Love them or hate them (most consultants hate them); consulting proposals will become a regular feature in your career as an independent consultant. If you can get away with winning a project without a proposal, consider it a significant achievement. A letter confirming your services is usually more painless to write than a full-blown proposal.
In the majority of cases though, you’ll probably find yourself bidding against competing consultants to win a client’s business. That means you’ll need to write a consulting proposal that compels your prospective client to select you instead of the competition.
The entire process of consulting-proposal construction is quite involved and something which I think is better presented in bite-sized pieces, so in this post I’ll just share some tips for proposal structure—probably as good a place to start as any.
A Proven Structure for a Consulting Proposal
Your consulting proposals should be structured in a way that supports your prospective client’s decision making process.
Since all companies have their own preferences though, it’s not really possible to customise your proposal structure, although you can certainly do so when bidding for repeat business with existing clients. For the rest however, the following structure at least sets out your proposal in a logical, clear, and concise manner.
Try sequencing your consulting proposals like this:
- Executive Summary: This should be a powerful but concise overview of your key project proposals, covering the objectives and approach in brief. The executive summary will often be the only part of your proposals that decision-makers study, so you really need to make it count.
- Project Goals: By following the executive summary with a detailed, bulleted list of key project objectives, you can keep the attention of decision-makers and show that you understand what they wish to achieve from the consulting engagement.
- Project Details: Here you can lay out your detailed plans for solving the prospective client’s business problem.
- Responsibilities: It’s a good idea to have a section listing which project responsibilities will be handled by you, and which ones you expect the client to take care of. Clarifying responsibilities at this early stage can help to prevent scope creep after the project has commenced.
- Pricing Breakdown: This section should include pricing for your services during the project, as well as details of any extra costs which you expect the client to pay, such as travel, meals, hotel accommodation and other expenses.
- Terms and Conditions: Having outlined the price for your services in section 5 above, you now need to state clearly how you wish payment to be made. This final section should also advise the prospective client about your invoicing process, frequency of payments and other terms and conditions you wish to apply.
Stand By for More Consulting Proposal Tips
A well-structured consulting proposal helps to create a good first impression and is usually an essential part of pitching for a client’s business. If you can secure a commitment without going through the formal process, consider it a bonus, but don’t neglect to provide a confirmation of service in place of the proposal.
In future posts, I’ll share more consulting proposal tips, including guidance for writing proposals and how to make yours stand out from the competition. Don’t forget to check back regularly for these and other top tips for independent consulting success.
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