Creating a Winning Proposal

Your proposal — the document that details what you propose to do for a client — is an important marketing tool, but may not be as intimidating as you imagine.

Its objective is to outline your approach and your strategy, plus provide details about your background and experience that’s relevant to the project. But most proposals are too long and filled with too much generic material, conveying heft rather than substance. And while proposals are essential to the selling process, especially if you’re pursuing complex projects from large corporations, designers who shy away from selling tend to use the proposal to do the bulk of the selling for them. But it can’t. That’s not its purpose.

Business proposal sample

Get 25 Resources for Project-Winning Proposals. In this exclusive Proposal Bundle and you ll find actual proposals you can use as models to create your own template, improve your existing template and/or to customize a specific proposal you re working on + exclusive tips to win projects every time.

Yes, you need a template for your proposals so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you create one (keep reading and you ll find an example); but the proposal you submit should be anything but generic. Find out as much as you can from your prospect, then customize your proposal so that it reads like a document written expressly for them. Include as many details and references to conversations you’ve had as you can. Go out of your way to think through the project and let that thought process be reflected in the document. You might even include additional research you’ve done.

Next, think about how your proposal will be used (and if you don’t know, ask). For example, if your contact isn’t the decision-maker, your proposal will probably be used to sell your services up the chain to their management. Those people won’t have spoken to you or met you. They won’t have seen your website. All they have is the proposal. So if you wonder whether to include an idea that was discussed during your conversations or additional samples you showed to your direct contact, go ahead and include them. Make sure your proposal presents the full picture of your services and makes the strongest possible argument for why you’re the best candidate for the project.

At the same time, don’t put too much weight on the proposal itself because there’s more to the process than what’s on paper. What matters more is how well you communicate and follow through, how reliable you are, how you speak to them and how well taken care of they feel, including during the follow-up process.

Sample Proposal

Allison Manley of Chicago-based design firm Rogue Element Inc. has generously offered to share one of her firm s winning proposals for a major web design project for a law school. (We thank her sincerely for that. No one else wanted to share.)

Manley emphasizes that this proposal (a response to an RFP) got Rogue Element into the final three firms being considered, but it was the interview that got them the job.

Notes on the Proposal

  1. The client specifically liked pages 11–12, where they outline their creative process via case studies. For this particular RFP, they wanted a maximum page count, so we gave abbreviated case studies, Manley says. We have since updated our RFPs a bit so our case studies are now fleshed out more comprehensively with Challenge/Solution/Results areas so we can list metrics. Plus, we added some awards we won in our bios, and a communications section that provides more info about the working process and billing procedures.
  2. The client asked for the Terms Conditions, so that s why they are included. Manley always asks whether they want them included.
  • For more from Ilise Benun pick up her Proposal Bundle for Designers: 25 Resources for Project-Winning Proposals. In the new Proposal Bundle, you ll find 11 actual proposals that you can use as models to create your own template, improve your existing template and/or to customize a specific proposal you re working on.


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2017 eurozone growth fastest in a decade

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4 Business proposal letter Samples

The following are four business proposal letter samples.

The first letter is an unsolicited proposal.

The next two are solicited proposal letters.

Take note of the difference between these two. In the solicited proposal letter, you can and should go into specifics of the proposal.

The last letter is from a reader asking me to check the business proposal letter she has written.

How would you like to cut your printing costs by more than 40 percent per month? Give us a few minutes of your time and weВ’ll show you how.

WeВ’ll review every facet of your current system and analyze its strengths and weaknesses. WeВ’ll look at a comparison of costs for other businesses of your size and provide a comprehensive report of short and long-term actions that will generate substantial savings for your company.

The enclosed proposal outlines the details of what weВ’ll do and how successful weВ’ve been at doing this for other businesses. In fact, we guarantee youВ’ll save no less than 10 percent per year savings as a result of our efforts.

IВ’ll call after youВ’ve had a chance to review our proposal.

The following are two samples of solicited business proposal letters.

Thank you for your request for pricing for ACME Explosives products.

Based on our current pricing, we would be able to provide you with the 300 units TNT dynamite at a per-unit price of $1, or a total of $300.

I would point out that our quantity discount rate structure reduces the price for orders of 500 to 1,000 units of this model to $0.90. Therefore, I would suggest you increase the size of your order to 500 units; the total price would be $450.00 for the larger quantity.

In addition, you would be eligible for a special offer of free shipping for initial orders from new customers.

Please feel free to call me with any questions. I look forward to working with you.

I enjoyed speaking with you the other day. Enclosed please find a preliminary proposal for Debt Collection for Mafia Services.

I believe this includes all specifications, options and terms we discussed. If not, please let me know as soon as possible so we may revise the proposal to meet your needs.

If all is in order, let us know how and when you wish to proceed. As noted previously, we can arrange a lease with low monthly payments designed to stay within your operating budget. As always the system is available for purchase.

While I understand this is a major undertaking for Mafia Services, I would advise you time is of the essence. Several of our suppliers have announced price increases for the fall. Unfortunately, as their prices increase, so do ours.

The prices included with this proposal are valid for 90 days from the time of receipt. Please call me if you have any questions or require additional information.

Business proposal sample

The following is a business proposal letter sent in by Carol, a reader asking me to check her proposal letter. You can see my response to her below.

Is the wording OK?

Vulcan Materials, Western Division

2. Vulcan computer with all the programs required for Dispatch and Data Entry.

3. Nextel wireless phone with all programmed foreman contact information.

This service will allow Vulcan Materials to pay one vendor for all of your transportation needs.



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