A business proposal should always include all the elements that are asked for in the Request for Proposal, formal or not. However, there are three things that should be considered for inclusion every time a proposal is written, because each of them can improve – or detract from – the proposal’s chances. Testimonials, samples, and graphics can enhance understanding of the information that’s being presented and establish expertise or credibility, but they can also make a proposal seem unprofessional or overly glitzy. Don’t write a proposal that relies on tricks alone to sell the business’s services. Use these elements to enhance value, rather than distract from weaknesses in the business proposal.
Any company that has a track record in its field should not be afraid to ask for a written testimonial to include in future proposals. In fact, a good salesman will make asking for referrals and testimonials part of the sales process. If your clients are eager to help but unsure what to write, provide a draft and ask them to suggest changes before signing it.
Testimonials can be included as an appendix to a business proposal, or quotes from them can be placed in relevant sections of the text. One or two well-written testimonials will make your point better than a dozen gushing letters will. Remember to include the client’s full name and company – letters can be more easily faked if names are replaced with initials.
Providing samples of the business’s work in the field can be the best way to show that the company understands the project, and is qualified to complete it. Samples establish clear levels of competency, enhancing credibility in those core areas. A caution about providing samples: if the business’s best work in the field won’t make it look good, nothing will doom its chances faster. To the discerning business customer, a lack of experience is preferable to a track record of subpar performance.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, but leave out graphics that don’t have something obvious to add to the proposal. Use illustrations if they will make explaining or proving something easier, but don’t waste the client’s time by asking him or her to wade through piles of graphs that don’t demonstrate anything of interest. A properly designed chart or well-labeled schematic can tell a potential client at a glance if this proposal’s going to make the cut. Cluttering up a proposal with charts that don’t track meaningful data, or don’t have any clear basis for predictions, can cause clients to reach for the next proposal in the stack.
Testimonials, samples, and graphs can enhance any business proposal if the data backing them up demonstrate a business ready to tackle the project.