A wise person once said, "Sales cure all." If your company fails to sell its products or services, it won't make money, and by extension, it will fail.
That's why you need business proposals.
A business proposal can determine whether you secure a new client or not. It is the ultimate sales document and tells prospective clients the solution your business offers to their problem.
If your business proposal is great, you'll quickly stand out from competitors and win new business. if it isn't, prospects will quickly skim through.
But truth be told, writing a business proposal can be overwhelming. You're asking someone to choose your company over others and hoping that they understand why it is the perfect fit.
Writing a business proposal requires you to persuasively communicate your understanding of the prospective client’s problem and also give reasons why your company is in the best position to help.
Even the most well-crafted business solutions get rejected because of subpar proposals. So, how do you stand out from the crowd?
Let’s start by defining what a business proposal is and then we’ll show you how to write a great one.
What is a Business Proposal?
It is a written offer to a potential client containing customised services. It can bridge the gap between a company and its potential clients. A business proposal outlines your company's value proposition and its main role is to convince another company to do business with your company.
Business proposals are categorized into two types: solicited and unsolicited. Solicited business proposals are those that are requested by prospective clients. Unsolicited business proposals are sent by companies to potential customers in order to gain their business.
There's a common belief that business proposals and business plans are the same thing. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You write a business proposal when you want to sell your products or services. On the contrary, you write a business plan when you want to present your company's financial and operational objectives—when you're selling the company itself. A business plan can also help when you're looking for investors to fund your business.
Crafting a winning business proposal takes a lot of time and effort, so the key to success is optimizing the process. Here's how you can write a business proposal that gets your prospective clients to say "Yes."
Writing a Business Proposal: the Sections to Include
Your business proposal should do three things:
- Summarize - Guide your reader through the proposal
- Justify - Explain what your business does, and why they should care
- Solve - Demonstrate how your business solves a problem the prospect is facing
Let's take a look at the structure you should follow to meet these three goals.
Introduce Your Business with a Title Page
It's pretty common knowledge that the title page comes first. You must write this page well as it could make the difference between your proposal getting thrown on top of other unread proposals and someone actually opening it.
Use this page to introduce yourself and your business. Include your name along with your company's name, the date you're submitting the proposal, and the name of the potential client (or their company's name).
Make Your Reader's Life Easier with a Table of Contents
In this age of information overload, people usually skim through content before deciding whether it's worth reading. A table of contents makes your proposal scannable.
If you're pitching your product or service to anyone who is fairly busy—who doesn't have time to read the entire proposal in one sitting—a table of contents makes it easy for them. They can go through the proposal at their own pace.
If you're sending your business proposal electronically, make sure the table of contents is clickable for easy reading and navigation.
Summarize the Key Points in an Executive Summary
This summarizes the content in your business proposal. It lets the potential client know the purpose of your proposal and why your solution is the best.
Just like a value proposition, it explains the benefits of your company's service or product and how it can solve the problem a potential client is facing.
After the prospect reads the executive summary, they should clearly know how your company can help them.
Our resident business writing expert, A.J. Ogilvie, hosted a whole live session on writing an executive summary that piques your reader's interest. You can catch the replay below:
Highlight Your Client Focus in Your Problem Statement
Here, you highlight the problem that the client is facing. You must describe it well in order to convince them that they need your services.
The problem statement shows your prospective client that you've done your homework and that you're not just sending a generic pitch. It also creates an opportunity for you to tell the client about a problem they may not have been aware they are facing.
Explain Your Proposed Solution
In this section, you tell your prospective client how your product or service can alleviate their pain points. This section sometimes fits into the problem statement section, but if your solution is comprehensive—or you want to talk about it in detail—put the content in a separate section.
Prove Your Suitability with Qualifications
The potential client may like your solution, but they may not trust you enough to give you their business—because they don't know you. It's up to you to convince them why your company is well suited for the job.
You can mention any relevant awards and accreditations or include case studies of your clients' success stories. This section acts as your social proof; it outlines what your company is good at and how qualified your team is.
Give Pricing Options
This is where things get a bit tricky. If you overprice your product, you may lose the prospect; if you underprice it, you undervalue yourself.
So, what should you do?
The key to great pricing is to give the prospect different options. Some companies usually add responsive pricing tables to their proposals to allow clients to easily check the prices of the products or services they are interested in.
Zoom in On the Details In Your Terms and Conditions
Here's where you put your money where your mouth is. Go into detail about everything you've promised to deliver and what the prospective client will give you in return. This section should include things like the project timeline, the payment schedule, and the payment methods.
This section also outlines the legal aspects of the proposal, which is why it should be as clear as possible. Ensure your legal team goes through the terms and conditions before sending the proposal to the potential client.
Include a Space for the Agreement
After the prospect has read your proposal and decided to get what you have to offer, they are ready to append their signature. Include signature boxes so that you and the client can sign the proposal and make things official. Also provide your contact information so that your client can reach out in case they have any questions.
Tips to Make Your Proposal Stand Out
Know Your Target Audience
If you want your proposal to win over the potential client, get to know them well. Understand their pain points, their budget, and their desires. When you do this, you’ve already won half the battle. When you know your target audience well, you can identify the clients to pitch and increase your chances of closing deals.
Format for Easy Scanning
The people you send your business proposals to will not read everything you write. They can't, they have too much on their plate. Make sure your proposal is easy to scan by doing the following:
- Title each page effectively
- Italicize sentences and phrases to show emphasis
- Bold important words
- Use bullet points
Keep It Simple
Nowhere is it written that you have to use big words in order to impress your clients. Stick to simple words as they are easy to understand. They also grab attention, give clarity to your message, and help you to effectively convey your ideas. Also steer clear of business jargon.
Don't aim for a specific length when writing a business proposal, there's no ideal length. Your focus should be on quality over quantity.
Include Visuals and Data
Show, don't tell.
Let your prospect read the proposal through visuals and not baseline descriptions.
One sure way to turn a prospect into a client is by using captivating, quantitative data. You can use visuals such as infographics and charts to enhance the proposal.
You can also include statistics, illustrations, figures, and case studies. When prospects see what you've done for your clients, they’ll quickly get convinced.
Proofread Your Proposal
Everybody writes, some read, but only a few proofread.
Once you’re done writing the proposal, go over it and check if there are any typos or grammatical errors.
A lot goes into writing a clear, effective business proposal that engages your reacher and achieves your goals. Grammar is just the start. To keep your reader engaged you'll need to vary your sentence lengths, eliminate vague language, avoid repeated words and phrases, write in the active voice—it's a lot to remember.
ProWritingAid was designed to make that list less overwhelming. The software tells you how you score for the areas of your writing that increase readability—and therefore keep your prospects reading.
The best way to find out how much ProWritingAid can do is to try it yourself.
Another way to check if your offer is clear and well explained is by giving the proposal to someone who works in another industry and asking them if they can tell what you're offering.
Start Crafting Winning Proposals Today
Preparing a business proposal is no easy task. There must be intensive coordination between departments, careful preparation of the content, and all the data must be organised in an appealing, visual form. All of this must be done in record time so that the proposal can be sent to the client as quickly as possible.
It's quite normal to feel overwhelmed about writing a business proposal. You want to write it as soon as possible, but you have no idea what to include—or even how long it should be. If you have soaked up all the information in this article, you're already one step ahead of the competition. So, get a cup of coffee, relax, and start writing.