How to create a proposal outline
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Writing a new proposal that checks all the right boxes is an art as well as a science. It can easily feel like an intimidating task especially if you want to send it to a hot lead as soon as possible.

When picking up this task some major questions that come to mind is how long should it be, what all should it contain and how to start. Hence breaking your proposal creation process into sections would not just make it less overwhelming but also improve clarity that you would target to bring with the document.    

To help you with it, in this blog, we have presented a generic but effective outline that you can use to structure your proposal on. It would ensure you do not miss on any critical element nor make it too long to process and comprehend easily by the lead.

Proposal cover

Well begun is half done. It stands true for an effective proposal too. A proposal’s cover is the first thing that your lead will see so it needs to make a good impression and be designed well.

It should cover information like:

- Name of the project

- Any project reference numbers

- Contact to whom you’re submitting

- Name of your company and contact info

- Date proposal was submitted

Always ensure that you use high resolution and quality images on the cover for logs and other context. It should not look like a fuzzy cut and paste job with a white background.

Executive summary

Your proposal’s executive summary should not summarise the entire solution as the normal notion goes. It should pin-point as to why your given solution is the right one for the prospect in the given situation.

Executive summary should give an overview on how your solution is better suited to the needs of the prospect as compared to the competition.

It should focus on the benefits of working with your team rather than the features of your solution. You would have the option to describe the features in detail in the later body of the proposal.

Elements to the Executive summary should contain:

Intro

Intro section is not the place to highlight your company, rather it is a place to grab your reader’s attention in such a way that they are engaged enough to complete reading your entire proposal.

Focus on the client and their issue. Help visualize the results they’re looking for and how the capability of your team would get them there.

The challenge

Define the challenge clearly. A prospect should be able to see that you can empathise with the problem they have to hire you.

Show that you understand their current situation and include some research and/or reference material that relates to it.

The solution

This section of the executive summary should contain high level insights of the solution that your team is presenting to the prospect to help them solve the given problem.

You would cover the specifics in detail in later parts of the proposal but this is where you present the overview of the solution that your team has created to overcome the prospect's challenge. A clear and easy to understand outline here would be key to keep the lead engaged and convert into a client.

Points outlined here should be able to provide a picture as to how the given steps would move the client towards achieving the desired outcome.

The proof

This section should cover your company’s unique competencies that enhance the prospect’s  faith in your work.

You can mention similar business problems that your team has delivered a solution to in the past. It can also cover core competencies that your team possesses or a technology or a product that you have developed that makes your company uniquely qualified for the work.

Cover approaches your team has taken that would get the prospect the most favorable results.

Call to action

Have a single and clear call to action. This is the time to sell your offering even before the prospect reads the proposal further.

Reinforce what differentiates you from the competition and why your solution would be the most effective one to get your prospect the desired outcome they are expecting.


Talk about how the vision and culture of both your companies align and why working together would be a win-win for both the teams.

The Solution

This section of your proposal outlines the details of actions and processes that your team would undertake to solve the client’s business problem.

Make the context of the solution as personalised as possible. No matter if it is the one solution that you sell to most of your client’s, make it as specific to the use-case of the given prospect as possible.

The action plan should not feel generic and seem like you have just swapped the name of the client and the rest is the same.

Deliverables

Describe the outcomes clearly. This section should cover what the prospect can expect to get from you.

For example:

- Website Audit

- Social Media Strategy

- Competitor Analysis

Present detailed descriptions of each deliverable. Avoid any chances of misunderstanding and make no assumptions.

Milestones

Break the project into milestones. This would help set clear expectations of how a given solution would be delivered to the client.

Outline the events and outcomes that would align with each milestone and who would be responsible for what. It should give the prospect a clear picture how each milestone would help them achieve their desired outcome from the solution.

Having this break-up in your proposal will display the confidence that you have in the solution offered and will help win your prospect’s trust further.

Budget

This section should contain the project fees and descriptions.

The key to an effective budget section is to keep it simple. Do not have 8-10 offering fields. Try and encapsulate the budget you propose under a maximum of 2-3 fees.

One effective way to go about it is to present what a minimum viable solution offering to the prospect’s business challenge and how much budget it would entail, parallelly what can be done with more budget. In the later option the outcome presented should be much more desirable to the prospect.

You can use Gridle.One’s proposal feature to present it in an appealing manner.

Testimonials and Client references:

People buy from the people whom they trust. Client testimonials and case-studies are the best way to build that with a lead that you nurturing.

Provide case-studies of clients that you have already delivered results for. Have the below mentioned sections in your case-studies:

- Background of the client and the problem

- The approach your team had

- Result that was delivered

You can also add a list of other clients that you have worked for to strengthen your case.

Terms and next steps:

Lead your prospect to close the deal by providing them with a brief statement of work and a contact sign-off section.

Every business proposal would be different but will follow a similar structure. We hope the flow and structure presented above helps you deliver a persuasive pitch.

More posts by Nawaz Mohammaed.

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