Like most businesses these days, your transportation business is no doubt under pressure to find more clients, stay ahead of the competition, and look for ways to cut costs. To land a new client or get a project accepted, you most likely will need to write a business proposal.
Never written anything like that? Don't panic—writing a proposal doesn't have to be a daunting process, and after you've written your first proposal, all others will come much easier.
That's because the goals and structure for any business proposal are the same: 1) introduce yourself, 2) highlight the services you offer, 3) describe the costs, and 4) persuade your prospective client that you are the perfect choice for the project. You can also speed up the proposal writing process by using pre-designed templates and studying sample proposals.
The basic proposal structure is the same, whether your business is shipping services, import/export services, logistics management, personal transportation services, or even asking for funding to create or grow a transportation business. Here's the order your proposal sections should follow: 1) introduce yourself, 2) summarize the prospective client's needs, 3) describe your products, services and costs, and finally, 4) provide information about your organization, your credentials, and your capabilities.
You will want to include details about your particular services, projects, and business experience that are relevant to your client's specific project. For example, a limo services company might include photos of their cars, rates, and service areas; logistics specialists may want to include details about how projects are managed; freight hauling companies may include information about their equipment specifications and ability to handle special situations such as hazardous materials; and so forth.
The most important idea to keep in mind is that the goal of any proposal is to convince potential clients to award you their contracts, to convince your boss to sign off on your proposed project, or possibly to secure funding for a new venture. To persuade your readers, your proposal must demonstrate that you can deliver the services, products and logistics they need. It's never a good idea to send your clients only a price list; that will not substitute for a real proposal.
Your proposal should be tailored to a specific client and that client's needs. This means you need to gather information about that client so that you can create a customized proposal to meet that specific client's requirements. Don't make the mistake of sending all your prospective clients an identical sales proposal. A proposal targeted to a specific organization or person is much more likely to succeed.
Now, getting back to the basic order described above, begin your proposal with a Cover Letter and a Title Page. In the Cover Letter, write a brief personal introduction and provide all your relevant contact information so the client can easily contact you for more information. The Title Page is exactly what its name indicates: a page with the title of your specific proposal (for example, "Optimizing WestWind’s Shipping Logistics," “Freight Transportation Quote,” "Limousine Luxury Travel Services," or “Import/Export Services for Jenson Brothers, LLC”).
Next, after this introduction, write the section that describes the needs of the prospective client. In a lengthy proposal for a complex project, you should provide a summary preceding the detailed pages. In proposals to corporations, this summary is usually called an Executive Summary. In complex but less corporate proposals, the summary is usually called a Client Summary. On this summary page and in the detailed pages of this section, describe your client's needs and goals and discuss the limitations or restrictions that may be associated with the project. Don't insert your own ideas yet; this section is where you demonstrate that you understand the client's needs.
In the last section of the proposal, you get the chance to promote your project, products, and services. In this section you will include pages that describe precisely what you have to offer and what it will cost. This section should contain some pages with general headings like Services Provided, Benefits, Features, and Cost Summary, but it should also incorporate more detailed pages that fully describe your products and services, explain how you can fulfill the client's needs, and list the associated costs.
Your specific business will determine the specialized topics and pages you need to include in your proposal. The size and scope of the project will determine how many topics and how much detail will be required.
A cargo hauling company might need to include topics like Equipment, Options and Fleet to describe the equipment options available to customers. Topics such as Shipping, Handling, Routes, Service Area, and Storage would be used to cover how and where client cargo will be transported. You might also need to include topics to outline special circumstances for hazardous materials or special needs, including pages such as Safety Plan, Security Plan, Training, Certifications, Site Specific Requirements, Special Needs, Regulations, Permits and Licenses, and Insurance.
A company providing import/export services might want pages such as Imports, Exports, Time Line, International, Logistics, Partners, Transportation, Routes and Process Management.
A dispatching services provider offering their services to manage dispatching for another company may include topics such as Service Area, Rates, Dates and Times, Availability, Capabilities, Scheduling, and so on.
A limousine service may include topics such as Fleet, Rates, Service Area, Services Provided, Special Needs, and Our Clients. If you are offering services to corporate clients, you may need to supply extra information such as your Training, Certifications, Maintenance and Insurance. If you supply high-end corporate or VIP services, you may also want to include topics such as your Privacy, Safety Plan and Security Plan and Background Checks on your employees.
A proposal for an internal company supply chain project may require additional topics for how a project will be managed. Include topics such as Project Management, Reporting, Key Positions, Logistics, Supply Chain, Distribution, Suppliers, Procurement, Sourcing and Fulfillment, Automation, Risk Management, Disaster Recovery Plan, and so on.
A public transportation proposal may take many forms from as simple as proposing new traffic lights or signage to a complete feasibility study and project proposal for light rail, improved public transport bus system or freeway bypass. These types of proposals can be long and complex needing details ranging from community support and affected areas to budgets and construction details.
If you are proposing an internal company project, not only do you need to look good; you need to make sure your boss looks good, too. You need management to trust that if they support you, you will deliver. Include topics that show you understand every aspect of the project. Make sure you have considered Assumptions, Risk Analysis, Contingency Planning, Accountability, SWOT Analysis and the Expected Results.
A transportation project for the government can be even more complex, as you will have an RFP with rules that must be adhered to. In this situation, make sure to use the Compliance Matrix, RFP Cross Reference, government grant/contract Cover Sheet and any other topics that are specifically required by the RFP.
A transportation business seeking funding will want to include pages that describe the particular business and analyze its place in the industry, such as a Competitive Analysis, Industry Trends, Market and Audience, Marketing Plan, Insurance, Liability, Disaster Recovery Plan, Time Line, Funding Request, Services Provided, Products, Company Operations, Income Projection, Sources of Funds, Uses of Funds, Personnel, Legal Structure, and any other topics required by the lender. Funding or investment proposals also require a number of financial statements such as your Cash Flow Analysis, Balance Sheet, Revenue, Profit Margin, Profit and Loss Statement, Operating Costs, and so on.
No matter what your particular transportation business may be, be sure to provide pages describing your organization (About Us or Company History) in this final proposal section, as well as pages that explain your skills and experience or provide information from other clients. These pages are typically have titles like Our Clients, Personnel, References, Testimonials, Qualifications, and Capabilities—whatever you need to instill trust in the prospective client that you can deliver the goods and services they're looking for.
So there you have it: all the basic steps for creating your proposal. Now for the finishing touches. After you have inserted all the words and data in your proposal, spend a bit of time making it visually appealing. Add your company logo, choose different fonts or use custom bullets, or consider using colored page borders. Don't go overboard, though; you want to match the style of your proposal to the style of your business. Learn how to effectively select colors for a winning business proposal.
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Don't send your proposal out before you spell-check and proof every page. If possible, have someone outside of the project or organization do the final proofreading pass. It's too easy to miss mistakes in familiar information.
Finally, print the proposal or save it as a PDF file and deliver it to your client. In the modern business world, it's common to email PDF files, but keep in mind that a printed, personally signed, and (where possible) hand-delivered proposal could make a bigger impression because it shows you're willing to make an extra effort to get the job.
You can see now how transportation business proposals can vary widely in content because of the variety of transportation related businesses and the variety of projects for which the proposals are tailored. Your company's proposal content will be different from anyone else's. But you can also see that all transportation proposals will have similar formats and follow the same basic structure.
To speed up the proposal writing process, you can use the pre-designed templates in Proposal Pack. They contain easy-to-understand instructions and suggestions and examples that will guide you to provide appropriate content. The product includes sample business proposals for all transportation businesses, too; these can give you a head start on creating your own winning proposals.