If you are in charge of or dealing with a factory, then you know how important it is to keep your production schedule filled with projects. That most likely means that you must continually seek new clients for your services. To win a new contract, the odds are that you will need to write a business proposal.
If you've never written a proposal before, that may sound like a difficult project. It doesn't need to be intimidating, though, because you already know your business and how to sell it, so you're halfway to the finish line. The other half is learning what goes into a business proposal, and that's what this article is about.
If you are responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP), then of course you need to provide all the information asked for, in the order specified in the RFP. But if it's up to you to decide the content and format for your proposal, you should know that all business proposals have a basic four-part sequence.
Part 1 is the introduction, which consists of a Cover Letter, a Title Page, and (optionally) an Executive Summary and a Table of Contents. In the Cover Letter, simply explain succinctly who you are, why you are presenting this proposal, and what you'd like the reader to do after considering the proposal information (set up a meeting with you, collaborate on a contract, call for estimates, etc.). Be sure to provide all your contact information, too--phone number, email, website, physical address, and so forth. The Title Page is simply a descriptive name for your proposal--something like "Proposed Manufacturing Process for QRT Widgets" or "Fabrication Proposal for HJK Corporation." An Executive Summary (also called a Client Summary) is a list of the most important points in a complex proposal, and it's provided for busy execs who may not have time to read the rest of the pages. The Table of Contents is simply a navigation aid and will be needed only if the proposal is long and complex.
Part 2 is a very important section, and one that is often neglected. Many proposals start off with a lot of marketing information about why the company proposing the project is so great to work with. That's not a good strategy for a winning proposal. Instead, Part 2 should be all about the potential client. Put yourself in your client's shoes. Write down that organization's needs, desires, and limitations. At a minimum, you'll want a Requirements or Needs page. You may also need more specifics, like a Schedule page and a Budget page. Maybe Specifications and Materials and Packaging pages, too--include all the topics you need to describe your understanding of what the client wants and needs, as well as any Restrictions and Limitations on the project. You might need to include diagrams or blueprints. Your goal is to prove that you understand what the client needs from you.
After you've explained what the needs are, it's time to describe how you propose to fill those needs in Part 3. This is the section where you describe in detail what you propose to do, how it will benefit the client, and how much it will cost. The pages in this section vary tremendously from project to project, but this section should at least contain a Services Offered page, a Benefits page, and a Cost Summary page. You might also want to include some of the following topics: Solutions, Efficiency, Design, Schedule, Options, Quality Control, Guarantee, Equipment, Prototype, Packaging, Shipping, Safety, Sampling, Testing, and/or Labeling. Include as many topics as you need to describe your proposed manufacturing process in detail, and make sure to talk about how your process meets or exceeds the needs you detailed in Part 2.
After you have thoroughly described what you propose to do, it's time to explain why your company is the best choice for the job--that's Part 4, the final part of the proposal. It's always best to use facts, statistics, or recommendations from others to sell a client on your reputation, so you'll want to include pages like About Us, Company History, Experience, Client List, Projects, Staff, Certifications, Facilities, and so forth to demonstrate that you have plenty of experience with similar projects and you have the capability to carry out this manufacturing process. If you have won Awards, have gathered Testimonials from other clients, or offer a Guarantee or Warranty, be sure to include all those, too.
Now you understand the basic structure for a proposal: Introduction, Client-Centered Section, Description of Proposed Services section, and Manufacturer-Centered section. After writing all these sections, you have the first draft for your proposal, and you're nearly done.
There are two steps left. First, find a dynamite proofreader or editor to scan the entire proposal, correct any spelling or grammatical mistakes, ask questions about any confusing wording or information that is lacking, and make sure each page looks professional. Then print out the proposal or package it into a PDF file and deliver it to the client by whatever method makes the most sense for the client.
Although you can use any word processing program to create your entire proposal from scratch, you might want to start with a pre-designed proposal kit, which is specially designed for writing proposals. A proposal kit will include hundreds of template pages (including all those topics mentioned above) with instructions and examples for writing about nearly any sort of topic. Also included in proposal kits are sample proposals, so you can see how finished proposals for all sorts of projects might look. There are even contracts you can change for your own use, as well as all sorts of help should you need any guidance in using the product. You'll find using a pre-designed proposal kit will make you look like a pro, even if you're writing your first proposal.
Ian Lauder has been helping small businesses and individuals write their proposals and contracts for over a decade. => For more tips and best practices when writing your business proposals and legal contracts visit http://www.proposalkit.com
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