Proposal cover letters are professional letters that are remitted to potential clients, along with completed business proposals. The best examples of a proposal cover letter are brief, personal but professional, and help to encourage a strengthening of rapport between the respondent and the recipient. There are several basic elements that are always found in this type of letter, as well as some common mistakes to avoid.
A mistake that many business professionals make is utilizing the proposal cover letter as a way to summarize the contents of the proposal. Since many proposal templates include a summary at the end of the document, this is not necessary. In fact, including this type of detail in the cover letter creates a situation where the recipient must read the same information repeatedly, a factor that could have a negative impact on the evaluation process.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when drafting a proposal cover letter is to keep it brief. A body of three to four short paragraphs is sufficient. Setting this type of limit for yourself will ensure you keep the entire text on a single page, thus avoiding the mistake of sending what amounts to a mini-proposal along with the main document.
The opening of the proposal cover letter should be brief. Use the first paragraph to thank the recipient for allowing you to participate in the bid proposal process. It is also appropriate to pay a compliment to the structure of the Request for Proposal, or RFP, that you were provided to use as guidelines for the proposal and the submission process. Generally, this can be accomplished in three to four sentences without overdoing the thanks.
Your next paragraph may include something that is personal, but still professional. If the proposal is being submitted to an existing customer, mentioning how much you’ve enjoyed working with the client in the past is appropriate. In cases where the proposal is going to a company that you’ve never done business before, focus your attention on the working rapport that has been established through telephone conversations, emails, and any other contacts you’ve had with your primary point of contact during the drafting of the proposal. This can help keep the letter from being too dry, while still avoiding the mistake of getting too personal.
To close your proposal cover letter, state your expectations for the future. This can include the fact that you look forward to earning the business and enjoying a long working relationship with the new customer. This paragraph should demonstrate confidence in the quality of the goods or services you offer, but not cast any type of aspersions on your competitors. Keep the focus on how much good you can do the client, not how much better you are than everyone else.
Never write your proposal cover letter until the proposal itself is completed. This is because you may have one or two last minutes of interaction with the recipient that will influence the tone and content of your letter. In any event, always make sure the structure of your letter is in keeping with what you know about the corporate culture of the recipient, and choose your words accordingly. Keeping that factor in mind is a subtle way to express your respect for the way they do business without appearing to be patronizing or overly expressive with the compliments.