appear somewhere before the end of the proposal, as the most important areas (beginning and end) should emphasize the positive aspects of your bid.
  3. Weigh the pros and cons of supplemental information. For example, you can add a “Testimonials” or “References” section if you feel that it is needed to persuade the client of your expertise. Another optional subheading is a reading or research section that can point to articles or published materials that show how similar problems have been successfully handled.

A solid proposal requires finesse and balance. On one hand, you want to put together enough detail to show that you are an outstanding choice for managing the project. On the other hand, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too much detail, which in turn may hint at underlying insecurities.

Always print your proposal on crisp, light-tone cardstock or white 20# bond paper, possibly adding a cover to protect it if the bid is formal. Be sure to meet deadlines so your proposal will be taken seriously.

Always print

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