What is a Consulting Proposal?
After speaking with a prospective client about their project needs, a consultant should follow up with a detailed consulting proposal. The proposal document outlines the entire project, details the proposed solution and is the first step of the sales process for winning new business. A great consulting proposal should do the following:
- Provide the project scope
- Explain all deliverables and expected outcomes
- Detail the project schedule
- Itemize consulting fees
- Spell out the terms and conditions for the working arrangement
An effective consulting proposal details your consulting services for prospective clients in such as way as to give them confidence that you are the best choice for their specific project. Along with providing a quote for your services, consulting proposals are persuasive documents that win new clients for your consulting firm.
To download a free consulting proposal template that you can start customizing for your project, sign up to Bonsai for free now!
Why Consulting Proposals Win More Clients
Writing a consulting proposal takes time, and time is money. Writing them isn’t the most fun you could be having either. However, they are a necessary part of the process for turning prospective clients into new business. Your consulting proposals won’t always win, and they shouldn’t always be written. There are a few hurdles that need to be cleared first to give your winning proposal the best chance of being accepted.
Qualify Prospective Clients
A formal proposal for your consulting services is only going to be worth your time and effort if you have a clear understanding of exactly what the potential client needs. If you can answer the following, it’s a good indicator your prospect is ready for your proposal.
- How does the client describe their problem?
- What are the likely outcomes of their problem going unsolved?
- What will it cost their business?
- What have they already tried to fix the issue?
- Who is involved?
When you can answer all of these, you have the indications and information you need to add value for the client with your proposal.
Before you pull out any consulting proposal templates, it’s best to get a verbal agreement from the potential client that this is what they really want. One way to do this is by digging into the problem that you can solve and getting to know their pain points better.
Chat with them about what your consulting business could do for them, the kinds of challenges you might face and let them know what it’s like to work with you. This builds a firm foundation for the business relationship and gives them a feeling for what you might be able to achieve together. When they can imagine working with you, it’s time to move ahead with a proposal.
A consulting proposal wins clients because it helps you bring all of this work qualifying and building relationships to a head. It provides a destination for the discussions you’ve been having and focuses yours and the client’s intent for solving their problem with your specific project plan.
What to Include in the Consulting Proposal
Although freelance management consulting is a growing industry, consultants can find it difficult to clinch a deal and sign a client for a specific consulting project. A clear project scope embodied within a consulting proposal can move a potential client toward agreeing the project. Great consulting proposals help you win work and create a schedule you can follow once you get started.
Winning consulting proposals always show potential clients you have a clear understanding of their needs while highlighting your strengths throughout. This is done over a number clearly defined sections, starting with the executive summary.
After your cover page comes the executive summary. Here you need to provide a brief overview of the client’s problem and their desired outcome. Explain how you plan to resolve their problem and the methods you will use to do so. Identify the risks associated and how these will be mitigated and finish up with a brief summary of your recommendation for their business plan.
This section of the proposal needs to be succinct and brief, communicating the key points with enough information for the client to get a good grasp of the direction your consulting proposal will take. If relevant, include key statistics and be specific about what is needed for the desired outcome to be possible.
This is also where you need to state your value proposition - what you’re bringing to the table and why the client will benefit from it. You should state this clearly and as simply as possible. It needs to fit snuggly with the client’s problem and your proposed solution.
Project Outline and Scope
Now it’s time to get into more detail about the project. Be specific - if your consulting services are in the area of creating business growth or marketing strategies, you’ll need to outline what it will and won’t cover. If your consulting business develops business intelligence and analytics include the major and minor details about how you’ll go about this.
The more detailed you can be with your consulting proposal, the less room there is for misunderstandings and the greater level of expertise you’ll display to the prospective client. A winning consulting proposal builds trust while showcasing your strengths and capabilities. If you are taking the time to create proposals for your prospective clients, more detail also helps you stay on track once the work has begun.
Project Deliverables and Expected Outcomes
What can the client expect to get from the project? This should be a combination of tangible outcomes, like a report, process map, or performance recommendations along with the intangible benefits such as confidence in their new direction, deeper understanding of their market forces and trends or clarity for increasing production and revenue.
Schedule for Work and Key Milestones
Building a schedule as part of your consulting proposal puts you ahead when you begin working on a project. The clear outline of what will happen and when also guides the working relationship and provides structure for payments and milestones throughout the project. People like to know what to expect, so building a schedule into your proposal also adds to value for your client.
Pricing Structure and Terms and Conditions
What you charge and your pricing structure in terms of when and how the client will be invoiced for your work are just as important for your consulting proposal as the outline of the solution you are selling. Deposits to get started on the project and installments or your invoicing cadence should be clarified.
A good consulting proposal also outlines the basic terms and conditions for the project. This can include where you will work, the hours they can expect to reach you, confidentiality clauses, termination of services, ownership of intellectual property and any other relevant terms that impact how you work and clarify this for the potential client.
The final, and arguably most important section, is the part where the client signs their agreement for all of the above. It may be that your consulting proposal needs further negotiating and sections are changed before agreement can be reached. This is perfectly normal and negotiating terms is simply part of the proposal process.
Knowing what you are prepared to negotiate on can help to move the project proposal forward faster. It’s a good idea to keep this in the back of your mind when you create proposals. Once the prospective client signs the proposal, it can become a supporting document for the consulting agreement to create a detailed contract.
How to Write a Consulting Proposal
Each project that you pitch for will have different details. However, large parts of your consulting proposal will remain the same, so it’s helpful to create a copy of a winning proposal and strip out the customised elements to create your own consulting proposal template. This can be used time and again to write consulting proposals faster and with more confidence.
When it comes to actually sitting down to write your consulting proposal, there is no need to start at the very beginning and work your way through in order. In fact, it is often easier to begin with the project outline and scope as this informs nearly every other element of your business proposal.
Show a Clear Understanding of the Client’s Issues
No matter what type of consulting you offer - from project management to process optimization and transformation and on to growth strategies - your project summary must show you understand the potential client’s problem inside and out. This is the only way you can be sure your consulting proposal answers their needs adequately.
Cover All Aspects of the Project
There’s a lot to remember when writing a consulting proposal, noting down all of the elements you need to cover and ticking them off as you address them is a great way to make sure nothing is forgotten. A consulting proposal template ensures everything is laid out in the right order, the following checklist will make sure nothing is left to chance.
- Contact information for you and the prospective client
- Overview and project scope
- Objectives and deliverables
- Experience and credentials
- Terms and Conditions
Highlight your strengths
Never forget that your proposal should be selling your services to the client. Highlight your strengths and talk about your successes with similar projects. Include customer testimonials or add visual interest with icons that highlight key stats and help them stand out in the client’s mind. Be memorable and back up your claims with hard figures wherever you can.
Proof and Send
Before you submit proposals, you should leave them for at least half a day and then proof them. Check carefully for mistakes and typos. Winning proposals are mistake free - no matter how great your skills and credentials are, you won’t appear professional if you have spelling and grammar errors throughout.
Finally, send the proposal and let the client know you will be available to answer any questions they may have about it. Be open to negotiating parts of the proposal. Intangible services like consulting often take a little back and too before a business relationship can be confirmed with a signed agreement. Once the proposal is signed, quickly follow up with a customised consulting agreement template so work can begin.
Creating a Consulting proposal is simple with Bonsai
Consulting proposals can take a long time to write and there is a lot riding on them. It’s not just a matter of winning new clients, there’s also your consulting business reputation to consider and the way your consulting services are presented. Even when using a sample consulting proposal, it can be too easy to leave out essential elements for your business proposal and lose out to a larger consulting firm.
Sign up with Bonsai to download a free consulting proposal template that can be instantly customized for any project!
Working with a consulting proposal template gives you the assurance that your consulting services, skills and credentials will be presented in the best possible light. A proposal template will help you write a consulting proposal faster and with more confidence - even if you’ve written consulting proposals before.
Consulting proposal FAQs
Are consulting services taxable?
When sales tax was first introduced in the United States in the 30s, it was only applied to tangible personal property. However, a lot has changed since the 30s and much of America’s economy is now service-based. Tax laws have changed accordingly and each of the fifty states have their own laws on how services are taxed.
Generally speaking, consulting services are regarded as either a business or a professional service (depending on the nature of the consultancy work). Consulting services attract varying levels of sales tax, depending on the sate they are delivered in and which category they fall into.
What consulting services are in demand?
Consulting is a broad term that covers many types of expertise and advice. The top five most in demand management consulting services are:
- Risk and Compliance
- Operations Management
- Strategy Management
- Human Resources
How does consulting work?
Consultants work with clients to solve specific business challenges. Often, specific teams are brought together for consulting projects with a focus on a particular area - strategy and technology implementations being two of the most in demand areas for business consultants.
Before a project can begin, a project summary is agreed along with the desired outcomes and deliverables. A proposal created for a consultancy project gives the team of professionals guidance and clarity on their work.