How To Write Consulting Proposals in 10 Easy Steps (+ Free Template!)
Blog: The Process Street Blog
This is a guest post by Victor Eduoh, a SaaS content strategy consultant and copywriter. He helps early- and growth-stage SaaS companies drive growth, using the SaaS content topic clusters strategy and Product-Led Storytelling, two concepts he developed.
“Although a great proposal by itself seldom wins a deal, a bad proposal will definitely lose one.“
Tom is right.
Writing a consulting proposal isn’t a silver bullet to land your next client. But fail to craft an excellent, professional one and you won’t close any deal.
Since you found your way to this post, you don’t want that, right? We don’t want it either.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a consulting proposal?
- How do I write a consulting proposal?
- What should you include in a consulting proposal?
- How do you format a consulting proposal?
- My proposal winning superpowers
Sound good? Read on for a free checklist to get started.
Consulting Proposal Checklist
Already know all the steps and what to include in your next consulting proposal?Then, bring it to life with our consulting proposal checklist below. (Humblebrag: Thousands of consultants and business owners like you use it)
Fancy a detailed guide, showing you what to include and steps to make the most of the consulting proposal template above?
What is a consulting proposal?
A consulting proposal defines and outlines the working relationship between you (the consultant) and your prospective client. It’s a formal document that aligns you and a prospect to understand and manage each other’s expectations.
As a formal document, yours needs to be professional, and I’ll tell you why.
Asked how they did it, they said: “Their proposal was more professional.”
But what does the phrase, “more professional” mean in this case?
It means your proposal must provide detailed information your prospect can relate with and value. The result of doing this?
On the one hand, your proposal creates a feeling of confidence in your clients. On the other, it powers you to compete on knowledge, your unique expertise, and not price.
In other words, prospects see you as the boss:
So, what follows isn’t some boring theoretical advice. I’ll show how I create professional consulting proposals that win deals.
How do I write a consulting proposal?
If you found this post with that question in mind, you’re not alone.
I asked this same question the first time a prospect asked me for a proposal. So, if you’re about creating your first (or looking to get something better than you have), you’re luckier than I was.
I say that because back then, I couldn’t find the three concise answers detailed below, which will give you a headstart.
Step #1: Talk to your prospect
Whether on the phone, a one on one meeting, or video call, make sure you speak with your prospects before you start writing your proposal.
Called discovery calls, this lets you know if you’re even a good fit.
Doing these discovery calls became my rule of thumb after I never had success with proposals sent to prospects after a few email exchanges. The same is true of Request For Proposals (RFP) put out by companies where anyone can apply. I’ve never had success with them, and believe it’s because I never talked to a representative of the company.
So, based on my experience, talking to your prospect has its unique way of building trust. It sets the ground to understand them better. And you’ll get to hear hidden details about their business and goals not possible without a direct, live conversation.
Ultimately, such conversations yield a client brief to get you started.
And in Process Street’s consulting proposal checklist, you can upload this brief, as one of your pre-proposal writing tasks:
Step #2: Communicate your client’s desires and goals
All my successful consulting proposals have one thing in common. They articulated and expanded on what a client told me over our discovery conversation.
Yours should be no different.
Writing a successful proposal starts with two things—an articulation of your client’s desires and a detailed expansion of their goals.
Take me, for example. Most clients who come to me desiring a topic clusters strategy always have underlying goals. They want to build topical authority (or create a new category), leveraging the same to drive more organic traffic, leads, and sales.
How do I know this?
I listen attentively to them over our discovery call, and you should do the same. Allow your prospect to talk about their desires and goals. Only interrupt to ask relevant questions.
When you do this, writing your consulting proposal becomes an answer to the prospects’ needs. It articulates their desires and expands on how you’ll help them to achieve their business goals.
First, listening makes you likable. This, in turn, boosts your chances of closing the deal.
Step #3: Make it value-specific
Knowingly or unknowingly, we all do things for the acronym, WIIFM – “What’s In It For Me.”
You opened (and are still reading) this post because it promised to show you how to craft successful consulting proposals, right?
Your prospects will do no different.
They open your proposal looking to find how you’ll help them. And the only reason they’ll read it to the end and go on to sign the contract is if it shows them what’s in it for them.
But, to get to that signing-of-the-contract finish line, your proposal must be specific about the value you will deliver.
Don’t write your consulting proposal giving a client a puzzle to solve, making verbose claims, or showing off your accolades. Be very specific about the value you’ll deliver and when they can expect to start seeing them.
What happens when your consulting proposal is value-specific?
According to a report by Pipedrive:
“[It] sets you apart from the competition, secures long-term customers, and brings distinct meaning to your brand and your solution.”
What should you include in a consulting proposal?
Only include what’s relevant in your consulting proposal. And what’s relevant depends on the client, the problem you’ll be solving for them, and the requirements for executing the project.
In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all list of what you should include in your consulting proposal.
However, the steps that follow highlight what gets included (and doesn’t) in winning consulting proposals.
Step #4: Only include relevant information
I get it.
You’re very confident and feel the need to show it off. You also want the prospect to see how you go above and beyond for your clients. No doubt, these things have their place.
But don’t allow them to deceive you into including new information in your consulting proposal. They’ll do you more harm than good.
New information is anything not relevant to what your prospect mentioned during the discovery call. If you didn’t capture it in your client brief, it’s probably new information.
They end up confusing your prospects. And not only will confusion lead to decision paralysis, but they also lead to inaction.
The result? Prospects who go through your proposal and don’t know what to do next.
Want to avoid this?
Then, in your consulting proposal, only include information relevant to what you captured in the discovery call and the client brief you created.
But how do you ensure you’re not deviating from this?
It’s simple. Equip yourself with a checklist while writing your consulting proposal.
And for this, Process Street is to the rescue.
Just click on the “Edit Checklist” button below to record essential info you need to include (and exclude) in your proposal.
Step #5: Include your process, scope, & timeline
What’s the unique process you’ll take to achieve your client’s goals?
At the very least, include a logical summary of it in a way that resonates with your client.
Yes, you shouldn’t give out all your trade secrets. But failure to include a sneak peek of your process leaves your client with trust issues on how you’ll deliver them value.
These are all critical inclusions in any winning consulting proposal.
On the one hand, they help you to manage expectations by outlining what you’ll be delivering. On the other, doing this is necessary should things go south with lawsuits.
It’s not unusual for clients to make claims with legal actions when you’re deep into a contract with them.
So, be clear about the scope and timeline to achieve the value promised in your proposal.
In my case, not only do I include these in my proposals to protect me from lawsuits. I also do it to prevent a client from making demands for things not covered when signing the contract.
Step #6: Include a relevant & relatable case study
Seeing is believing.
You can talk about the value you’ll deliver, articulate your processes, and be specific about timelines.
But nothing will move a prospect into action than seeing how you applied these to achieve real results for a similar client.
A relevant case study shows that you’ve walked the talk and boosts conversion.
Early in my consulting career, what denied me my first deals was a lack of case studies.
Prospects loved my process. They acknowledged my expertise. Still, they wanted proof I had practical experience in what I promised them.
To land my first deal, I included how I applied my SaaS content marketing process to rank my website in my proposal. I supported it with reviews experts left of my work to close my first client.
Why I’m I telling you this?
If you’re just starting, it’s normal not to have a case study. In such a case, share any real results you’ve achieved.
Don’t expect a prospect to sign your consulting proposal and part with their hard-earned money based on your theories.
What next after knowing how to write a consulting proposal and what to include or exclude from it?
How do you format a consulting proposal?
Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to format consulting proposals. What you’ll include should guide your formatting decisions.
However, keeping to my promise, I’ll share how I format mine to close deals. As an overview, it looks like this:
Let’s explore how you can format yours with the next consulting proposal writing steps.
Step #7: Proposal introduction
Start your consulting proposal with a strong, relevant introduction. Aim to give your prospect a reason to keep reading.
Follow this with brief paragraphs, which:
- Thank the prospect for considering your services.
- States the subject and purpose of the proposal.
- Reinstates your experience and confidence in delivering value.
- Reminds them of the proposal’s purpose and what to expect.
Keep this in mind. Your introduction and the entire proposal is your way of welcoming a prospect you’ve talked with to explore what they’ll get working with you.
However, your introduction shouldn’t define the problem, so keep it brief as much as possible. Aim to interest enough to continue exploring.
Step #8: Define their problem(s)
Here, you want to show the prospect that you’ve done your research, diagnosed their problems, and are on the same page.
Again, you do this with another set of paragraphs. One or two for each, these paragraphs should capture:
- A summarized diagnosis of their problem.
- The negative toll the problem is having on them and their business.
- What their life (and business) could look like if they solved this problem.
In my successful consulting proposals, I use this section to make prospects despise their problems. Doing this makes them eager to start solving them immediately.
Step #9: Specify your solution(s)
If you succeed in bringing prospects this far, you’ve demonstrated that you understood them and their problems.
At this point, you want to show them how you’ll solve those problems and make their life better. Things to include here are:
- A relevant definition of your solution.
- Your brief, step-by-step plan of action.
- A list of target goals, milestones, and what you’ll deliver.
- Expected timelines to hit these goals and milestones.
- The benefits and outcomes they can expect.
- What you’ll need from them (log in details, passwords, etc.)
- Your team, recommendations, and a related case study.
Most prospects jump straight to this section upon opening your consulting proposal. But whether they do this or read from the very beginning, you want them to finish this section exclaiming:
Yes, this is just what I wanted!
Step #10: Conclusion – Estimates, costs, and CTA
Everything in life must come to an end, including consulting proposals.
Keep this section concise and straight to the point. If you’ve followed all the steps above, your prospect is ready to buy. So, summarize and show them how to do so.
In your summary, include:
- A reiteration of the proposal’s purpose and main points.
- Your estimates and cost to deliver your solution.
- A summary of the benefits their investment will bring to them.
- Specify the next steps they should take (your call-to-action).
- Thank them in advance for working with you.
- Your contact information should they need some clarification.
I remember the first time a client went straight to signing my contract after going through my proposal.
It was a liberating feeling. One that didn’t only validate my skill set, but also proved I was worth my price.
Clients will also move straight to signing your contracts if you follow all the steps I shared.
Because, as they did to me, following these steps does two critical things. First, it transforms your consulting proposals into a document proposing value to prospects. It also demonstrates your expertise to deliver this value.
The result is a prospect hurrying to work with you the moment they go through your proposal.
Finally (my proposal winning superpowers)
Data doesn’t lie. I followed this one, and it works for me. So give it a try.
Second, a world-renowned productivity coach, Brian Tracy, whom I respect so much, taught me something I’ve carried on for years.
In his words, “the checklist is one of the most high-powered productivity tools ever discovered.”
This quote led me to reexamine the importance of having a checklist. I’ve found them extremely useful. And I always keep one when executing critical business-deciding tasks.
For writing my consulting proposals, Process Street provides me with this checklist superpower.
But not only that.
The best part?
It’s free to sign up and use this checklist (it only takes a couple minutes!).
Just click on the “Edit Checklist” button below, and you’re ready to start writing consulting proposals that close deals.
Do you have any tips that help you write successful consulting proposals that we neglected to mention? Let us know in the comments below!