What to do when a company asks you for a proposal

When you have had a meeting with a company to discuss possible work and the meeting ends with the words ‘Can you send me a proposal’ this can leave you in a dilemma as to exactly what they mean?

Organisations have systems and procedures

Proposing services to a company is more complex than working with individuals because of the nature of organisations. You have had a meeting and feel quite naturally that this is a huge step forward, but whatever to they want with ‘a proposal’, surely that was the point of meeting face to face. Can’t they just look at my website? Perhaps you had a single page key points document that you left with them, wasn’t that enough?


You may have to speak to more than one person

Culture, company structure, responsibilities, budgets, personalities are all things  you will need to consider . When talking about work with organisations your conversations with one person are not the whole picture. They are part of an organisation which has systems, procedures to follow for buying and they must work within the guidelines. There are assistants whose job is to safeguard the time and diary of the people they work for. You may need to speak to other people who work with your contact. I can hear you saying, this sounds like hard work. One you understand the process it is just that, a process but the process can take a longer period than setting up a project with an individual. This is where perseverance, organisation and planning will be your allies.

There are many reasons companies ask for a proposal

  • They are finding out more about a service they need at some time in the future
  • They are getting three quotations to commission something as part of their procurement process
  • They don’t want to offend you so ask you to send something in writing
  • They really like what you have discussed and would like you to confirm exactly the service you will offer to them.
  • They really like what you have discussed and need to have some information/documentation so that they can persuade their manager/team to agree with them
  • They have decided that they want what you are offering and need to present information to the finance department to get approval.



A Winning Proposal outline


Aim to  work out which of the above is the reason they have asked for the proposal. Get clear on the value you offer and and their committment so that you are ready to write a proposal

This will contain the following:

  • A summary of the main benefit/outcome from the agreement
  • An outline of the main features and benefits of the service including:
  • Time scale – e.g. 3 months, 1 year.
  • Number of sessions/meetings
  • Outcomes
  • Scope of the project (this would also include information on things that are not included e.g. if you were providing management training you may specify that room hire is not included in the project)
  • Price
  • Suggested start date
  • Next steps – e.g. what they need to do to confirm the agreement –
  • Terms and conditions


Get clearer on what to write in your proposal

If you have finished the meeting and are wondering exactly what to write in the proposal, you could clarify the situation by asking yourself these questions.


  • Did you have a discussion with them about exactly what their needs were and how you could help them?
  •  Are you clear on exactly what they want?
  •  Are you clear on a method to measure outcome of your service provision. (companies usually need some form of accountability and milestone/measurement indicator)
  • Did you ask who else they have considered for this work?
  • Do you know what their minimum and maximum budget is for the work?
  • Do you understand the decision-making chain in the company? i.e. who would be responsible for signing the contract?
  • Do you understand the company procurement procedure?
  • Do you understand the minimum requirement for what they are looking for?
  • Do you know what would be astounding value for them ?

How to get the information for your winning proposal


If the answer to the questions above are unclear – you are probably not ready to write a proposal. You can arrange a further meeting or phone call to find the missing information.
When you have the information and you are certain that your service will be of value to the person you have met with or the organisation? This discussion will make it crystal clear to you what to put in the proposal.

Keeping your committment to the proposal

However, you probably feel under obligation to write the proposal. What they really want is more information write an introduction to your services.

This could be done as follows:

  • Service Introduction
  • Outline of the main outcome/benefit from the service
  • Main service offered
  • Further Benefits
  • Price range
  • An offer of discussion to take it forward.

Over to you

Are you aiming to market your services to organisations? Have you known the right stage to send your proposal? Add your comments in the box below.


If you would like to discuss getting ready to offer your services to organisations any of this please contact me: gill@gillianhunt.co

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