Proposals That Keep You in the Hunt

When bidding against more and more lawn maintenance contractors in today’s highly competitive market, the quality of your proposal could mean all the difference. Consultant and former landscape contractor Jon Ewing offers these tips and business proposal samples.

In today’s tough market where you’re bidding against more competitors, quality proposals that are informative, professional and customer-specific can help keep you in the hunt.

Your proposal is the one presentation that offers clients something beyond price. So make the most of this opportunity to show your stuff by including the following critical elements.

Get Right to the Point

There are basic objectives with every proposal you submit:

  • Did you fully address and comply with the customer’s needs?
  • Can the customer understand what you presented?
  • Did you convey that you are capable of handling the customer’s needs?
  • Can the customer trust you?

The proposal must then provide an excellent customer-focused breakdown of the proposed work into:

  • Costs
  • Qualifications
  • Experience
  • Other items that create value for your customer

Strive to keep your proposal focused and direct. Do not include any unnecessary verbiage, marketing material or other information that is not relevant to the job. The information you provide in your proposal should illustrate your capabilities, but only with respect to how those capabilities meet the customer’s needs. Just ask yourself, “Does this information add value to the customer’s project?”

You are creating the proposal for the customer to read, not yourself. It should be easy to understand without taking a lot of time.

Keep the font size at 10 or 12. Bold or underline headings. Only use photos or other graphics when they help illustrate a point or add impact—without distracting the customer. Maintain a similar style throughout the entire proposal.

Your proposal should look like it is job-specific, as opposed to a boilerplate presentation developed years ago. Today’s proposals can be developed rather easily and quickly on most home computers, and can project an image of being special and attentive to your client’s needs.

Use a consistent format that addresses each of the primary elements listed below, either in the body of your proposal or as separate inserts to your proposal material.

Address All Customer Requirements

Make sure your presentation addresses all requirements set forth in your customer’s bid package.

This means that you assign a full cost to every item within the scope of work.

For example, if the customer asks that you include tree care in your presentation, include it. Conversely, if you discussed excluding certain items, do not put them in your proposal. If there are foggy areas, list them as additive alternatives.

Include a Photo of the Project

Including a current photo of the project will convey that you care about the job and have developed a presentation that is specifically for the job.

Take the time to photograph the project—and include it on the cover of your proposal. Take the best picture you possibly can. If you don’t have a good digital camera, get one.

If the project is a new construction job, you may also scan a reduced version of the plan or a job rendering of how it may look upon completion.

Also consider including a few nice photos of similar projects you may have worked on. If you don’t want to include this in the proposal itself, you could always stuff some photos in the brochure or pocket folder as supplemental information.

Communicate Your Experience

Make sure that you fully communicate your experience, not to mention the experience of your employees. The goal is to reassure the customer that your company has the practice and confidence to meet their needs.

Consider developing different versions of your capabilities so that you match these capabilities to the type of job you are bidding on. For example, if it is a residential project, have residential references ready. If it’s a hotel project, show your capabilities of doing hotel work or other commercial projects of similar scope. Your goal is to convey that you can handle the job and can be trusted to complete the work.

Never assume that your customer knows you or what your experience is. Making assumptions on your customer’s behalf can project a lack of preparation and conviction.

Communicate Your Capabilities

Illustrate the equipment, tools, vendor relations and resources you have to meet the customer’s needs for this particular project. For example, if the project requires a specific type of mower, implement or other piece of equipment, demonstrate that you either own them or have access to them.

If you employ office staff, operate “new” trucks and/or equipment, or are a member of a state or national association, let your customers know how these things add value to your proposal. These are expenses you incur that have representation in your pricing. Just make sure that your customers understand how these things provide value to them.

Communicate Your Qualifications

Inform your customer of the licenses, certifications, insurance coverage and education your firm provides in order to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Don’t forget that uniforms, cell phones, certifications and proper licensing all add cost to your proposal, but also add value to your service. Tout it and be proud of it.

Communicate Depth of Staff

Talk about your employees and the fact that they are your biggest asset.

If the project demands a full-time staff, specify who these people are, what their qualifications are, and what their responsibilities will be in order to meet the client’s needs.

For larger projects that necessitate more support, you may even want to include short, one-page biographies of key personnel.

Close with a Summary

Take the time to insert a note that illustrates your personal attention to this job, while also summarizing your experience and qualifications, goals and objectives.

Make note of how you will staff the project and service the job.

If you have unique warranties, emergency response policies, etc., note them.

Submitting Your Proposal

You can submit your proposal in a variety of ways:

  • In a binder with tabs
  • In a pocket folder
  • Within a company brochure
  • As a stand-alone document

Whichever means you choose, be creative, keep it simple, and submit a proposal that represents your company well.

Remember, your proposal is merely designed to keep you in the hunt. Be sure to follow up with a phone call. And always be striving to get in front of your customers and prospects to deliver live, in-person presentations to further sell your work.