Writing an outline is straightforward if you use the approach outlined in the introduction to writing proposal outline.
If you haven’t yet covered that module then I highly recommend that you do so before continuing here.
Use Your Requirements Map to Get Started Quickly
In that introductory module you developed a first level outline – the next step in writing an outline is to expand each section’s outline a little further.
If you’re writing a business proposal for new business then the requirements analysis is arguably the most important section of your proposal
– so we’ll use it as an illustration of how to flesh out a section outline.
In the module on client requirements analysis you used a ‘Requirements Map’ to develop a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of your client’s requirements.
You can transcribe the content of your Requirement Map straight into the outline for the Requirements section of your proposal.
The column headings will become headings under the section title, and each bullet point in your map will find its place as a sub-heading under those main headings.
Writing an Outline – Always Include an ‘Introduction’
Added to this section’s outline (see Figure 7 below), and to all subsequent sections’ outlines, is an additional bullet point for the “Introduction” to the section.
When writing an outline make introduction a brief overview of the layout of the section, and a summary of the main points in the Requirement Section.
This introduction should also refer briefly to any input by the client which helped build the section’s content.
Figure 7 is the expanded outline for the Requirements Section. Note how the Word for Windows outlining tool uses a combination of tabbing and different
heading formats to make the hierarchical structure of the outline entirely clear.
Flesh Out Your Introduction
Once you’ve expanded your requirement outline like this you can now write up the introduction to this section (we’ll look at writing the main body in the module ‘Business Proposal Writing – Writing the Proposal Content’.
Finishing the section introductions early in the writing process is a great way for the proposal writer to organize their thoughts for the later process of writing the section body itself.
Notice that I changed the title of the Introduction section in Figure 7. When writing an outline introduction paragraph, try to use a title for your introduction which is relevant to the message you are trying to convey with that section. For example, the introduction to this section might be as simple as “Profile’s understanding of ClientCo’s Requirements” or “The Challenge to ClientCo” as it is in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Case Study: “The Requirement” Outline
Your Introduction’s Opening
Open your introduction with a statement on the importance that your organization placed on understanding your client’s requirements inside out before attempting to formulate a solution to these requirements, for example:
“This project has such potential for a huge bottom line impact on ClientCo’s sales performance that it was clear that a comprehensive understanding of the requirements would be critical to the design of any solution that ClientCo could be confident would help them achieve their objectives in terms of dramatically raising the performance of their sales team.”
The Main Body of Your Introduction
The introduction should then go on to describe the purpose of the “Requirements” section, and acknowledge client sources for requirements information:
“ClientCo’s sales team has 45 sales professionals – all hired for a specific combination of education, skills and experience that they share in common, and which should assure that all are highly successful in their positions.
However, sales performance across this team varies widely – from the highest performers who deliver a performance against quota of as much as 139% (the top ten range from 111% to 139% with an average performance of 125%), to the lower performers who deliver as little as 82% against quota (the bottom seven range from 82% to 99% with an average performance of just 92%.
It is this gap of 57% between the highest and lowest performers that rightly concerns ClientCo. Profiles International are thankful to Joe Blayne, Michelle Franks and Martin O’Sullivan who provided a lot of input into the requirements development exercise that produced the following comprehensive understanding of ClientCo’s requirements.”
Through several discussions and a detailed ‘Pre Proposal Review’ we are confident that the following is a comprehensive description of the requirement that must be addressed by any solution ClientCo will select to meet these requirements.”
Summarize the Requirements Section Content
It would then summarize the content of the section, typically referring to the core requirements:
“The following checklist describes the ClientCo requirement under five headings:
- Uneven sales performance across the team
- Budget restrictions
- Modern platform requiring minimum IT input
- Ease of Implementation and use
- Information to drive sales performance
The solution proposed in detail in section 3 of this document was designed specifically to meet these requirements so carefully set out by the ClientCo team.
We are certain that, having put so much effort into producing this section, the ClientCo team will find this section of assistance in assessing not just the this solution but any solution proposed to meet their requirements.
In short, your introduction to the “Requirements” section should explain the purpose of the section, summarize its content, and remind the client that it was their supplied information that helped you to define their requirements.”
Your Requirements Section Outline is Finished
At this point you would repeat this process of writing an outline for each of the remaining five sections of your proposal – developing all until they are at the point where they are expanded just like this section, and where they have a compelling introduction.
Once each section is expanded in this way you are almost finished writing an outline, and are just about ready to begin writing the proposal body.
Before you do so take the time to do a quick review of your outline to ensure it hangs together well. Here’s how…