Although I try to avoid writing proposals, sometimes a prospect insists. In addition to taking a lot of time, I am often unsure whether or not I am getting off track and endangering my chances of winning the bid. Any advice?
First, no consultant likes writing a proposal. If a client requires one, and they have every logical right to do so, they should be conclusive rather than exploratory. If you are introducing yourself ("please describe your company history") or general approach to consulting ("describe how you approach consulting projects") then this is a warning sign that the client really does not know what they want or does not know how to work with consultants. It is also a sign that there may be other surprises down the road.
Second, other than a long windup about your philosophy and background, the more detail you are asked to provide, the less flexibility both you and the client will have when the project starts. Any surgeon can specify how an operation generally goes, but none are under the illusion that your case will be exactly as specified, and you sign a permission to deviate from the standard procedures per the surgeon's judgment.
Third, they really don't want to read a long proposal any more than you want to write one. Talk to your prospect about this and talk about the project until you are both very clear about the scope, sequence and content of engagement tasks. Then write a high level proposal, almost at a contract statement of work level, that should be only a few pages. Tip:
Many clients ask for a proposal without thinking it through that they are imposing work, creating unnecessary restrictions on a professional consultant's flexibility, and not using the pre-proposal time to clarify the project scope and outcomes. Show your professionalism by advising your prospect on how best to promote their interest by laying out a more focused sales and evaluation process. Even if this is a competitive proposal process, you will likely win some points by adding value even before the proposals are submitted. © 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA