The ideal proposal

The best proposal is one you don't have to write. Tip the competitive scales in your favor and try to eliminate the proposal process altogether. A competitive field reduces the odds of landing the business, so sidestep that challenge if possible.

It's less costly for you to write a letter confirming your services than to prepare a formal document proposing your services. Consultants rarely ask clients to award them the business without a formal proposal, so distinguish yourself and ask if you can start the work using a letter of confirmation. What do you have to lose?

A confirmation letter differs from a proposal in that it describes specifically what you will do, not what you are proposing to do. The confirmation letter will describe the objective, scope, schedule, fees, and results. But since it's not subject to competitive bidding, many other elements of a proposal may not be needed, such as a long list of qualifications, case studies, and detailed descriptions of your firm. Most importantly, the confirmation letter approach ends the sales cycle in your favor:

Explain to clients why they also benefit from skipping the competitive proposal process.

^ Point out that the consultant selection process takes their time and attention away from their business.

Stress that you have the skills to get the job done, and that the lengthier the proposal process is, the more it costs them and the longer it delays the resolution of their problems.

In one case, a client asked a consultant how to improve communication between the client's engineering and manufacturing departments. The client intended to ask three other firms the same question and then solicit proposals.

Armed only with a white board and a marker, the first consultant led a three-hour discussion with the client team that dug out the real problem between the two groups, worked through a potential plan for creating the results the client needed, and proposed a schedule.

At the end of the meeting, the consultant asked for 24 hours to solidify the work of the group and prepare a letter confirming the work. The client agreed and awarded the work to the consultant the next day without a competitive bidding process.

If consultants have done their homework in qualifying the project and the client, a request to confirm the project should seem natural. You have nothing to lose in showing the client exactly what you can do and then asking for the work. Worst case, the client will say no.

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