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In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about writing a winning business proposal.
We’ll cover key definitions and strategies along with ready-to-use templates to help you craft the best business proposal you can present to your clients and customers.
What Is a Business Proposal and What Is It For?
A business proposal is a document that aims to persuade a potential buyer or client into buying your product or service. It’s a way of providing a logical argument for why you (or your company) is the best option for providing that type of product or service.
And how do you do that, you ask?
By identifying their most critical problems and positioning your service as the best solution to those pain points.
Ever watched a random home TV shopping channel? The goal of each presentation is to present the product as a genuine solution to a specific problem. Business proposals share the same goal.
In terms of mechanics, preparing and executing a business proposal is similar to giving an estimate.
For example, say you want to build your toddler a custom playpen. You visit the nearest wood workshop and ask if they build custom playpens. The manager approaches, sits down with you, and gets a piece of paper to write down the details. He writes down the following:
- Materials = 1500
- Construction/Labor = 2000
- Finishing = 1000
- Delivery Fee = 100
- Free: Play Mat
Construction = 3 days
To be delivered on: (specified date)
Initial Deposit (full-payment upon delivery): 1000
You get all these details laid out which makes it easier for you to decide if you’re getting your money’s worth.
From a customer’s perspective, this is great because:
(a) it gives you an idea on what you’ll get for your money
(b) compare prices and features from different shops and make a sound decision about which one to go with.
From the business owner’s perspective, it allows them to pitch their services and show a potential customer why their offer is better than others.
A standard business proposal is more than just the actual pitch, however. In the later sections, you’ll learn about its various components and what each one’s for.
But before we get into that, let’s first take a quick look at the 3 different types of proposals and how they are utilized.
Types of Business Proposal
There are 3 general classifications of business proposals. Let’s take a closer look at each and learn which one suits your next pitch.
This is used when a potential customer or client expresses interest in your services and officially requests for a proposal. They provide you with all requirements and information you’ll need to come up with a matching offer. Once done, you send it to them for review.
Informally solicited business proposals typically surface from casual interactions with potential customers and clients. It’s like having someone express interest but didn’t necessarily request for an official business proposal from you.
In this case, you create a business proposal based on what you discussed plus your research (since they won’t provide you with data unlike in a formally solicited request). You then reach out to them and do your pitch.
Typically refers to standard marketing material that aims to draw clients and customers.
For example, cold calls and emails or brochures and other similar content. It lacks the personalized touch though so it’s basically a generalized approach for marketing your business.
Related: How to Write a Business Plan
Parts of a Business Proposal
The goal of a business proposal is to provide an answer to the client’s biggest problem(s) and show the steps on how you are going to accomplish them.
In this section, you’ll learn about the different sections that make up a standard business proposal and how each one is used so that the client clearly understands the terms of your offer.
Used for establishing the document as an official business proposal. The title page contains your company’s name, the client’s name, and the date you’re submitting the business proposal.
A good title page is clear and concise, and in some cases, a bit compelling too for drawing more attention to it (helpful if the client is getting proposals from other individuals/companies).
Table of Contents
It gives the client a quick overview of the contents of your proposal and allows them to quickly jump to the parts that they want to focus on.
Electronically-created business proposals make use of clickable links within the table of contents for easier navigation.
If the Table of Contents is for the overview of contents, then the Executive Summary is for providing the reader with a clear and concise summary (hence the name) of the actual content of your proposal.
Here you get to introduce your company and goals, and more importantly, tell the reader why your proposed solution is the best.
Statement of Problem
The problem statement accomplishes a couple of important things, mainly:
- Show your reader the problems that they are facing and develop a sense of urgency to fix the problem. It includes the key issues that they mentioned along with other ones that you might have come across during your research and brainstorming for the project.
- Show your potential client that you know what exactly they need and how your proposed solution is the “right fit” for their needs.
The Proposed Solution (Methodology)
This is what they (will) pay you for, basically. After clearly outlining the problem in the previous section, this part of the proposal bears the actual steps, product, service, or methods that you’ll provide to get what needs to be done.
Be as detailed as you can and try to address all potential concerns to make sure you’ve got everything covered. All relevant details along with the timeline are usually included in this section.
Or in other words, showing them why you’re qualified to take on the project.
To use an analogy, let me ask you this question: Who would you entrust the design of your new condo to?
- Your willing cousin (who dabbles in interior design)
- To an actual professional interior designer (with years of experience under their belt)?
I bet you picked the latter if you want the absolute best aesthetics for your new home.
This concept mirrors what this section is all about. It’s for showcasing your credentials and experience, portfolio, case studies, strengths, and previously accomplished projects (of similar niche, preferably) to “convince” them that you’re the best person for the job.
It’s all about showing them related proof that you’re the expert when it comes to these issues and your proposed solution will get them the results they want.
Timeline for Completing the Project
This part of the proposal provides your potential client with a “schedule” for your deliverables. It outlines various milestones and goals at specific periods to give the client an idea of what happens during the execution of the project.
This preview also allows them to make suggestions/changes/feedback on your proposed schedule before the project begins if needed.
It’s the part where you indicate how much you are charging for your services/product along with its payment terms.
Providing your client with various pricing options can help them decide if they want to go for the complete package or perhaps opt for just a specific portion of your service.
In this case, a pricing comparison table helps.
Deliverables (Terms & Conditions)
This section essentially outlines everything that you promise to deliver.
It includes pricing, the project timeline, and payment schedule, along with all other important details. This section also covers all legal stuff that both parties agree upon for completing the project.
This last section of the proposal is the space where your potential client will sign to confirm that they are hiring your services officially.
Besides the signature box, include a prompt detailing what exactly they are agreeing to as they sign the proposal. Also, include your contact information should they need to reach you for any questions or concerns.
Best Formats to Use for Your Business Proposal
There are 3 main mediums you can utilize for creating your business proposal.
The classic approach is straightforward and foregoes the bells and whistles that you’ll see on more modern versions of business proposals.
MS Word or Google Docs are the usual go-to software for writing such proposals. You can easily send them electronically or have it printed if you’ll be presenting face-to-face.
A slide deck is great if you’ll be presenting in person and offers a more robust set of tools and features to make your presentation look more visually appealing.
Google Slides, Keynote, and good old Powerpoint are the most popular slide deck and presentation software available out there.
Proposal Software (SaaS)
If you want a more polished approach without having to create from scratch, then you might want to take a look at this current crop of online proposal software services.
These are essentially customizable templates that let you easily create elegant business proposals ready for your client’s viewing.
But aside from that main feature, you also get to have useful add-ons like:
- Ability to send the proposal within the app (and notify you when the client opens it up)
- Add input forms
- Add signature areas
- Attach files and other media
- Insert payment forms
- Automatic email follow-ups
- Integration with other apps
Here are some of the most well-known services in this niche:
How to Write a Business Proposal
Writing a business proposal is simple in context but requires a certain level of accuracy and polish to be effective. Here are some tips on how to efficiently write a solid business proposal.
Step 1: Gather all required information
It all starts with collecting all the necessary data from the client. If this is a solicited proposal, you can send them a questionnaire that will reveal key details about the target goal. It could also be a good idea to schedule a call or video chat with a representative from the client’s office to get data that you’ll need to start the ball rolling.
If you’re pitching an unsolicited proposal, then you’ll mainly have to rely on your research about the company or client. If that’s the case, your focus should be on gathering important resources related to the project. The key takeaway from this step is to gather all the necessary information that you can use to create a solid proposal.
Step 2: Map out the project
Just like how an architect sketches out a rough layout for a structure, this step lets you brainstorm the hows, whats, and whys of the project. It could be as simple as drawing a mind map of the project in its entirety or writing a rough outline of the contents of the proposal itself. While this is optional, doing so gives you a 30,000-foot view of the project’s scope to give you a sense of what your proposal will look like and how to execute it.
Step 3: Begin writing each section of the business proposal.
Use the above sections as a guide for what your proposal will contain. It’s good practice to keep the content concise and straight to the point to make it easier for the client to skim and read through.
Take your time in writing each section of the proposal. Keep in mind the potential loopholes or issues that could arise and address them within the proposal. This will make your proposal more iron-clad and preemptively disarm any potential counter-arguments or questions from the client.
Step 4: Proofread and Polish
The last thing you want to happen is to look like a sloppy amateur with a proposal peppered with all sorts of typos and poor sentence construction.
Run it through grammar-correction software and have someone check it thoroughly for clarity. Next is to make sure you polish everything up (overall presentation looks professional) from the very first page up to the last.
Step 5: Send the Proposal
The last step is sending the proposal. Methods may vary depending on the medium you’ve selected (see types of business proposal formats above) but the general rule is to make sure that the intended recipient receives it on or before the agreed-upon date.
In most cases, the client will need a couple of days to review and deliberate if your proposal meets their needs. Whatever the case may be, timely and appropriately-spaced follow-ups are crucial.
Don’t worry too much if they haven’t responded yet a few days upon receipt of your proposal. They are likely reviewing other proposals as well.
Sample Business Proposal Templates
In this section, you’ll get to see the different approaches you can leverage when creating a business proposal. Some types are a better fit for certain niches than others, so you have to be keen on the type of service you’re offering, your brand, and your target audience.
Website Development Proposal Template
This template immediately focuses on the details which help give the client a quick overview.
Notice how they seem to combine the Table of Contents, Statement of Problem, and About Us page in the Introduction, quickly jumping on the Methodology and Project Timeline.
Copywriting Proposal Template
This one leverages the advantages of these online template proposal services as it combines full images, videos, social posts, and other sleek graphical elements to showcase your portfolio.
Marketing Proposal Template
Presentation through the use of stunning photos elevates this marketing proposal template. It’s no coincidence it almost looks like a magazine ad since the client is looking for someone who knows how to leverage media and its various forms for promoting their products.
Business Consulting Proposal Template
This one sticks to the classic proposal template that we outlined earlier. It features a good balance of text and graphics, and an overall clean and easy-to-read design.
It’s pretty comprehensive and could actually work for a lot of other niches thanks to its standard approach.
Event Photography Proposal Template
This template quickly jumps to the proposed solution along with the methodology. The terminology used is not overly formal and straight to the point. A list of services and options are highlighted as well.
This could work well for freelancers and other contractual projects that are not within a corporate setting.
Over to You
Ready to write your own business proposal? We hope that you found some of the things we mentioned here useful to help you land your next client or customer.
If you have any tips or suggestions from personal or professional experience, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.