The Contents of a Winning Proposal: Five Steps to Successful Proposal Development

win proposalsA proposal is the response by a business to an opportunity, and is a way for a business to showcase their products, services, skills and talents to prospective clients. Creating a winning proposal is as easy as following these five simple steps.

  1. Define The Project – The first question to be answered when responding to a solicitation is, “What is our objective for this project?” It is important to have a clear understanding of the problem to be solved, and to have a firm idea about what your company goal is in responding to this solicitation. If the project statement in the solicitation is not clear, contact the project administrator or other point of contact as specified in the solicitation. One of the factors that the review team will use when considering your proposal is how well your plan responds to their needs.
  2. Assemble a Stellar Team – A project team will consist of a program manager, who will be the point of contact with the contracting organization, and an array of people with specialized skills that can accomplish the goals of your project. Your project team should show your expertise in accomplishing all facets of the project. If you do not have employees to fill all niches, consider hiring consultants or contractors to round out your team. For example, if you are part of a product design firm and the project involves developing a product for high-volume manufacturing, be sure that you have an expert on design for manufacturability and partners in the manufacturing sector.
  3. Draft a Work Plan – In this part of the proposal, you should detail your plan of action for the project. Break the project down into relevant and workable chunks. Describe your approach for each task, and identify milestones and deliverables for each section of the work plan. Include a schedule or Gantt-style chart to illustrate the timing of and the relationships between your tasks.
  4. Review Past Performance – The majority of solicitations will require some examples of similar projects to illustrate your past performance in the industry. Start by assembling projects with direct relevance to the solicitation. Refer to the solicitation for specific requirements, but it is generally useful to have between 3 and 5 examples of past performance. If you do not have that many directly relevant projects in your portfolio, add projects that involved specific skill sets that will be applicable to the solicitation, but may be outside of the specific industry.
  5. Get an Independent Review – When you spend a lot of time researching and writing a proposal, the familiarity of the work can sometimes allow errors to creep into the work. A review of the proposal by a colleague can uncover inconsistencies in the content, breaks in flow, and simple textual errors. A colleague can act as a devil’s advocate to ensure that the arguments you create in support of your proposed work are strong and backed up with sufficient evidence.

How to Write Business Proposals: Effectively Communicating Great Ideas Through Project Bids

Business proposalsWhat is a Proposal?

A proposal is a document generated by a company to obtain funding from another organization. While a business plan can be considered a proposal for the company as a whole, a proposal generally focuses on a specific opportunity for the business, whether it is a bid for a solicited job, or proposed research and development work.

While business people and innovators may come up with some great ideas, those ideas will simply languish unless they can be communicated in a way that gives them credibility. Proposals are one way that businesses can sell their ideas to organizations that will provide the business with funding. Proposals often have many of the same components as a business plan, just on a more focused level.

Proposals can be written in response to solicitations or grant announcements, or can be unsolicited; that is, the organization proactively approaches organizations that may have funding, rather than waiting for the announcement of a funding opportunity. Solicited proposals are generally more widely accepted, because they respond to a need that the soliciting organization has publicized.

Writing a Proposal

Like a business plan, a proposal requires a significant effort to effectively address the needs of the soliciting organization, to clearly express the solution brought forth by the proposing business, and to prove that the proposing business is the right person for the job.

A Project Bids should be written by a group of people within the organization that meet the various needs of the project. This could include, but is not limited to, project management, technical expertise, financial expertise, manufacturing and commercialization (for product development), and legal counsel.

Proposal Contents

A quality proposal should include (but is not limited to):

  • A detailed description of the work to be performed
  • Background of the problem to be solved (if applicable)
  • A task-based work plan with schedules and milestones
  • A listing of key personnel, including resumes and descriptions of each person’s responsibility within the proposed project
  • Summaries of relevant work performed in the past
  • Information about the company as a whole, showing why the business is the best choice for the job. Include general capabilities, facilities information (if applicable) and relevant assets
  • Information about consultants or subcontractors (if applicable)
  • Financial information including overall budget, labor and material costs and other information specified in the solicitation.

Different solicitations will require different content to be included in the responding proposal. It is important to refer to the solicitation or to the point of contact for the exact requirements for each proposal.