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8 Steps for Writing a Winning Proposal

8 Steps for Writing a Winning Proposal

When companies publish requests for proposals, they expect to receive carefully and professionally written documents. You can’t just slap your name and a price — no matter how low — on a piece of letterhead and expect to win a competitive bid. These tips will help you write a proposal that gives you the best chance of winning.

1. Read Until You Fully Comprehend

Your first step in proposal writing is reading. Carefully analyze the RFP, highlighting any specific instructions or directions you must follow. If you fail to include even one tiny scrap of information requested by the client, your proposal will likely end up in the trash.

2. Research the Client

If you’re unfamiliar with the company or agency, do a quick background check to get up to speed. Visit their website and read any relevant press releases or recent news articles to familiarize yourself with the organization and how they operate. If the RFP requests that you examine additional documents to help you prepare your quote, read them and take notes.

3. Make a Checklist

Make a checklist from the instructions you highlighted during your initial readings of the RFP. Determine whether your business is able to fulfill each of the requirements. If not, line up subcontractors before you begin writing. Don’t risk finding out too late that someone you were counting on is unavailable or unable to fulfill the requirements.

4. Include an Intro

The proposal should lead off with an introduction that explains your reason for contacting the client, so mention the RFP in your greeting or cover letter. Include the client’s reference number or project name.

5. Highlight Your Experience

You should also briefly discuss your company’s experience as it relates to the RFP. You should highlight your team’s skills, education, and project experience focusing on how each of those things will benefit the client if you are awarded the contract. Explain how your company is the best choice for the task at hand. Simply writing a laundry list of services and previous clients isn’t going to impress anyone.

6. Explain Your Plan in Detail

Outline your process, laying out step-by-step on how you will fulfill the requirements of the job. This can be the most difficult step for business owners who write their own proposals, because it’s difficult to strike a balance between striving to keep the section brief out of respect for the client’s time yet detailed enough to illustrate that your plan is thorough.

7. Be Thorough with Pricing

If you’re unable to provide a fixed-price quote for your services or you charge by the hour, include a time estimate and a price list for additional charges the client is likely to incur during the project. Explain what factors may influence the final price so the client has a realistic expectation of the final cost.

8. Review Carefully, Twice

As you review and refine your initial draft, verify that you’ve addressed everything listed in the RFP. Use the checklist you created from the highlighted instructions again, this time to be sure that your proposal meets all the requirements of the RFP.

Finally, proofread the proposal for spelling errors and typos and make sure you’ve created a visually appealing document. First impressions are very important in the world of competitive bidding!

 What proposal writing tips would you add to this list?

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About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a freelance writer in Indianapolis. She also blogs at Suess’s Pieces, home of Writers' Week and the 2012 Brave Little Blogger Contest. Read more about Emily.
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2 Comments on 8 Steps for Writing a Winning Proposal

  1. No jargon and acronyms like RFP!

    • Hi Janice — RFP stands for Request for Proposal. :)

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