5 Steps to Write a Technical Proposal
Writing a technical proposal can feel like a daunting task. Questions fill your head.
- What elements should I include?
- How should I structure the information?
- How can I ensure a non-technical audience understands the proposal content?
But luckily, as with any document, you can follow a specific writing process and turn technical information into a persuasive proposal. Let's first look at the definition of technical proposal writing. We'll then break down the process into five key steps.
What is technical proposal writing?
A technical proposal is a persuasive document that outlines the technical requirements and details of a new project or service. Technical proposal writing involves turning technical information into an easy-to-understand document. It can include elements such as:
- Scope of work
- Anything that falls out of the scope of work
- Sales proposal
- Research proposal
- Design proposal
- Implementation proposal
Write your own technical proposal and get instructor feedback.
Our technical writing course is available for individuals and groups online, virtually, and onsite.View Course & Outline
As an example, say that you're trying to convince a potential customer to purchase your company's cyber security software. You write a technical sales proposal that highlights the customer's problem, the benefits of solving it, and how your software is the best solution.
A technical proposal might also be internal and not a customer-facing external proposal. Maybe you are an engineer and have an idea for a new workflow internal project. You'd create an internal technical proposal covering the problem, solution, and plan to share with your boss.
Step 1: Plan your technical proposal
Contrary to what some proposal writers might think, don't start drafting a technical proposal right away. Planning the content first is crucial for efficiency and effectiveness.
First, ask yourself:
- Who is the reader of this technical proposal?
- Why am I writing it?
- What does this reader need to know?
- What is their technical knowledge level?
- What are their preferences?
This information will impact your tone, language, the amount of detail you include, and more! In short, don't skip this step. Get an in-depth understanding of your reader's needs, wants, and preferences.
Once you have the answers, map out your content. What information will you include? What are your main points? Your subpoints? Creating an outline or concept map can help get your ideas on paper and speed up the actual writing process.
Step 2: Structure the content
No matter if you're writing an informal email proposal or a formal Request for Proposals (RFP), proposals persuasively follow this overall structure:
- Executive summary
- The reader's problem or need
- Benefits of overcoming this problem or meeting the need
- The valuable solution you can provide
- Terms, details, and any costs
Note: Notice how this structure doesn't start with an "About Us" section that details your company or who you are. Instead, it's audience-focused. It keeps the reader's needs and pain points in mind. It shows the reader that you have a deep understanding of their problem and can help.
Step 3: Write clearly and focus on the reader
You have your content plan to follow. Time to write the actual proposal. As you write the document, remember that your reader is the center of the action. Write to meet their needs and enhance their understanding.
Here are a few tips for creating a reader-focused proposal:
- Create a persuasive title.
Use your title as a persuasion opportunity. For example, instead of "IT Services Proposal," consider "Safeguarding Your Customer's Data with Cloud Services."
- Write a clear executive summary.
Your reader doesn't have time to sift through pages and pages of info. Boil down your proposal's key points into a concise but comprehensive executive summary.
- Avoid general content.
Get specific in your proposal. Spell out exactly how your product or service will help the reader. Steer clear of vague metaphors, hyperbole, and watered-down language.
- Use evocative language.
Choose active verbs. Avoid unnecessary words. For example, instead of including three words, "make a decision," you could use the more powerful verb "decide."
- Cut the jargon.
Jargon such as "end of the day" or "ASAP" might sound nice, but it's fluff and could confuse the reader. Remember: you might have a technical background and understand certain terms, but your reader might not. Spell out terms and meanings.
Persuasion is the name of the game in proposal writing. A thoughtful approach that centers around the reader will help you better persuade them to accept your proposal.
Get one-on-one coaching and individual feedback on your actual technical writing in our course.
Download the Course Outline
Step 4: Format to enhance reader understanding
A proposal doesn't have to follow one specific format because each proposal depends on your reader's needs. However, there are three formats to consider:
- An RFP or Request for Proposal. The format of the proposal normally must match the format and order specifications in Requests for Proposals.
- An informal proposal. Depending on the reader, you have the freedom to shape the appearance, length, and complexity. This format is acceptable for most proposals.
- A very informal proposal. A proposal doesn't have to be a formal document. It can be information presented in a well-formatted email or letter.
Choose the style of your proposal based on what works best in each situation. Whatever style you choose, make sure to incorporate headings and bullets in your formatting. These elements help the reader skim and easily digest the information.
A sleek design with an eye-catching title page is also recommended.
Step 5: Edit for any errors
Once you have your proposal written, time to edit for any mistakes.
Edit the substance first. Are there any technical concepts or sections that might confuse the reader? Is the information accurate? Once you've edited the substance, move on to the structure. Does it make logical sense for the reader? Finally, correct sentence structure and grammar.
After your first review, wait 24 hours and then review it again (and potentially again) before submitting the finished product.
Hint: We recommend using Grammarly to ensure that there are no careless grammar errors (e.g., missing punctuation) in your proposal.
Technical proposal examples
Need some ideas for your proposal? Here are a few we analyzed that do a good job of persuading the reader to choose a company's product or service.
The Project Background sections clearly outline the work process for the client. Each task is clarified and seems to respond to the specifications of an RFP. It should follow the executive summary.
Critique: The introductory summary could include more persuasive and specific language. The Company Introduction and Team sections should also go towards the end of the proposal. Lead with the reader's pain points and benefits of overcoming the problem.
This customer-facing proposal breaks down the process for implementing the company's web design services. Financials are broken down by unit, hourly, and subscription costs, making it easy for the reader to absorb.
Critique: There are no clear financials or pricing details, which is often what clients are looking for in a proposal.
This proposal incorporates convincing language and bullet points to highlight the value of the CRM.
Critique: The About Us section should come after the benefit-to-client details. The language could also be improved. Instead of including general CRM best practices, the company could highlight what their CRM can specifically offer.
Strengthen your technical proposal writing skills
Take your technical writing skills to the next level by enrolling in a technical writing course. At Instructional Solutions, we offer online courses with comprehensive lessons, exercises, and individualized feedback to help new or experienced technical proposal writers. No matter your proposal assignment, Instructional Solutions helps you take an effective technical approach to write and create a successful proposal.