Proposals Contracts

7. Writing Consulting Contracts, Proposals, and Retainers that Win Clients

Writing proposals, Statements of Work, and retainers is not something
most consultants like to do.

However, this “paperwork” can be critical to winning business and
setting up a smoothly running engagement.

Being asked to submit a proposal is a great feeling but it is no guarantee you will win the business or that you will have a long, smoothly running client relationship. There are processes and paperwork that will help everyone get started with the right vision and smooth disagreements.

You can save yourself work in the future by creating standard templates for your retainers, Statements of Work and proposals. Working from a template saves work, ensures you remember key structures, and helps you and the client agree on the work to be done.

Consulting proposal templates, retainer templates, and Statement of Work templates are part of the Starting and Building a Thriving Consulting Business course.

Writing Retainers for Recurring Income and Client Support

Retainers help both you and your clients. They help you build recurring income. Retainers help your client by guaranteeing that you will be available to support them with decision making or with guaranteed work availability.

Retainers should be written as part of the original proposal and presented as a means of giving the client on-going support. Retainers are usually written for a monthly basis, but they can also be done quarterly or annually. Of course, your retainer agreement must include responsibilities, deliverables, and payments. 

Writing Statements of Work to Clarify Requirements and Deliverables

Every consulting assignment, no matter how large or small, should have a Statement of Work (SOW). An SOW is like a travel itinerary that specifies cities, times, and events. It gives you, the client, and other stakeholders a clear picture of deliverables, responsibilities, and timelines. A well-written SOW prevents disagreements and clearly defines jobs and deliverables.

You don’t always have to have a Statement of Work, but when there are questions or things go wrong you will wish you had one.

Writing Proposals that Win Clients

Consulting proposals are written by the consultant and sent to the potential client defining the work to be done, requirements, and conditions. It is a good idea to write a Statement of Work to go with the proposal.

In most cases you and the client will define the work requirements and details before you write the proposal. A good way to get buy-in and ensure your proposal covers all requirements is to have stakeholder meetings where all stakeholders build a consensus on the Statement of Work.

Structuring Proposals as Portfolios of Solutions and Fees

An addendum that covers additional possible work can help the client and you. Keep the body of the proposal as simple and straightforward as possible so it doesn’t distract or confuse the client’s decision. However, in an addendum you can include additional solutions in case the client wants to reduce or expand the scope of work.

Packaging sets of additional extensions is a little like creating a ladder of solutions with the simplest and least expensive at the bottom rung and additional related solutions (and fees) on higher rungs. While the prospect can still choose to address only their original issue, they can see that you are ready to solve related problems that might arise.

Additional services you might suggest in an addendum might include combinations of,

  • Board and executive facilitation
  • Executive and management mentoring
  • Research and development
  • Project management
  • Product development
  • Classroom training
  • Online training
  • Train-the-trainer workshops
  • Manuals, eBooks, and PDFs

Your foresight in developing a portfolio of solutions shows that you have more value than just completing a simple project or task. Proposals with depth can open your prospect’s eyes to building a long-term relationship with you.