Dos and Don’ts of a Good Proposal Letter


In the quest to get new business, use a logical and systematic approach. A successful proposal stems from a perceived opportunity and should proceed through the gathering of thorough information about a potential client’s culture and needs. After carefully assessing how your firm qualifies to meet those needs, put the pitch in a letter. It should tell the client what your firm can do and inspire confidence that it will do it well. Introduce your subject briefly, develop the key points and close courteously.

Include the following:

Your experience in the potential client’s business, including the number, names and sizes of clients in the industry. (Get existing clients’ approval before naming them.)

How well your firm understands the needs and expectations of both the organization as a whole and the individual members of management.

How your firm meets the prospective client’s selection criteria.

Your contacts with industry leaders of interest to the client.

How professional your firm is.

How committed your firm is.

Your participation in trade groups, the AICPA and state committees and/or associations within the client’s industry.

Your specific competence and qualifications relating to the prospective client’s problems as well as specific services that may be helpful.

Copies of your firm’s publications on topics related to the prospective client’s industry or particular problems.

The estimated fees your firm will charge to do the work that’s needed.

Other useful details a proposal letter might include are answers to basic “who, what, where, when and why” questions such as

A thorough description of the services to be performed, including the type of report that would be issued.

The level, and perhaps names, of the firm personnel who would be involved.

When the engagement could begin, how long it could take and whether stages would be recurring.

Information about client or firm locations, if applicable.

Do not include in your proposal letter

Laudatory generalities about your firm that are unrelated to the prospective client’s needs.

Defensive caveats primarily intended to protect your firm from liability.

Exaggerations about your professional services.

Source: Adapted from the Management of an Accounting Practice Handbook (New York: AICPA, 2000), chapter 204, section 204.02, “Developing an Engagement Proposal.”

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