Guest Blog: Why you should write a business proposal

Apr 18, 2011 by

by Philippa Bowen

Proposals and why you need them?

Have you ever been asked to provide a proposal to someone about what you can do and how you can benefit their business? I often get told that they are a waste of time and not necessary in today’s business environment. Well I disagree.

I enjoy writing a business proposal. Does that make me strange? I’m not sure. But I write them for every job I do. I find that laying out in a very structured form what I have discussed with a client identifies whether I have enough information; and where I may need to ask some more questions. It clarifies my understanding of their business and what we are trying to achieve together.

I separate the tasks into small chunks so that I can agree with the client who is going to complete each one and when. If this is a proposal before we have agreed to work together then this allows the client to see the value of each chunk. if they want to reduce the cost of the project it clearly identifies any in-house work they can complete themselves – but also shows how the project is reliant on them actually completing these tasks.I often find that as a project progresses and value from each step is identified and measured I get asked to complete the steps that were initially removed.

The proposal can include initial projected timings, which can be important for some projects; and starts to identify which parts can be carried out in parallel with other parts of the project.

From the clients point of view they get to review the document, to say which bits they like, what they are unhappy with and what we need to address. Because the document clearly states what is, and isn’t, included in the project this can be discussed, altered and then agreed before the project starts. How many projects have you seen come off the rails because each party had different expectations from the outset but didn’t realise it until the end? I know I’ve seen several.

It acts as a record of what we have agreed at the project outset, which can be very useful if it’s a long project – Have you ever had a conversation (business or personal) with someone, only for them to come back a while later with a completely different recollection of what was said/ agreed? I’m not saying that your proposal has to be set in stone. I can probably count on one hand the number of projects that have followed the initial proposal outline without any changes in my 20+ years in business. But it’s a great starting point and for me I love the fact that I can tick each chunk off as it’s completed. The customer gets to see the impact of small changes to their business rather than waiting to see a change at the end of what can sometimes be a project lasting over a period of months or years.

And of course it’s also the place to put the time to be spent on a project and the fees involved but if you make it into a really useful part of the project it’s surprising how the money aspect of the project becomes less important in the discussions.

So that’s what I put in mine and why I find them such a useful tool. If you fancy trying to write one and don’t know where to start let me know and I’ll be happy to help. Otherwise have a go and let me know what you put in yours.

Philippa is an experienced business advisor who specialises in business strategies that work & deliver real results.

A key factor for business today is the ability to integrate social media into its core strategy. Philippa works with businesses to ensure that they are using the appropriate tools effectively while maintaining a consistent brand & achieving the business results they want.

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  1. Jolly good idea. I aways summarise discussions I have had with a client, old or new, with an “action” section for who’s supposed to do what. That is emailed to the client for agreement before I do anything else. It saves a whole lot of pother later on because it keeps the lines of communication open in case either party wants to change something, and it means we’ve got an agreed starting point with little room for misunderstandings later on.

  2. Helen

    I think this is something that some of us are guilty of letting slide once we are in an established relationship and shouldn’t. For the few minutes it takes its much better to make sure both sides understand what is expected and going to happen, rather than waste time, effort and money sorting it out later. I know of at least one client who could have done with a business proposal, luckily in the absence of one his contract was quite detailed so the confusion with his client was able to be resolved.

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