The job of a proposal is to persuade a potential customer to do business with you. To achieve this goal it is critical that your proposal anticipate and answer all of your customer's questions.
A successful proposal usually results in a contract that sets the terms. Sometimes the proposal is a hurdle to be crossed before contractual negotiations begin. Sometimes the proposal is structured to be incorporated into the contract to facilitate things. In less complex environments, the contract may be included with the proposal to facilitate closing and implementation at award.
Because there is usually a distinction between the proposal and the contract, the proposal must answer the client’s questions so that you can get to the contract signing stage. Therefore your proposal should be laid out to provide clear answers and terms for doing business. For this reason, many people lay their proposals out in a question/answer format. However, if your proposal is in response to a written RFP, the RFP may contain formatting instructions that you will have to follow, and these instructions may not permit a question/answer format.
Here is a list of typical questions to answer in your proposal:
- Who are you and why are you sending them this proposal?
- What the customer will get: products, configurations, capabilities, resources, services, effort, accomplishments/results, deliverables?
- How it will benefit them?
- How you will manage delivery/fulfillment?
- How long will it take?
- What are the risks and what you will do to mitigate them?
- Who will work on the project?
- Who will manage the project?
- What experience does your company have with similar projects?
- How you will ensure quality and customer satisfaction?
- How you will know/measure success?
- What will the customer will have to do or supply?
- What options do they have to select from?
- Future considerations
- Are there any other relevant capabilities, resources of your company?
- What assumptions did you make in writing the proposal?
- How much will it cost?
- What payment terms do you require?
- What legal/contractual requirements are there?
The customer will also have questions that they don’t expect to be answered in your proposal. It is a good idea to at least imply answers to these questions as well. Here is a list:
- What are their alternatives to working with you/who are your competitors
- Are they getting the best price
- Can they trust you