These days the topic of energy is always in the news. As emerging economies expand and new technologies develop, everyone’s looking for more fuel to power devices and motors, whether that fuel comes in the form of electricity, petroleum products, or another type. There’s a lot of buzz about government energy policies, energy efficiency, alternative energy products, and wise use of natural resources to create energy for the future. It’s an exciting time to be in the energy business.
But there’s also a lot of competition. If you’re heading a startup company, marketing a new product, or seeking a grant to do energy research, it can be hard to get noticed among the crowd. Sooner or later, you will need to write a proposal to pitch your ideas and products to the right audience.
If you are an entrepreneur or a technical expert, the thought of writing a proposal might make you anxious. The odds are that you feel more comfortable with equations or equipment than with words. You could always hire a professional writer to create a business proposal for you, but you will still have to supply the information, so consider creating at least the rough draft on your own. It’s not as difficult as it might seem. All good business proposals follow a basic structure, and you don’t have to start off with a blank page, either. A detailed kit of proposal documents can give you a great head start with templates, sample proposals, and professional graphic designs.
Before you start any proposal, you need to gather information about three topics:
Your audience – your potential client, customer, or supporter. In other words, who will read your proposal? What do you know about your readers, and what do they know about you? It’s never a good idea to send the same proposal out to multiple parties in the hopes that it will appeal to someone. You need to customize each proposal and target it to the specific readers who will receive it. Researching your potential clients and readers can take time and effort, but that effort makes your proposal much more likely to succeed. And winning the contract or the funding is your goal, isn’t it?
Your proposed goods, services, or project. What are you pitching? Are you selling solar panels, offering to retrofit a building for energy efficiency, or seeking funding for a new gas well or coal mine? What benefits will your proposal bring to the reader? What will it cost?
Your credibility. What makes you better than your competitors? Why should the readers believe that you can fulfill all your promises?
After you’ve gathered your thoughts and data about the above, it’s time to sit down and write. A Cover Letter should come first, of course. Keep it simple. Include only a statement of who you are and what you want the reader to do, and be sure to provide all your contact information so they can easily locate you to get details or to accept your proposal. If there are time constraints or deadlines, be sure to mention those, too. And it’s always a good idea to include a “call to action” statement, urging the readers to take the next step – call you for a meeting, sign the contract, vote for your proposal – whatever you want them to do after reading your proposal.
Next, create a Title Page for your proposal. Simply name it clearly: some examples might be “Proposal to Reduce Electricity Consumption through Retrofitting the XGR Campus” or “Proposed Wind Turbine Farm in Rust County.”
If your proposal is long or complex, the next pages should be a Table of Contents and an Executive Summary, which is basically a list of the most important points you want to make. You’ll need to produce a Table of Contents after you’re done writing your proposal, but this is where it should go.
Now for the body of your proposal. In the first section, you should demonstrate what you know about your reader – your potential client, customer, or supporter. Show that you understand their goals and that their organization or constituency has a need for your proposed goods or services. In other words, why are you sending this proposal to them? If you’re aware of their constraints and requirements, be sure to include those, too. Don’t brag about yourself or your ideas yet – this section should be all about your readers.
After you’ve proven that you understand the current situation and the need that you propose to fill, it’s time to move on to the next section. Here, you will explain exactly what you are proposing, how it will benefit the proposal reader, and what it will cost. The topics that make up this section will vary greatly, according to your business and your offerings. For example, a company selling on-demand water heaters might include a comparison of traditional tanks and on-demand systems to show energy savings per year, while a company proposing to drill for natural gas might include descriptions of the technologies they will use and the environmental protections they will put into effect. A proposal to research the capture of methanol in dairy farms would need to explain how the research would be conducted. This section would also typically include pages like Costs and Benefits and Schedule.
The final section of the proposal should be all about you. Explain why you can be trusted to deliver on your promises. You’ll need pages like Company History, Clients, Testimonials, Projects, Certifications, Awards, Expertise, Training, etc. – in short, anything that shows you know what you’re doing or are the best in your field.
Throughout your proposal should be a call to action, where you simply ask your reader to take the next step. In other words, now that they’ve read your proposal, what do you want them to do next? Be specific, and provide any details they might need, such as contact information or important dates that must be considered. This might repeat information in your cover letter, but that’s a good thing; you’re reminding them what you want them to do.
That’s it for the basic draft of your proposal. Now, make sure to get someone with a good editorial eye to analyze and proofread each page, because if there are a lot of mistakes in your proposal, the reader may conclude that you are sloppy in your business practices. Spend some time making sure that your proposal looks professional, too. A proposal kit of pre-designed documents can help with this step by offering a variety of high quality graphic themes as well as many pre-designed proposal documents and samples.
That’s it! Now deliver your proposal by the method that makes the most sense and is most likely to impress your readers. If you don’t hear from them within a few days, follow up with a friendly phone call to make sure they received it and know you’re available to answer questions. Good luck!