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Expert: Robert Frey

Fred asked:

Is there a "standard" form for a business proposal? I have seen a copy of an unsolicited proposal quite a few years back, but I am sure that someone has developed a standard by now, or is the current term "business case"?

Robert Frey answered:

Given my work during the past 13 years on more than 600 government, private-sector and international proposals, the short answer to your question is no, there is no "standard form" for a business proposal. That having been said, there are some guidelines that can be offered to provide a framework for your proposal response. Two scenarios, among many, are provided below.

Scenario #1

  • Transmittal Letter
  • Cover Sheet
  • Background Information and Overview
  • Technical Objectives
  • Work Plan
  • Related Experience
  • Key Personnel
  • Facilities and Equipment
  • Cost or budget

Scenario #2

  • Transmittal Letter
  • Executive Summary
  • Technical Volume (ensure that you demonstrate the you understand the client's critical technical issues, success criteria, and importantly, how the work will change over time)
  • Management Volume (include past performance and key personnel)
  • Cost Volume

Fundamentally, what one organization or consultancy sells to another organization is human talent and knowledge and contractual experience at a reasonable and competitive cost. However you chose to structure your proposal (always do so in accordance with the solicitation document, if there is one), ensure that it highlights the BENEFITS to the client of your key staff, past performance (contracts), technical solution or approach, management approach, etc. People buy from people who have done similar work and who have complementary skills. Too many times, organizations focus on their own features -- how long they have been in business, when they were founded, the ownership, office locations, technical expertise, and so forth. The genuinely effective, and frequently winning, proposer translates those features into benefits that the client understands and appreciates.

About the author

Robert Frey is the author of Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses, a comprehensive book that explains how to plan and write proposals for government, private sector and international contracts.

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