Last time I discussed words that could kill your proposal. Now let’s look at ways to help win that proposal!

Let’s face it, the words "send me a proposal" are music to our ears. Even though we might not enjoy writing proposals, most of us will jump at the chance because we believe exciting, lucrative work might be right around the corner—and the mere fact that most of us can’t say no to new work.

In consulting, selling new work is critical. Preparing client proposals and possible presentations to earn that work can be time consuming.  As competition is often intense, missteps during the proposal development and pitch process can be costly. Knowing your audience, understanding the client's industry and knowing the client—and demonstrating this knowledge well—is critical.

Here are a few tips to preparing a good proposal.

  1.  Lead with a powerful, but concise executive summary. This is the setup for the rest of your proposal.  Here you can set the theme and direction you will go. But never lead with: “We are pleased to submit this proposal to you….”
  2. All discussion needs to revolve around the client. Let’s face it, they want to read about THEIR problem and how you can fix it. They don’t want to read how great your firm is and how many projects like this one you have completed.
  3. What is the client getting from you and quantify that. Don’t overemphasize your process or methods. Most clients want end results.
  4. Size does matter.  Keep your proposals as short as possible, while meeting the client's request. Think quality, not quantity.
  5. Beware of best practices. Remember some of the liability language from my previous posts? Pay heed here.
  6. Check your work. Simply stated, if you say you have a great QA/QC process and you have spelling errors or grammatical errors, do you really have good QA/QC?
  7. Rewrite your resume for every proposal. Yes, that is right: Make it fit the client’s needs.  Have it highlight projects or qualifications that are in the best interest of the client.
  8. Complete it ahead of time. Reread your proposal after it has sat for a day or two. This may allow you to take a new approach or come up with a better idea, and you’re not scrambling at the last minute to get it out the door.
  9. Have someone else read it. It may make perfect sense to you, but it may as well be written in a foreign language to someone else. Make sure it is clearly understandable as it stands alone.


A  great proposal can be the final piece of the puzzle to winning work with that client you have been fostering a relationship with.