I've been playing with this idea/question for a few days and wanted to see if anybody else out there has as well. I revised my approach with our proposals a few months ago, and quite like the format now (however, since I'm in the middle of Blair Enns' book Win Without Pitching, I'm completely rethinking the paper proposal all together).
But... one thing I want to try is putting the price front and center on page 2 of the proposal right after the cover. Total price, breakdown price, hourly rate, etc., however it is broken down for the given project. Nice, big font. And then the following 5-ish pages cover the deliverables, milestones and terms accordingly.
My thinking is this:
1. In 90-99% of situations, the cost is going to be more than the client wants to spend, regardless of when they see it. Why not find out the nature of the gap on the front end and know more about potential limitations?
2. In a lot of situations, they say they have no budget (they just want X,Y,Z and need to know what it will cost). If there is objection up front to the cost, then the issue can be raised that they didn't have a budget and this is what it's going to take to develop what they asked for. If all of the sudden they have a number in mind, this puts more authority in your hands now that you've presented an expert approach with a corresponding cost. If you have to come down in price, they know that there will be feature reduction.
3. Many times after going through a proposal, I find that the client is already building to a number in their mind. They're getting excited about the project, but saving the let down for the end (see #1 above) unwinds that enthusiasm when it's most important.
I feel like getting the number out of the way in the first 5 minutes will either a) provide evidence that maybe this isn't a good fit for them or you and that's fine, no more time spent... or b) provide a much more productive conversation about the deliverables and help them understand where the cost is coming from. Then at the end, they've worked back into justifying the cost and are on the optimistic upswing.
All that being said, I'm still hesitant to do it. The next time I sit down to crank one out, I'm going to see if I can muster the confidence. If anyone else has thoughts or input, please post below!