When a company invites you to submit a proposal or competitive bid for consideration for a specific project or for ongoing work, it's termed an RFP, or Request for Proposal. Your goal in submitting a proposal is to persuade the soliciting company that you can do the job and, ultimately, to receive an invitation to make a formal presentation or win the contract outright.
The basic format for proposals is:
- Suggested approach
Research the requesting company and the competitionAn outstanding proposal requires research. Do your homework. Know the company to whom you are submitting the proposal. Thoroughly review the RFP. Bring unique solutions to the table, and show that the company will lose by not hiring you. Sell yourself by showing your knowledge of the problem as it pertains to the company in question. Think specifics and not generalities. Know your competition to position yourself accordingly (without denouncing them in the proposal process).
Focus on your strategy for offering a cost-effective solutionCompanies award some, but not all, contracts solely on price. The lowest bid is not always the best solution. In preparing your proposal, show the true value of your product or service. If your proposal has an initial higher cost but can potentially save the company money over a certain time period, show that information through financial charts and graphs.
Prepare a first draftUnless the soliciting company has asked you to follow a specific format, follow the general format mentioned above. Eliminate unneeded wordiness. Integrate business graphics into the document to clarify and to break up lengthy text passages.
Solicit feedbackAsk others in your organization not involved in the drafting of the proposal to review your work for clarity, content, punctuation, spelling and overall communications. If possible, don't be your own editor.
- Develop a template exclusive to your company to use for future proposals.
- Create a process to follow for reviewing and responding to RFPs.
- Check your own business records at Dun & Bradstreet to determine their accuracy.
- Do not disclose proprietary information — the soliciting company or your company — in your proposal.
- Be selective in responding to RFPs. They are time intensive.