Checklist for Creating Winning Proposals


1. Do you have enough information on the client’s company to understand their business and the context of their inquiry/request/approach to you?
2. Have you identified the stakeholders?
3. Do you understand what each of the stakeholders really wants?
4. Have you assessed the business requirements, and the individual requirements, of your clients?
5. Do you know who your competitors are, or likely to be, and what they will offer?
6. Have you established strong enough relationships with the right people, to have your proposal taken seriously?
7. Have you established the commitment of the client to proceed with the specified project/purchase?
8. If possible, try to establish a budget for what your client is asking you to do. Make sure it’s the sort of project that you would want to take on.

Creating the Proposal

1. The most effective format that works for both me and my service-business clients is:

a. Background (for new clients, this demonstrates your understanding of their business, and why they need your services)
b. Objectives (what they want to achieve)
c. Proposed Approach (how will you go about delivering the service and achieving the outcomes – eg: preparatory work, workshops, in-depth interviews, etc)
d. Deliverables – what you will do and also what your clients need to do (eg: be available, provide information, etc)
e. Timeframe
f. Fee – including Terms and Conditions

2. Recap the brief as you understand it, whether it’s for professional services, delivery of products, or development of software, the client wants to buy something from you for a reason. By recapping the brief, it sets a framework within which you can work, and the goals and intent are very clear for both parties. It eliminates confusion over expectations on both sides.

3. If, in the course of compiling your proposal, you realise you need to clarify something or need additional information, call your client to discuss. They won’t mind – they want you to understand.

4. Present your proposed solution or product offering in a compelling way, aligning it with the requirements reiterated in the initial recap of the brief. Your offering, your approach and what you plan to do must be aligned to what the client needs and wants.

5. Specify very clear deliverables so again, there is no confusion as to what you will deliver and what the client will receive as an outcome.

6. Set a timeframe.

7. Specify the fee or price.

8. Include terms and conditions.

9. Allow for contingencies and clearly state them. For example, timeframes and fees may vary due to uncontrollable circumstances.

10. Certain agreements would be based on SLAs (Service Level Agreements), in which very clear and specific deliverables will be itemised, often with penalty clauses for non-delivery.

11. Check the spelling of the client’s name and the company name.

12. Check for spelling and grammatical errors in the document – get another person to check as well.

13. Present the proposal in a format that is preferred by your client (Powerpoint, email, hard copy document).

14. Include what you need to include and delete the rest. Your clients don’t have time to wade through mounds of words to extract the essence of the proposal.

Follow Up

1. Deliver, present, email or post the proposal.
2. Set a time for a follow up meeting to review, wherever possible.
3. If you’ve followed these steps, you have an extremely high chance of success!