What is a proposal?
A proposal is an offer by one party to provide a product or service to another party in exchange for money. In other words, it is sales techniques seeking to persuade the reader or the recipients to accept the written plan to accomplish a task or to fix a problem. It is written to people within an organization, to an outside company, or to the government. In other words, proposals are written offers to solve a technical problem or to undertake a project of practical or theoretical nature. Consultants for instance, submit proposals to companies, stating that they can help solve problems within a company. Building contractors submit proposals to the government that they can build Government building projects. Advertising agencies also publicize a product or an idea for a company. construction companies submit proposals to governments abroad that they can build everything from bridges to skyscrapers the list is endless.
A business proposal is a document written to persuade a potential client or investor to buy a particular product or service. That’s all there is to it, an offer from a seller to a buyer.
Why do we need Proposal?
Proposals, in general, aim to solve a problem, alter a procedure, find answers to questions, offer advice and training, or conduct research on a topic of interest to both parties. However, proposals have varied purposes having a wide or narrow scope.
Proposals, like reports, are valuable records of information in an organization. They act as an index of the company’s growth or progress. Successful proposals give financial returns to the organization. They help promote various research activities which are vital for the individual, organization, or government. Proposals attempt to win contracts for the company undertaking the project. Proposal writing develops certain favorable and useful skills suc h as communicative, persuasive, and organizational skills. It also enhances the power of estimation, judgment, and discrimination in the writer.
Types of Proposals
Proposals submitted in response to a specific call issued by a sponsor. Such solicitations, typically called Request for Proposals (RFP), or Request for Quotations (RFQ), are usually have specific requirements for format and technical content, and may specify certain award terms and conditions.
Proposals submitted to a sponsor that has not issued a specific solicitation but is believed by the investigator to have an interest in the subject. Similarly when a company prepares an unsolicited proposal, it needs to convince the reader that it understands the receivers problem and that it is qualified to solve the problem successfully. Sales proposals rarely duplicate one another in either structure or style.
These are requested by a sponsor who wants to minimize an applicant’s effort in preparing a full proposal. Pre-proposals are usually in the form of a letter of intent or brief abstract. After the pre-proposal is reviewed, the sponsor notifies the investigator if a full proposal is warranted.
Continuation or noncompeting proposals.
These confirm the original proposal and funding requirements of a multi-year project which the sponsor has already provided funding for an initial period (normally one year). Continued support is usually dependent on satisfactory work progress and the availability of funds.
Renewal or competing proposals
Proposals which request continued support for an existing project that is about to end. These requests–from the sponsor’s viewpoint–generally have the same status as an unsolicited proposal.
For more detailed explanation, Basically, there are two major types of proposals are which are, sales or business proposal. and research proposal. Both types may be either solicited (RFP) or unsolicited (RFT).
Business or Sales Proposal
Sales proposal is also known as business proposal. They are sent outside the company to potential clients or customers.
An organization often knows in advance those individuals and corporations that are qualified to bid on a job o r help solve a problem. So requests may come via mail or, in the case of the government, via newspapers.
Research proposal is usually academic in nature and mostly solicited. Professors, or the institutions for which they work, may submit a proposal to obtain a grant in response to a request or announcement from the government or other agency.
While preparing a solicited proposal, the company should remember that, in all likelihood, it will have many competitors bidding for the contract. To be successful at acquiring the contract, the company will not only have to present excellent reasons to follow its recommendations but also have to try to overcome the resistance from its competitors, i.e the company’s proposal should have stronger and more powerful arguments than those of others. So it has to meticulously follow the proposal requirements of the solicitor regarding the problem, the required solution, specific work to be done or equipment to be installed, format of the proposal, number of copies desired, deadlines, etc.
Similarly when a company prepares an unsolicited proposal, it needs to convince the reader that it understands the receivers problem and that it is qualified to solve the problem successfully. Sales proposals rarely duplicate one another in either structure or style. In fact, they often take quite different and creative directions like successful advertisements.
Research proposals are usually academic in nature and mostly solicited. Professors, or the institutions for which t hey work, may submit a proposal to obtain a grant in response to a request or announcement from the government or other agency A research proposal may even appear in a foreign language. For example, a research proposal submitted by an academic institution in India to a multinational company in Germany may be in German. Whatever the research project, the basic content does not vary.
All research proposals
Technical proposals, whether they are sales proposals or research proposals, are a persuasive blend of information, organization, and reason. Essentially, technical proposals should demonstrate to appropriate decisions makers that their needs would be met.
Most business proposals on selling a company’s services, expertise, equipment, or extensive installation facilities may use the structure discussed below.
This structure may also be adapted for a research study within an academic body. Only long, comprehensive proposals require most of or all these parts.
Proposals on smaller projects may use only a few. For example, information required for a grant or sales contract of $20 million, will undoubtedly be longer and more profound than that for a $5,000 research allowance. Hence, the elements desirable for a specific proposal have to be chosen carefully.
When proposals are solicited, the sections for inclusion are frequently specified, but the problem of what information to include remains.
Whether a proposal is long or short, simple or complicated, a writer can improve the chance of securing conviction by making sure that its content s answer the following questions: What do we propose to do? How do we propose to do it? What evidence can we propose to use that will actually get the desired results? What evidence can we present to show that ours is the best way to get the desired results? How can we demonstrate our ability to do what we propose to do? What evidence must we present to show that the cost will be acceptable and, perhaps, t hat we can meet a satisfactory time schedule?
The following discussion is intended as a guide to the kinds of information formal proposals usually include. Although all those who solicit proposals do not want the information to appear in the same order, the sections are discussed here in an order that is often used. Whenever appropriate, sections are condensed or combined. There is no one size-fits-all format for proposals. The nature of each project and its requirements will dictate the structural elements of a proposal.
Generally, all proposals have three main divisions: prefatory parts, body of proposal, and supplementary parts. Depending upon the need and existing practice, you may choose the elements you require from these parts for your proposal.
Elements of Structure
Letter of Transmittal: This is a cover letter that accompanies or is bound along with the proposal. Proposals submitted to government organizations may contain the letter of transmittal immediately after the title page. This cover letter includes a brief introductory a middle, and a concluding paragraph. The topic and purpose are clearly mentioned in the introductory section of the letter. The middle section contains the proposal highlights and the concluding section motivates the recipient towards responding positively to your proposal.
Draft Contract: A draft contract is the rough draft of the contract prepared by the proposer. When the proposal is accepted, the original or rough draft may change in terms of finance, duration of the project, etc. Hence, it will be finalized only when the proposal is accepted.
Table of contents: Brief proposals do not require a table of contents. But if the proposal is long then a table of contents is essential.
List of Tables and Figures: This list enables the reader to locate the graphic aids, if any, quickly.
Executive Summary: Even brief proposals should have an executive summary Seeking to gain a quick review, some evaluators will initially read only this summary. Hence the executive summary should be a concise version of the detailed proposal. It should provide a brief background, telling your reader the need for taking up this project, and summarize the objectives, how they will be met, what procedures will be adopted, and also the outcome of your project. Budget figures are frequently omitted because proposal summaries or abstracts may receive wide distribution. The summary generally ends with a re-emphasis of the proposals strengths. The length of the summary is usually between 100 and 300 words depending on the complexity of the proposal. Many proposal consultants believe that the executive summary is th e most important part of a proposal. It should create a positive impact, so as to induce the reader to read more of the proposal.
The importance of an effectively written executive summary cannot be underestimated. Many consultants believe that a project is accepted or rejected solely based on the impression created by the summary.
Body of the Proposal
Problem and Need: The problem statement clearly specifies what it intends to investigate. It should elaborate the existing facilities or procedure and the short comings arising out of the same. It should explain why the problem exists and what benefits will come from the proposed research.
Background: This includes information such as the following: Previous work completed on identical or related projects. Literature reviews on the subject, particularly the proposer’s evaluation of them. Statements showing how the proposal will build on it.
Purpose: The objective or purpose of the proposal should be stated clearly, for example: To offer the supply of 50 aircraft engines to Aviation Supplier Corporation. To provide the required training for the newly employed graduates.
Scope: This part defines the boundaries of the project. For example, the proposal on a research study should clearly specific whether it will study one or more areas of a community company, department, or a particular problem. The proposal will specify which topics will be outside its scope. The writer of the proposal has an ethical and legal obligation to clarify to the client the limits of his or her responsibility.
Limitations: This section describes the restrictions over which the proposer has no control, such as the nonavailability of some classified information.
Project team/Personnel: Even some short proposals include a listing of the individuals who will work on the project, including project director or coordinator. In long proposals, such information is a must including a brief résumé of each individual (educational qualifications, professional achievements, experience in the area, publications in the relevant field, etc.).
Procedures: Here, a brief discussion on how the technical requirements of the reader will be met should be given. This discussion incorporates the following aspects:
Methods and Sources: You need to tell the reader the methods and sources which you will be using to collect the required statistical data for your project. It may also include a discussion on the reliability of the sources from which you would be obtaining the required information or data for the various tasks to be accomplished in your project. For example, if you are submitting a proposal to offer your software consultancy services to some other organizations, you may have to discuss in this part the journals which you had consulted, the personnel whom you had interviewed to understand the existing problem and also the authorities whom you had met to discuss the legal issues.
Plan of Attack: Here you are required to present the methodology you would adopt to carry out the project. If you are submitting a proposal for setting up Solar Water Heating Systems in a university campus, you have to explain each step of your process, starting from procuring materials to installation of the systems. You can divide this section further into various small headings such as materials, system overview, installation details, etc. In general, this section presents the various solutions available for the problem and the one you have chosen, justifying the reasons for selecting the same.
Sequence of activities: This section pertains to managing the job in question. By means of a Gantt chart or milestone chart, you can present to your client a clear picture of the phases of activities of the project and how long each phase will take. The intention here is not only to guide the reader but also to enable you to proceed systematically with your project. The charts will also show the reader that you have adequately planned and prepared for the various activities.
Equipment, Facilities, Products: You may explain the existing equipment, facilities, etc. at your end and also the additional facilities which you may need to carry out the project. You may elaborate upon your infrastructure by listing all the equipment, products, facilities, etc . you have. In addition, you may give a detailed list which mentions all those things which are necessary for your job.
Personnel: This section presents the details of manpower requirement to complete the project. It also elaborates the technical expertise your personnel have to accomplish the project. The team organization of your project also can be elaborated upon here as to who would be the chief coordinator and who would be the co-investigators, etc. You can include the company profile in this section. The proposer also provides the manpower requirement which should include a detailed list of number of persons and also the type of expertise they should possess.
Budget/Cost Estimate: The budget or cost section is mandatory for all proposals. This provides a breakdown of all estimated costs for the project. It should include such items as materials and supplies, salaries, travel, duplicating, consumable items, etc. Some budget sections may be in tabular form or even a form of visual aid. It is customary to include a budget justification section, in paragraph form, stating the various items of expenses the project would incur and also the potential sources of funding for the project. This would be a further rationale for your financial figures. The recipient will appreciate your acknowledging responsibility for potential cost overruns and funding shortfalls and your thorough preparation in presenting this estimate.
Conclusion: This last section of the body of the proposal provides a final opportunity to you to re-emphasize and persuade the recipient that you have all the resources in terms of material, expertise, and enthusiasm to accomplish the project. No new ideas should be added here and this section should be very brief, maybe one paragraph.
Appendices, as in formal reports, are optional in proposals also. Visuals (maps or graphs) and some pertinent letters of support and endorsement can be added. But when in doubt it is better to leave out appendices.
References give the list of sources which are used or quoted in the proposal. Mostly, these find a place in research proposals which require documentation.
Bibliography are sources used for developing an understanding but are not quoted in the proposal.
Style and Appearance
All techniques and principles which are applicable to technical communication and report writing are equally applicable to technical proposals whether they are for research grants or for a sales contract. Also it has to be borne in mind that the physical appearance of the proposal makes and important non verbal impression. As proposals are evaluated immediately in terms of general appearance, neatness, specific appearance of the table of contents, list of figures, title page, consistency of style, completeness, and professionalism, it is mandatory to spend a considerable amount of time in polishing them. Each item must be checked and rechecked. It would also help to adopt appropriate means of visual persuasion. Company logos are often found on each page. Color and visual aids are used to add effectiveness. For example, a marketing executives major, unsolicited, successful proposal can have on its cover an accurate sketch of the prospective customers buildings. The proposal should be attractively bound and protected by a plastic cover.
It might seem that in a chapter on writing proposals, a section on evaluation would be inappropriate, but generally produce better products if they understand how their work will be judged. By giving a scale of values to the following set of questions, the reader can make a point comparison between competing proposals.
Many proposals turn out to be unsuccessful because of the following reasons: Questionable project design. Inadequate explanation of the research. Lack of experience of the investigator. Other major reasons include vague experimental purpose and poorly prepared knowledge of the literature. The important point to note i s that most of these reasons derive from the presentation of the mat erial, that is, from how the proposals were written rather than from t he nature of the research. In other words, if the investigators had prepared their proposals more carefully, they might have been successful, and in the world of research and grants as well as in business, a successful proposal often means the difference between working and looking for another job.