9 Tips to Create a Compelling Proposal for Professional Services
by Claudette Albers-Reid on November 21, 2023
Great news! You’ve got a prospective client in the works who seems super-interested in working with you.
Now that you’ve got them intrigued, it’s time to get their business. They’re biting the line, and now you need to reel them in for good with a killer proposal.
Here are 9 tips to creating a compelling proposal for professional services that will help you stand out and win new clients.
1. First things first– Get them on the phone.
We live in a time where emails and texts are king, but in order to write a knockout proposal, you really need to get your prospect on the phone.
Hearing the customer’s voice and tone will key you into what’s really important to them. This will inform your proposal more than hours and hours worth of market research.
And on the flip side, they will appreciate hearing your voice and the fact that you took time out of your day to speak with them. A personal conversation can also go a long way in engendering trust and endearing you to your future client at the jump.
2. Bonus points for a video call
Even better than getting your future client on the phone is to have a video call with them before flushing out your professional services proposal. This way, they can see your eyes and read your body language.
And vice versa– You can be on the lookout for cues to alert you to specific needs and feelings. For example, if the person cringes when you mention billing by the hour, you can do project-based or milestone-based billing in the proposal.
So, take a shower, drink a cup of coffee, and get ready to greet your new client face-to-face with a winning smile.
3. Spell out needs and solutions clearly
A successful proposal will always spell out what the customer needs and the solutions you will provide. This is also what’s known as a value proposition– there’s a specific problem that you will solve with your services. Make sure you spell this out in no uncertain terms.
These needs and solutions will include the basic elements of all consulting proposals:
- Detailing the deliverables and overall scope
- Quoting costs accurately
- Specifying the timeline
4. Don’t go on and on about your credentials
In your proposal, it’s obviously important to let your prospect know that you are the best person for the job. However, don’t do this by droning on about your credentials, especially where you went to school and your success. Clients care about your skills and whether or not they can trust you, not your degrees and your bank account balance.
Instead, customers are more interested in what it’s going to be like working with you and the value and skills you can provide. So instead of mentioning all your experience, describe how this experience is going to help you knock it out of the park, and how the client will feel about the results.
5. Keep it quick and engaging.
It’s better to have a short yet engaging proposal versus a long list that describes every single detail. While you don’t want to be vague, remember a proposal is not a contract. You don’t have to go into the minutia, and you shouldn’t.
The customer needs to know they can trust you, that you can deliver the expected services, and that everything can be accomplished within their desired timeframe. Get these points across and keep it concise.
To keep your proposal engaging, make sure it grabs their attention from the start. Hold the attention by staying away from flowery language and focusing on two things: the client’s needs and the value you’ll provide.
6. It’s not about you.
Echoing #5, keep the focus heavily on the client’s needs. It can be tempting to toot your own horn, but ultimately, potential new customers respond best when your proposal is all about them.
To make sure your proposal isn’t unintentionally all about you, turn on your empathy and keep the focus on the client. You don’t want to come across as a first-year psychology student, but it can be really helpful to engage your empathetic skills when you go to write your proposal.
Ask yourself, what does the client really want and how do they feel at the present moment? What would help them feel at ease? What would make you feel at ease and confident if you were in their situation?
If you need more help, try a bonafide empathy exercise, like this trading places worksheet from Positive Psychology.
7. Go over it a few times with a fine-tooth comb.
Go over your proposal a few times and eliminate any superlative language that detracts from the key points. If a sentence doesn’t need to be there, take it out. Are there one-too-many adjectives? Take them out. Do this a few times, so that by the end, only the most powerful, most necessary language is present.
Do this also with your customer-centric lens handy, and reframe what you need to to keep the focal point clearly on the client's needs, not your accomplishments.
8. Ask for feedback
When you send your professional services proposal, ask for feedback from your prospect. Instead of simply delivering the proposal, leave it more open-ended and in their hands. For example, “Take a look at this proposal and give me any feedback you have” versus “Here’s the proposal you asked for” is a more engaging, customer-centric way to wrap things up.
9. Send it quickly
The early bird gets the worm! That is, last but not least, try to send your proposal as soon as possible. Oftentimes in the professional services world, it’s not the agency that necessarily provides the best value, but the agency that responds the most timely that wins the contract.
Once you’ve got the go-ahead from the prospect, put your other work on pause to focus on your proposal. Shift anything around you need to in order to make sure you get that proposal in their hands ASAP before any competitors beat you to the punch.