An effective consulting proposal is one that clearly articulates the customer’s needs and provides a personalized solution that addresses those needs in an easily digestible format. Since consulting proposals require time and effort, templates ensure critical information and best practices aren’t forgotten when crafting bids, which can result in more consistent client wins.
As you start to create more consulting proposals, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot can help you keep track of important information as you move your deals through your sales pipeline. This helps ensure your proposal is thorough and addresses all your client’s needs. The best part is that HubSpot CRM is free and provides core contact and deal management tools. You can even add more advanced features starting at $50 per month. Visit HubSpot for more information.
Consulting Proposal Template
To help you craft the most effective proposals for your clients, we’ve included a template that you can use to create and deliver outstanding proposals every time, which will help you win more consulting clients. To use this template, simply fill in each section with the information we discussed here, tailoring it to the needs of your client and the solutions you are able to provide.
However, if you would like to create your own, here are the 11 things every effective consulting proposal should include:
The summary of your consulting proposal is an overview of your understanding of the customer, their needs, and how you will address them. It is one of the most important sections since it is your first chance to show that you have put forth the effort to create a personalized solution to solve your customer’s problem.
Your goal isn’t to explain all of the details, but rather to capture the potential customer’s interest and position your proposal as the best for them. If your proposal is detailed or contains more than a few pages, consider including a table of contents to help your client quickly find the information they are looking for.
The purpose section of your summary should directly acknowledge the client’s needs. While the summary section should give an overview of the entire proposal, this section should clarify exactly what you understand to be the client’s specific needs, along with what you have uncovered during the consultative sales process.
In fact, in many cases when a company has requested proposals for a product purchase or project, they will provide an executive summary of their request. You should address that directly in this part of the proposal using one or two paragraphs that describe the need and proposed solution.
For example, a purpose section might begin: “ABC Contractors seeks to improve its overall brand position and marketing efforts by developing a strategic plan to guide future lead generation and sales processes.” That statement explains why the client is seeking a consultant and defines their expected outcome.
3. Goals & Outcomes
The goals and outcomes section details the end result you hope to achieve with your consulting services. This is where you provide the big picture that explains what the customer will get out of hiring you as a consultant. It should lay out specifically what the client has expressed as measurable outcomes that they expect to accomplish as a result of this consulting engagement.
Continuing with the same ABC Contractor client above, this section might include outcomes like:
- Attract 250 new website visitors a month
- Increase the lead conversion rate from its website to 5%
- Reduce manual lead qualification tasks to free up sales reps’ time
- Increase social media audience to 2,500 followers across Facebook and Twitter
These are specific goals that further define the purpose of the proposal, and articulate what the client can expect to result from your consulting work on their behalf. They also tell the story for the client of how their business will be different by hiring you as a consultant. That’s important because you want them to be able to visualize the benefit of working with you and be confident that you’ll be able to meet their needs.
4. Scope of Work
Describing the scope of work helps define the consulting services you’ll provide to the customer based on your agreement about their needs. This describes the specific activities you will perform and the parameters around how you’ll spend your time. This is where you articulate the solution you intend to provide for the customer.
For example, if you are a management consultant working with a customer who is working on a succession plan for their business, you might define the scope of work as the specific consulting services will provide to help them do that. That should include the research, regular meetings, or what you will do if they hire you as their consultant.
This section should also include any work or expectations that are the responsibility of the customer. If your customer will be expected to provide certain information or perform regular tasks, it’s helpful to detail that upfront so that the customer can evaluate how the proposal will affect them and their team.
Deliverables are the tangible items that you will provide the customer. For example, if you are consulting on a marketing campaign, in addition to providing strategic direction as a consultant, you might deliver specific pieces of collateral like a website, marketing emails, or social media posts. Each of these should be detailed so that it is clear to everyone involved exactly what you intend to deliver.
There are some times where they may not be an obvious deliverable, but if you are expecting to provide anything tangible, you should mention it here. That will eliminate confusion and potential problems later.
Here are a few of the specific deliverables you might include:
- Reports: Often a consultant is hired to provide an assessment or a report about the state of a business. In that case, a report with the findings should be included as a deliverable along with any action steps you might recommend.
- Strategic plan: Consultants might also help distill a company’s goals into a strategic action plan that dictates its next steps. These are usually comprehensive and involve large amounts of research and collaborative work.
- Produced materials: These are tangible items that the consultant produces such as marketing collateral or other materials that a company will use in its regular course of doing business, as opposed to reports and strategies that are high-level planning tools.
- Digital assets: These are similar to other produced materials, except that they are digital instead of physical. They might include a website, software, or other finished products.
The timeline should include the regular consulting meetings that you’ll have with the customer as well as the overall timeline for any deliverables. Most of the time a consulting proposal has a defined time frame, and that should be spelled out in this section. For example, if you are consulting on a specific project, you should specify the steps and milestones that are necessary for completing that project.
This is especially important when you require input from the client at specific points in order to continue work. For example, if you will need a report or data from them before you can provide analysis or create a deliverable, it should be clarified in the timeline section.
The timeline is also helpful for establishing overall expectations about how you will move forward, so that no one is confused about when specific steps will be taken or deliverables finished. Even if you are entering into an open-ended engagement with a customer, it’s still helpful to clarify what you propose to be the frequency and duration of consultations.
There are usually two ways to provide pricing in a consulting proposal. The first is to quote the customer an hourly rate for consulting services, which then simply accrue over time. This is the most common type of billing for many consultants since it most directly ties the cost to the amount of work being done, and allows for flexibility as needs change or new circumstances arise.
Even if you plan to structure your pricing this way, you should always provide your client with an overall expectation of what they will pay. This may not be an exact amount, but should be your best estimate of what the consulting engagement will cost in order to give the client the ability to compare proposals from various providers. If you don’t, you run the risk of having the client pass over your proposal because they are unable to evaluate whether it’s the best fit for their budget.
The second option is to create a total consulting fee based on the time and deliverables you intend to provide. This option should take into account the total number of hours you believe you will spend, either on a recurring basis or overall, along with the tangible items you will create or provide. This method is more common for consultants who regularly provide the same types of services to many clients and have an understanding of what it costs to deliver.
For example, if you are a marketing consultant who helps create a marketing strategy, you might create a “package” of services that provides a certain number of hours of your time, along with specific deliverables for a fixed price. In this case, it’s still often wise to quote your hourly rate in the event the client requires additional time beyond what was quoted in the package.
8. Metrics, Measurables & QA Process
This is how you and your customer will determine whether or not your consulting services are effective and meeting the goals you have previously established. This can be as simple as “did we meet the deadline for launching a website,” or more complex questions like “is the customer’s website increasing in rank for their targeted keywords?” These metrics should directly connect to the outcomes listed at the beginning of the proposal.
In fact, in some consulting engagements, they might be the same. For example, with ABC Contractors, the goal of achieving 250 website visitors per month is measurable on its own. However, while your goals should always be measurable, this is where you establish how and when you will measure whether you are meeting your goals. The purpose is to determine upfront how you and the client will evaluate the success of your consulting.
For example, if the goal is to “increase customer engagement and satisfaction,” one of the metrics might be to measure the Net Promoter score at the beginning of the engagement and then on a regular basis as a gauge of whether you are reaching that goal.
9. About Your Company
You should always provide your customer with a summary of your company and the qualifications and expertise you bring as a consultant. This should include information on your core services, the length of time you have been in business, and a brief bio of any key personnel who will be involved in consulting with the customer.
You should always include these items in this section of your proposal:
- Name of your business: This might seem obvious, but always be sure to include your company name. That way, if your proposal is passed around, anyone who reviews it will know who provided it.
- Brief description of what you do: Don’t assume that your potential client knows who you are or what you do. Instead, provide them with a concise overview of your core services and how you add value to their business.
- History and accomplishments: In addition to highlighting what you do, this is your opportunity to establish credibility by sharing with your potential client how your experience and expertise—as well as achievements—make you a good fit for them.
- Bio of key personnel: One of the most important factors for many clients in deciding on a consultant is to feel comfortable with the individuals involved. Make sure to include a brief bio that includes qualifications, educational background, and experience for any key people involved in the consulting project.
10. Comparable Work
Providing information about similar work you have done for other customers gives your proposal credibility as it establishes you as an expert and creates trust. For example, if you are creating a proposal to help a customer develop human resources (HR) processes, you might share two or three examples of businesses in similar industries that you have consulted with. As a bonus, it’s always helpful if you’re able to solicit a brief testimonial or recommendation from happy clients.
11. Contact Information
Of course, every proposal should include the contact information for your company and specifically the person responsible for responding to any questions the customer may have about the proposal. Make it clear in this section exactly how a client can find more information about your business, about the proposal, and about how to move forward with your consulting services.
4 Tips for Better Consulting Proposals
Creating proposals is an important aspect of running a consulting business.
1. Pay Close Attention to the Details
It is especially important to make sure that your proposal matches the requirements of your potential client. For example, do they want a hard copy proposal or would they prefer it be delivered digitally? This also includes making sure to adhere to any deadlines and other formatting requests. If you happen to be preparing a proposal for a government agency, for example, there are specific requirements you’ll need to follow.
2. Use Visuals & Graphics
Anytime you can include graphics that illustrate your point, it helps the client to visualize how you will help them succeed. Even stock photography can make your proposal more compelling and increase the chances that a client will take the time to really evaluate what you are offering. The reality is that even if you aren’t a designer, the look and feel of a proposal matters, and should reflect both your brand as well as your target audience.
Pro tip: Using a service like Canva can help you create a proposal that is both visually appealing and effective. Canva is a cloud-based software designer that allows you to customize templates with your information as well as a vast library of royalty-free stock images. Canva has a free tier that is great for freelancers and solo consultants, as well as a paid version that makes it easy to collaborate with your team and share designs. Visit Canva for more information.
3. Understand Your Client’s Needs
Before you rush to create a proposal, be sure to take the time to fully understand your potential client’s needs. That means doing your due diligence, having conversations to clarify what the client is trying to accomplish, and researching both their company and industry. Each of those will give you a better understanding of who your client is and how you can best serve them as a consultant.
By doing this upfront, you will increase the chances that your proposal will be the best solution for them, which increases the likelihood they will select you as their consultant. It also reduces the chances that there will be confusion or problems later due to miscommunication or misunderstandings.
4. Know Your Audience
The more you know about whomever will be reviewing your proposal, the better. That means doing a little research to be sure that you tailor the overall layout, content, and design of the proposal. For example, if your audience is the director of engineering for a manufacturing company, your proposal should look and feel different than if he or she is the vice president of marketing.
In the case of the director of engineering, you’ll want to be sure your client knows that you understand his or her unique challenges, and can speak their language. For the marketing VP, including metrics that help generate high-quality leads is important, as is demonstrating you understand their brand by including graphics and design elements that support the proposal.
Crafting consulting proposals doesn’t have to be a complicated process. In fact, understanding the components and best practices in this article will help you deliver proposals that consistently win more clients and boost your company’s sales.
As you start engaging with potential clients, save yourself time and effort by having a CRM in place to manage your sales process and proposals. This can often be the difference between keeping everything organized and missing an important detail. HubSpot is a versatile, easy-to-use, free CRM that is well-suited for consultants. Visit HubSpot today for more information or to get started with your free account.