A business proposal can create or break your chances of securing a new client. Writing a great one will likely boost their business, but writing a poor one might lose out even if you’re offering the best service in town!
So how do you write an effective and successful one? What is the proper format? What should you include to get them interested, excited, and eager to work with you?
While all of this depends on what industry your proposal is for and whether or not they are offering products or services, writing it isn’t tricky. We’ll answer all those questions throughout this guide.
- What is a Business Proposal?
- Types of Business Proposals
- 11 Easy Steps to Creating a Business Proposal
What is a Business Proposal?
A business proposal is a document businesses provide to prospects to secure a business agreement. It’s not uncommon for people to mistake this proposal as an alternative, or even an addition, rather than being different from your typical plan.
Business proposals are made to sell products and services. At the same time, programs focus on how you can grow your company by looking at various options/possibilities financially: seeking investors or finding new customers.
Types of Business Proposals
There are two types of business proposals:
1. Unsolicited Business Proposals: Unsolicited proposals are those where the customer is approached with a proposal even if they didn’t request one. You are coming from an interested party in hopes of attracting their business because they did not explicitly ask for you to contact them and submit your business idea or product.
2. Solicited Business Proposals: Prospective clients request a specific proposal or product in solicited business proposals. They do so with RFPs (request for proposal). These are easier to sell because the client has already decided they want your product and evaluated many different possible vendors.
Whether the proposal is solicited or unsolicited, there are some universal steps to follow when writing it. Your proposal should include three main points: a statement of your organization’s problem, a proposed solution, and pricing information.
11 Easy Steps to Creating a Business Proposal
When writing a business proposal, it’s essential to take your time and prepare. Follow this step-by-step approach to create an organized proposal that will be successful.
1. Determine all the requirements
When you start writing a business proposal, the first step is to understand what your prospective customer needs in it to include. In general, formal requests for proposals (RFPs) will lay out specific requirements that you need for a buyer to make purchasing decisions about your product or service.
It may be necessary for you not to respond directly to an RFP request. Still, generally, these requirements at least involve detailed information about the proposed solution, product or service, and implementation plan with timeline and total price quoted.
Even though one does not always need all qualifications from an Rfp when submitting their offer.
Being prepared with qualifying information such as background on company purpose/focus of services offered vs. competitors can often help strengthen the odds of winning a bid based on the quality of information over cost factors alone.
2. Gather all necessary information
Once you know what your customer needs, it is time to detail how our products or services fill those requirements.
Before we can do that, though, we may need to gather additional information like your company’s inception story or mission statement.
You’ll want to be prepared with language so that the proposal you plan for appears personalized and in-depth.
Support material should also include a client references list, project/client samples, and testimonials; this helps prove that experience is adequate to fulfill the needs of potential clients.
3. Create a Title Page
A strong title page is the first thing prospective clients will see when they open your proposal, and you want to make that impression count.
Studies have shown that users love simple designs with familiar elements at first glance, so use this opportunity to stand out from competitors by using an attention-grabbing method on your cover page.
It’s also a great place to integrate graphics or logos if needed. Don’t go overboard with detailed visuals, though- according to Google’s study, only about 13% of proposals we see include cover pages; take advantage of this missed opportunity and bring it into yours.
Include your name, company’s name, the date submitted, and customer’s name on the title page. Do it in an innovative, aesthetically appealing way and not too “out there.” You can use Canva and VistaCreate to create an effective title page.
Here is an example:
4. Include a Cover Letter
You wouldn’t walk up to your potential customer and dive into project specifics without introducing yourself, would you?
A cover letter is an introduction. It could be one sentence long in a perfect world: “My company has expert knowledge in X.” The reality is that this isn’t enough-cover letters should do more than just state facts.
Include a one-liner about your firm, brief background details about how your business came to be, and what makes you different from your competitors. End with a thank you and signature line; keep it clean!
Consider adding visuals or media like photos or videos for readers who want something interesting on their screens/pages instead of black text on white paper 24/7 (we’ll let them decide if they’re engaged).
Here is an example for the same:
5. Table of Contents
A table of contents will give your potential client an understanding of what they can expect to find in the business proposal.
It gives you an idea of where your business proposal is going, and it’s something that people like to see in any long text or report. It may not always be necessary, but adding one can make sure everyone easily reads through your work without getting lost quickly.
If you’re sending electronically, it’s good to include a clickable table of contents that will jump to different sections for easy reading and navigation. Adobe lets you personalize your table of contents templates.
6. Executive Summary
An executive summary is an integral part of your business proposal. It should frame answers to who, what, where, when, and how questions you’re proposing to the client lead.
- Who: Who will be working on the project? Who will do the work and implement a solution if it is needed? Who will oversee the project, and who can answer any customer questions if an issue occurs?
- What: What materials and resources would you need to complete the project? What is the customer’s current inventory of available materials and resources? What are their expectations, what will they receive in return for payment, and how much are they willing to pay upfront or per month/year?
- When: What are the project start and end dates? When will you reach your milestones? What are your payment details like?
- Where: Where will you be working? Will the materials come from there, and where will they be delivered?
- How: How will each project milestone be completed? How long will the whole project take? Communication with the client, how work is split up among team members, and ensuring client satisfaction.
Your prospect will understand that you understand them with this brief section (it shouldn’t be a summary of your whole proposal).
The executive summary should serve as an elevator pitch or value proposition- talk about your strengths/expertise/problem-solving abilities etc., all from how those components could help your company thrive.
Here is an example for the same:
7. Statement of Problem
After your executive summary, discuss the problem that the client is currently facing. Think of “problem” or “issue” loosely; after all, their main issue may just be finding the right person to complete their project. But make sure you understand why they want what they are seeking.
If your proposal is for developing a brand new website, make sure you know what it will bring them- better sales or more content management flexibility?
It can be an opportunity to show that you grasp entirely how this product/service can help your client and properly handle his needs.
Take this chance to restate his current situation in different words, so he understands where we are coming from with our suggestions.
8. Proposed Solution
Your approach and methodology section explains how you plan to tackle your potential client’s problem and the steps it will take to carry out your plan. This part of the proposal goes into detail on what specific things will be done for them to meet their needs.
Be careful not to overdo it with jargon or get too bogged down in details; make sure they can follow along with a clear understanding of how everything works together without drowning them in minutiae.
9. Share your Qualifications
Bragging time! This section of your business proposal is where you get to convince your potential client why you are the most qualified person for the job.
You can mention any relevant education, industry-specific training, certifications, past successful projects of a similar nature, years of experience, and more.
Use this part to communicate how qualified and capable you are of completing their project successfully with ease. Include case studies demonstrating previous work on clients’ successes and any awards or accreditations that boost your authority.
10. Calculate and Include Pricing Options
Next, calculate how much you’ll charge the prospect. Businesses usually have their methods of doing this. Generally, how you charge depends mainly on what kind of solution you offer: for example, a freelance writer will have different pricing than a B2B seller would – but your charges depend primarily on what product or service you offer.
Here are the different costs you should consider:
- Labor: How many hours a human will perform on the projector, as in SaaS solutions, manage it until the contract expires.
- Materials: Cost of necessary resources to carry out services and create products. Consider paintbrushes if you already own them.
- Transportation: The cost of gas or public transport if your project requires it; consider utilities coming from working from these locations like electricity and internet access (e.g., at home).
- Vendors: External services that need hiring for your product development process to continue smoothly, including specialists and technicians (e.g., lawyers).
- Facilities & Technology Costs: Cost associated with renting facilities or using technology.
Based on the price calculation you did, set up the pricing structure.
Pricing can be a hard thing to get right. You don’t want to price yourself too low or high; you must find the perfect fit for your client.
With some proposal software, you can set a few different prices depending on their budget. If this option is available in your software of choice, we would recommend adding an optional fee table.
Some responsive pricing tables allow clients to browse through products and services they might be interested in while numbers adjust automatically based on what they click.
11. Agreement and CTA
To help you avoid the risk of making a legally binding contract with your proposal, be sure to add a statement to your document that will prompt the recipient to contact you for more information.
The other option includes all terms and conditions necessary to start work immediately at the end of your proposal.
Whichever one you choose, it’s important not to make any assumptions about what kind of agreement this might turn out as; only time can tell whether or not it was worth creating.
Alternatively, depending on how well written it is (if everything necessary for starting work right away was included), proposals can double up nicely as complete contracts with all the terms laid out already.
Creating a business proposal can seem like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. Hopefully, our guide has shown you what to include in a business proposal and how you should present them to get the job done right.
Ultimately, selling your services is part of running any business successfully- after all this time, as you do the same thing repeatedly through your company’s life cycle.
You’ll build up a library full of proposals that will only make pitching strategies easier for yourself in the future based on those who have worked or not worked before.
Plus, by taking these few hours out now while investing in this process, precisely because writing proposals may be crucial for you to grow your businesses eventually, we might win more than enough work needed!