A business proposal is perhaps one of the most critical documents you need to learn how to write. It is what spells the difference between success and failure, whether you’re a freelancer or you have a company of your own.
In today’s cut-throat business world, entrepreneurs find themselves spending hours upon hours submitting proposals to potential clients, and not get any results. On the other hand, there are those that are like snipers, able to get the contract after just submitting one business proposal.
So how do they do it? Well, this article will teach you how to do just that.
The Basics of a Business Proposal (Including Templates and Other Helpful Resources)
Before you get started with your proposal, you’ll want to understand what a business proposal is (there’s a lot of confusion around this), and how to best structure a persuasive proposal.
Understanding What a Business Proposal Is
A business proposal is a written document that offers a particular product or service to a potential buyer or client.
There are generally two kinds of proposals:
- Solicited Proposals: Typically requested by clients, or submitted in response to an advertisement published by the customer/client.
- Unsolicited Proposals: Submitted or given out to potential customers or clients even though they are not requesting for one.
Solicited proposals tend to have a higher win rate because they’re more specific to the person receiving the proposal. Because writing a proposal is such a time-consuming process, you’ll want to stick to solicited proposals.
This means that if you have a lead list, you first want to qualify the list, and start a sales conversation (through email, phone calls, etc.) before pitching your service or product.
Business Proposal vs. Business Plan
Quite often, the terms “business proposal” and “business plan” are used interchangeably, giving you the impression that they are one and the same. But they are not. A business plan is a “formal statement of a set of business goals” and how these would be achieved. These documents sometimes can be included in a proposal.
If you’re starting a new company and need business plan resources for funding that effort, click here to view a list of resources that can help.
Proposal Templates, Tools, and Resources
Because proposals are so time intensive, it’s best to avoid starting from scratch.
Like most people, you can start with one of the following:
- Get a template that matches what you need from our proposal templates and contract templates.
- Templates will only get you so far. For additional time savings, and faster turnaround time on your proposals, proposal software like Bidsketch goes a long way.
- Other more focused tools like electronic signature software, SignWell, helps close deals faster.
Business Proposal Outline: What Goes in a Proposal?
You’ll want to include the following sections in your proposal:
- Goals and Objectives
- Recommended Solution
- Fee Summary
- Fee Schedule
- Estimated Project Schedule
- Next Steps
- Terms and Conditions
This outline ensures you start with the reader of the proposal in mind. First, you talk about the business problem, then the solution, and last is pricing. This leads us to the 3Ps of a winning proposal.
3 Ps of a Winning Business Proposal
The secret behind writing a winning proposal and one that will just be set aside is the presence of what I call the 3 Ps: problem statement, proposed solution, and pricing information.
Every project is different. But every winning proposal follows the same basic structure. Once you understand this structure, you’ll save time and land more clients. Instead of starting from scratch, you can create a proposal you can customize for every project.
That first step to getting more clients is to convince them that you understand their needs better than anyone else. That’s where the problem statement comes in.
A successful business proposal must be one that is able to describe to the client what these needs are in a plain and simple manner. This is extremely vital because how can you expect the client to believe that you can help them solve their problems if you don’t even know what those problems are?
Here’s an example of a well-written problem statement of a proposal:
With the presence of social media in today’s advancing world, Puffin Media Inc. hesitated to make the leap from traditional marketing to social media marketing.
Their marketing tactics seem to be losing effectiveness and the company feels as if they are missing out on a large segment of their market. In addition, their competition has began acquiring the majority of the business in the market and have brought Puffin Media’s growing revenues to a halt.
The main objective of submitting a proposal is to offer a solution to a problem faced by a prospective client. This part should be as detailed as possible, and able to address each and every need you have discovered.
Here’s an example:
The solution that is recommended for Puffin Media Inc. is to deploy their company on all of the major social media channels; however, there is a major difference in creating social media platforms versus creating a brand you can promote on those platforms.
A marketing campaign must be created utilizing these media channels and creating immediate engagement with your audience. In order for this to be successful, you know how to make sales. Initially, acquire some fans, followers, subscribers, and connections and invite them to join you in particular discussion or attend a specific event.
The purpose of this is not only to promote Puffin Media Inc, but also to solicit feedback from the target audience.
For many clients, the pricing information is what will make them decide whether they would offer you the contract or not.
How to write this part greatly depends on the solution or solutions you included in the previous segment. If the solution proposed will only entail a short period of time, a Fee Summary will suffice. For longer projects, segment these payments to specific milestones in a Fee Schedule list.
Things to Remember When Writing a Proposal
Now that you know the essentials of a winning proposal, it’s time to go ahead and start writing, right? Well, not exactly.
The next part is to be able to find out what to put under the 3 Ps so that you can develop a proposal that gets their attention and awards you that contract.
Do Your Research
Not all clients and buyers will give you the explicit details of their wants and needs, especially if you’re submitting an unsolicited proposal. Extend your research to include the competitors of your potential client, and their customers as well. This will ensure that your proposal will be as comprehensive and as detailed as possible.
You can get strategic with this by creating a profile of your ideal customer. How old are they? Where do they live? Where do they hang out online? Personalizing your research like this will help give you clues about what to say (and how to say it) to resonate with someone.
Put Yourself in their Shoes
Another thing to remember when writing a business proposal is to always put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients. Doing this will help you provide information on things that they would most likely ask, such as “Why should we pay you this much amount for the solutions you’re offering” and “How can these changes benefit me?”
If you’ve worked with a client before, convincing him or her to hire you on retainer (an ongoing basis) is one of the most effective ways to increase your income. Familiarity with your client’s unique needs, work style, and industry are all powerful motivators to convince them to choose you instead of anyone else.
Which brings us to the next point…
If you determined that a company or client has certain needs, chances are others would have done the same. That means that there will be others that have submitted their respective proposals to the company or client.
That being said, it is important to make sure to highlight your talents, experience and other qualifications to convince the client why they should choose you or your company.
For example, if you’re in a visually creative field like graphic design or video production, you could include a section of your work in the business proposal. Pictures or designs will help keep potential clients engaged while adding value to your proposition. If you’re sending it online, try to include videos showing your work.
Writing that Perfect Proposal
When you got all of these, then you’re finally able to start writing your proposal. One of the best ways on how to write a persuasive proposal is to use a business proposal software (mentioned earlier in this post).
A lot of people do all the necessary research, but they find themselves agonizing over every detail of their proposals’ presentation. This causes them to put off submitting as many proposals as they should.
Software like Bidsketch can help you quit procrastinating. It allows you to write your business proposal without worrying about how they should be put together and which content you need to include. Bidsketch also offers integration with apps like Zapier, making it easy to fit within your existing workflow.
Templates are a great way to streamline your proposal-writing process while still leaving room for plenty of customization. You could create a proposal template for marketing, as an example, with a look and persuasive structure that any marketing client would find appealing. Then you can just tweak the details within that framework to accommodate each specific project
A Final Word…
Although proposals present the same information and have the same layout, it’s important to take time and make each one unique. Each project is different, even if it’s with the same company. Remember, a business proposal must show how you or your company can help a potential client.