Consultants often need to create proposal letters to solicit business from prospective clients, and a well-written consulting proposal letter can go a long way toward convincing these clients to move forward with the consultant's services. However, when a proposal letter is not well-written, it can have an adverse effect on the consultant's efforts to land a new client. With this in mind, it is important to follow a few key steps to write an effective proposal letter.
Learn More About the Project
In most cases, a consulting proposal letter will not be written until the consultant and the potential client have discussed the project. This may have been through an initial phone call or several phone calls, or there may have been a face-to-face meeting where the project was discussed in depth. This information will provide the basis of the letter, so it is critical to gather as much information about the project as possible before drafting the letter.
Research the Business and Project Independently
While it is important to speak directly with the potential client to gather details, it is also important to conduct independent research. This may include reviewing surveys, studies or competing services available. This information may help the consultant to learn more about client's motivations and goals as well as to position the proposal so that it wins out over the competition.
Define the Scope of the Project
After all research for the proposal letter has been completed, the consultant can start drafting the letter. A formal greeting is suitable in most cases, and the first paragraph of the proposal will discuss the consultant's understanding of the project, the client's goals and the work that the consultant is offering to do for the client. This can be very detailed, and adding more details in this section of the proposal can prevent misunderstandings and confusion once the work begins.
Describe Qualifications and Skills
The proposal letter is a sales tool, and because of this, the consultant should clearly define why he, she or the firm is the best candidate for the project. Specific qualifications, education, training and certifications can be itemized. Relevant work experiences, years in the business and more can also be detailed in this area. Typically, the qualifications and skills of the consultant will be listed in a second paragraph if enough information is available. If this will only take a sentence or two, it may be added to the end of the first paragraph in the letter.
List Milestones, Duties and Time Lines
The next section in the consulting proposal letter may be rather lengthy, and it should be very detailed so that the client and the consultant are clear on the terms of the proposal. It should clearly state the work and duties that the consultant plans to take on, and it may also list any work or duties that the consultant will not do and that will not be covered under the scope of the proposal. It should detail specific milestones as well as factors that may cause delays in reaching the milestones, such as weather conditions for outdoor work projects.
Propose the Fees
A final and important item to add to a proposal relates to the fees. This information may include the total cost of the project, an up-front deposit or retainer and milestones for when the additional payments should be made. It may include acceptable payment terms and forms. In addition, the proposal letter may discuss factors that may result in additional fees being charged. For example, if a client states that certain supplies will be provided, the proposal may indicate the fee that would be charged if the client has to provide his or her own supplies.
When Drafting the Proposal
It is important that the consultant understands that the proposal is a sales tool as well as a protective resource. It is designed to sell the client on the consultant's services, and the goal is for the client to accept the proposal. However, the proposal also can protect the consultant by fully defining the project's terms, fees and time lines. It may prevent the client from expecting more work or different results than what the consultant is getting paid for. Depending on the scope of the work and the nature of the project, the proposal may be a full page or several pages in length.
When preparing a proposal letter, it is important that it be delivered to the client in a timely manner. It can take some time and effort to draft a complete letter that covers all of the details and that is both sales-oriented and protective. However, if the letter is delivered many days after the client and consultant initially discuss the project, there is a chance that the client may have already moved forward with another offer. Therefore, while it is important to be thorough and detailed when drafting a letter, time is also of the essence.