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.