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SME’sChat: How to write a winning business proposal

Or you may need to respond to an “Invitation for Tenders” or a “Request for Proposals”.


To prove yourself before the client and gain their confidence that you are capable of meeting their requirements, you need to develop a winning proposal. If you are responding to a request for proposal or a tender invitation, the client usually provides detailed guidelines for you to follow when writing the proposal. However, sometimes there is no guideline to follow, or you need to make an unsolicited business proposal. In this case, you will benefit from knowing how to write a winning business proposal.

1. Create your front cover: This may sound obvious but is often neglected in the rush of trying to complete the proposal before the deadline. The front cover should show your organisation’s name, logo, project name and submission date.

2. Copyright Statement: When you hand over the result of your carefully considered hard work, make the client aware that you don’t want it to be shown to a third party. Ideas are easily stolen. Emphasising that you want your proposal kept private and confidential tells the client how much you value it.

3. Executive Summary: Explain your understanding of the client, their business and the industry they operate in.
This will form the platform, that is your starting point for a project, so you need to show the client that their objectives are clear to you. When going through numerous proposals, decision makers first look at the executive summary and the price. Decision makers rely on the executive summary to make sure you understand what they are trying to accomplish.

4. Client’s Situation: Start every proposal with a focus on the client’s issues and objectives, not your firm’s illustrious history. Proposals that begin with a recitation of your firm’s background and qualifications are a fast track to oblivion. You may need to do some research to find out all you can about the client.

5. Solution: After you have written a paragraph on the company’s needs and problems, follow up with a solid presentation of how your business can provide solutions. The key here is to promise solutions you can deliver. Your solution should focus on what the client wants to achieve. You should prove to the client that you can help them meet their objectives. All winning business proposals clearly outline for the company the benefits to be gained from doing business with you.

6. Technical Strategy: Depending on the type of project and how much you think the client will understand, describe the technical details of how you will deliver the solution. Often the Technical Strategy is governed by budget constraints so it’s a good idea to offer two or three options, each of which vary in price.

7. Implementation Process: Explain the process of how you will implement the solution. List the various steps of the process and give descriptions of each one. Describe the full list of deliverables so there are no nasty surprises for either you or the client. Manage their expectations by stating explicitly what you will and what you won’t be providing. Give timelines of the implementation and delivery process. It is important to show that you are focused on reaching a goal and a deadline.

8. Implementation Budget: Bear in mind that as this is a proposal, the implementation Budget should be followed by the caveat that further discussion will be necessary to determine a final cost which would be detailed in the Project Brief. At this stage it’s enough to give an estimate, showing the cost structures and how they build up.

9. Team Biographies: Mention the key personnel who will be involved with the project, giving their names and job titles. Give a brief professional biography for each team member concentrating on relevant previous experience. Make it clear which member of your team is the primary contact for when the client has general queries. For specialist queries — such as design or development — you may want to point out who they should contact.

10. References:  All winning proposals glow with credibility. If you have worked with clients in the same field or have an award-winning business, then third party endorsements will build credibility. If you have any case studies that are relevant to the client’s industry or to  a particular project, you should include them here, but no more than three or four. Each case study should be no longer than a single page. If applicable, you may include a small sample of your work to the proposal. This will show your ability to do the job!

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