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The Three Principles of a Perfect Consulting Proposal

Writing a proposal’s easy when the prospect’s head over heels at the thought of procuring your services. But most prospects aren’t giddy at the thought of engaging you. That’s why you need a killer proposal. One that generates excitement and desire and overcomes the prospect’s natural reluctance to open his wallet.

(This article is an itty-bitty, slightly-adapted excerpt from Chapter 21 of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients.)

Most consultants think they’re supposed to be the star of their proposal. Finally, they get to tell the story of why they are so awesome! “Look at our spiffy process. Look at our compelling case studies. Look at our impressive pedigrees. Look at our toes…no, don’t.”

That approach is upside down. Your proposal is not meant to highlight why you’re great.
It’s designed to reassure prospects that you’ll achieve their goal.

Your proposal isn’t about you. It’s about your prospect. That’s why the three principles below heighten your likelihood to win virtually every project.

Three Principles of a Perfect Consulting Proposal

Note: The principles below will apply to all your proposals, with one exception: responding to a strict RFP (request for proposal) that specifies explicit section and format requirements.

1. Focus on Their Outcome, Not Your Tasks

The more your proposal dives into detail about your approach, the more you risk drifting into uninteresting “it’s about me” territory and shifting everyone’s focus to the activities rather than the results. Remember, your value comes from achieving an outcome, not from completing tasks.

2. Provide Reassurance

Clients can be insecure. When you anticipate their objections, quiet their fears, and mitigate their perceived risks, you rise from a vendor to trusted ally. Thanks to the Context Discussion, you know most of the worries that are plaguing your prospect. That means your irresistible proposal can address your prospect’s concerns explicitly in the approach and the contract structure.

3. Offer Alternatives

The perfect proposal finalizes the discovery process by presenting choices. Let that sink in for a moment. The perfect proposal isn’t intended to synthesize our understanding into a single, ultimate submission. Instead, it affords us an opportunity to mold our offering into an even more obvious choice by soliciting our prospect’s reaction to different combinations of approaches and terms.

Now that you know the three guidelines to follow, you can wrap them in a proposal structure that you’ll use consistently for every project. The four-to-five page format outlined in my newly revised, Perfect Proposal Template works well for engagements from $10,000 to $1 million.

You can whip up a typical, six-section, irresistible proposal in a few hours that will inspire your prospects, soothe every area of concern and render them speechless with excitement at the thought of working with you.

Want an example of an actual, irresistible proposal, with key points highlighted? I created a new, revised Perfect Proposal Template for you in March, 2017. (If you’ve previously downloaded the template, download this revised version.)

Final note: You’ll find a much more guidance on writing your own, perfect proposals in my new book. In other words, if you liked this article, there’s a lot more where this came from. Click here to get your copy of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients.

What other principles are important for a killer proposal? I’d like to hear. Share in the comments section below.

  1. Jaime Campbell, CPA, MBA
    March 15, 2017 at 7:07 am Reply

    I also like to establish boundaries + create upsell opportunities for flat-fee engagements by including a concise bulleted list of services which are not included in this engagement.

    • David A. Fields
      March 15, 2017 at 8:17 am Reply

      Jaime, the “not included” list is often a good idea and it serves the two purposes you point out: seeding follow-on work and, often more important for many consultants, preventing scope creep. Thank you for highlighting that excellent idea.

  2. Shahla Khan
    March 18, 2017 at 1:31 am Reply

    Hey David,
    As always, a fantastic read. I was wondering if I can use this template that you shared.
    Im in my final year PhD and I have invented a new model of Corporate Learning based on Service Design.
    I need to test the model in at least 3-5 companies, like a L&D consulting thing where I can improve their ROI and employee engagement, and i get the data for my thesis.

    The amount of money they would pay would go to my research funding so I can finish my research and get paid.

    Have you seen companies invest in PhD project like this and get consulting in this form?
    Is there any advice/tips you can offer for my situation?

    I’m so impressed with the template, Im also ordering the book as I guess it would help me frame my proposal.

    Keep up the awesome work 🙂


    • David A. Fields
      March 19, 2017 at 7:35 pm Reply

      Shahla, I’d guess there are a few companies that are willing to invest in a research project just to “do good”; however, I’d also guess they’re difficult to find. On the other hand, if you can actually improve the ROI on their investment into learning and development, you have a compelling case for why your work will improve ROI, and you’re fees are low because you’re simply trying to cover your costs, then I bet you’ll find many takers.

      The key in this effort, as with any attempt to win consulting work, is to think Right-Side Up. Put the client first. If you want a company to invest in your Ph.D. research, then think first about what’s in it for them. Simply providing data doesn’t solve an urgent need for them–that’s a you-focused approach. How will they get an outstanding return for their investment in the research and what urgent problem will your research solve for them?

      Does that help?

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