Proposal writing can seem intimidating, but it’s one of the most important steps in the business-to-business customer life cycle. When you’re writing a business proposal, it’s your chance to show why your products or services are the right choices for the client’s needs. Once you know how to write a business proposal, you’ll understand how to present information that can help close the deal effectively.
In this guide, we’ll go over top tips for writing a business proposal that will set you apart from the competition and give you the best chance to make the sale.
What Is a Business Proposal?
A business proposal is a letter or other document that outlines your service or product to a potential client or buyer. A business proposal is made for a sales prospect and is used solely to procure business. It’s a pitch that explains why your services are best suited for a particular client — and it can be the difference between closing a deal and growing your business or having a client walk away.
Types of Business Proposals
Generally, there are two kinds of business proposals: solicited and unsolicited.
When a company is looking for a vendor to help them fulfill a need, they’ll often put out an RFP (request for proposal), which outlines the time frame for consideration and what solicitors should include in the pitch. This is an example of a solicited proposal.
You can also write an unsolicited business proposal letter to a company that has not put out an RFP. This kind of proposal has a higher chance of being ignored, especially if you don’t put in the work to figure out how to make a business proposal stand out to that potential client.
Best Tips for How to Write a Business Proposal
Now that we’ve gone over the types of proposals you might write, let’s look at some proposal writing techniques that can set you apart from the competition. Here are a few tips for how to put together a business proposal designed to pique your client’s interest.
Apply the 3 P’s of Business Proposal Writing
Whenever you’re writing a business proposal, make sure to address the three P’s:
- Problem statement – Introduce the prospective client’s pain points.
- Proposed solution – Discuss how you can alleviate the pain points and the value of your solution.
- Pricing information – Take advantage of the expectations you set, reiterating the value of your business and offer.
In proposal writing, addressing the problem, solution and pricing, in that order, allows you to align your pitch with the prospect’s needs.
Know Who You’re Targeting When Writing a Business Proposal
You want your proposal to appeal directly to your audience, so here are some important questions to keep in mind as you’re writing a business proposal:
- Who will read your proposal?
- Are they familiar with the problem?
- What are they interested in hearing?
- What do you want them to take away from your proposal?
- What will encourage them to take action after reading your business proposal letter?
Clients want to see that you’ve tailored your proposal writing to them, so make sure you know the company you’re pitching to and their pain points. This will allow you to create a business proposal that feels personal and resonates the way you’ve intended.
Make sure you know what else they see in the market too. You don’t want to come in with a pitch that doesn’t stand out from the crowd, and you also don’t want to come in with a price that’s too low or too high compared to the market price range. A mistake in either direction can make your business look bad.
Remember Visual Content Counts in Proposal Writing
A guide on how to create a business proposal wouldn’t be complete without talking about how you present information. Visual content is essential in marketing, which is why we recommend making your proposal visually stimulating.
Wherever possible, aim to include graphics that help the client better understand the document. Tables and charts, when used correctly, are highly effective in assisting readers in retaining information. Graphics make your proposal appealing and easy to digest, so use them to your advantage.
What You Need to Include When Writing a Business Proposal
Success in proposal writing depends on your ability to address the client’s issue(s) thoroughly. We’ll go through writing a business proposal step by step and, in the end, give you some business proposal ideas that will make the finished product stand out.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s no one right way to create a business proposal. Your business proposal format may look different depending on your company, product or service. We have created a basic business proposal outline that you can adjust depending on your needs.
1. Title Page and Table of Contents
When you’re writing a business proposal, the first sections to include are a title page and table of contents. The title page should consist of relevant information, such as your company name, logo and contact information, as well as your client’s name and contact information. The title page is your first impression, so it should be organized and eye-catching.
Your client will also appreciate a table of contents to help them navigate the proposal. If you’re sending your business proposal electronically, make the table of contents clickable for easy navigation.
2. Executive Summary
The executive summary is a critical part of your proposal. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not a summary of the entire document. Instead, you’re setting the scene for what your prospective client will read.
What’s the goal of the executive summary? After reading it, the clients should know exactly how you will help them, even if they don’t read the entire proposal.
An excellent executive summary will explain to the customer why you’ve created this particular proposal. It will outline how you will solve the problem, the benefits that you provide and why you offer the best solution.
3. Problem Statement
You can’t write a business proposal without clearly defining, in your own words, what the client’s need is. This section is essential to convince a client to hire you — if you haven’t shown that you’ve grasped their problem, you won’t close the deal.
Make it clear you understand what that need is. Also, keep in mind that the client’s main issue may just be finding the right person for the job.
4. Deliverables and Milestones
Remember how a proposal should feel customized to each client? This is the section that, if done correctly, will achieve that goal. You’ve identified their need, and now you have to offer a strategy tailored to meet that need.
In this section, you’ll outline deliverables, the methods you’ll use and project milestones. While you want to go into detail about how you’re going to solve their problem, be careful to avoid being overly technical. This section should be easy to follow without overwhelming the client with particulars.
5. Resources and Qualifications
You’ve shown the client you understand their pain point, and you’ve specifically outlined how you’ll solve that issue. Now it’s time to explain why your company is the perfect resource for the job.
This is your chance to show off, so don’t be shy! Ask yourself, why should this client trust our company? Talk about what qualifies you above others in your field. Mention things like years of experience, past completed projects, relevant certifications and any noteworthy clients you’ve had.
Outlining a budget is a delicate balance. You don’t want to scare the client with an estimate that’s too high, but you also don’t want to mismanage cost expectations with an estimate that’s too low. The budget can have a big impact on how the client sees your business and these services.
We recommend being as exact as possible when setting forth a budget. List each item the client may need and include the most accurate pricing available. You may want to add some pricing models to help them see various options. Do your homework and know where your price is coming in against the market.
7. Terms and Conditions
As its name suggests, the terms and conditions section should spell out the project specifics, including the following:
- Project timeline
- Project duration
- Payment dates
This section lays out what both you and the client promise if you agree to the proposal.
The last part of a business proposal, the agreement section, is where both parties give explicit approval to the terms and conditions by signing on the dotted line. Your proposal should include a signature box as well as a friendly prompt for them to contact you if they still have questions.
How Long Should a Business Proposal Be?
There’s no hard and fast rule that states how long a business proposal should be. Your deliverable could be a 2-page business proposal letter or a 20-page document. Proposal length depends on many factors, including the sector you’re in and the complexity of the project. It helps if you have an idea of what other proposals in your market look like.
The short answer to how long a proposal should be is that you want to be as concise as possible while leaving no doubt in the client’s mind that you are the best solution.
Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Business Proposal
You know that building relationships with customers and clients matters for sales, so be careful with the relationship you’ve cultivated when writing a business proposal.
You’ve taken the time to craft a highly effective proposal. Don’t let specific details slip by you — details that show your client that they matter.
Polished Proposal Writing Can Seal the Deal
Knowing how to write a business proposal letter means learning how to polish your work. Make sure the document you’ve worked so hard on is fully refined. Here are a few final business proposal ideas you should be sure to implement:
- Proofread your business proposal outline: poor spelling and grammar make the wrong impression
- Write in the active voice
- Say what you mean, and say it clearly
Final Thoughts on How to Make a Business Proposal
Highly customized business proposal writing showcases your dedication, commitment and unique selling proposition to a client. Do your homework on the company, the industry and your competitors so you can talk specifically about the business situation and bridge the gap between you and prospective clients.
Now that you know how to write a business proposal make your first impression count, and your chances of success will increase many times over.