How to Write a Business Proposal


Are you ready to learn how to write a business proposal that you can use to impress clients, beat the competition, make sales, raise money, and, most of all, generate new business? Awesome. If you don’t know how to write a compelling business proposal, this guide will show you what to do, and how to do it. We are about to give you a powerful template to author winning business proposals.

Here the questions we will answer in our How to Write a Business Proposal Guide:

  • What is a business proposal?
  • What are the kinds of business proposals?
  • How do you write a business proposal?
  • What is included in a business proposal?
  • How do you create an impactful business proposal design?

The goal of this guide is to help you explore how to write a business proposal in ways that make it easier. Once you learn how to write a business proposal and start using business proposals effectively, this will be a tool you can use frequently. At the end of this How to Write a Business Proposal Guide, you will know everything you need to know about writing powerful, compelling business proposals.

What is a business proposal?

A business proposal is a document that conveys important information about a product or service you’d like a prospective customer to consider. It communicates the value proposition of our product or service in a compelling, clear and succinct manner. Above all, a business proposal is persuasive and leads a prospect to take action.

What are the kinds of business proposals?

There are three general categories of business proposals, which are:

  • Formally Solicited: This includes published Requests for Proposal (RFPs), such as those typically used for governmental contracts.
  • Informally Solicited: This includes a request that may be made without the structure of a formal RFP process, such as an action step that comes from a discussion or a meeting that requires you to know how to write a business proposal to close the deal.
  • Unsolicited: These are proposals that are not requested, but instead that are given as an introduction or a marketing piece to prospective clients/customers.

For this guide, we are focusing on unsolicited proposals. We discussed other types of solicited business proposals in a different guide. Having written hundreds of world-class business proposals that were effective, we know what to do. Make sure you can follow along with all the basic concepts in this guide. We will give you our insider tips at the end.

What is included in a business proposal?

To learn how to write a business proposal, understand that a business proposal must answer the following seven questions.

1) What is the pain point (the problem or opportunity that the proposal addresses)?

You need to clearly articulate the prospect’s challenge your solution will address. Be specific about the problem, and do your best to quantify the impact this challenge is having on your prospective client’s business. You need to demonstrate that you truly understand the pain point that your prospect is experiencing in language that they understand.

2) What is the solution?

Next, you need to explain how your proposed solution will address the pain points being experienced by your prospect. Do NOT just describe your product or service with the boilerplate copy pulled from your website or marketing collateral. Yes, describe your product or service’s features. But more importantly, explain how the features of your product or service will remedy the challenges being experienced by your prospect.

3) How much is this business proposal going to cost?

Don’t be shy about discussing costs early in the proposal by showing a wide range of prices such as, for example, $5,000 to $40,000 per month where the final price depends on some information that the client must provide. Also, consider using the word “investment” over “price” or “cost.”

If there is a minimum investment level, which is unaffordable to the client, this will weed out unqualified prospects right away. Dealing with the price issue directly takes the focus away from it. Then, your prospect’s mind can read the rest of the proposal without distraction. People who know how to write a business proposal make the price one of the selling points supported by the value proposition.

4) What is the value proposition (proving the solution is worth the price)?

When learning how to write a business proposal, realize that the cost of something is less important than its value. If something costs $500,000 but saves over $7 million, the value proposition is the savings of over $6.5 million! Those who know how to write a business proposal will tell you that if you write a proposal that includes a strong value proposition with a guarantee, your chances of closing the deal are much higher.

5) What is the history of the proposing company and what does it do?

Be brief about the company. Highlight its expertise and major successes. Use positive references from real clients/customers who agree, in advance, to the use of their names and are more than willing to speak glowingly about your product, service and customer support.

6) How will the company implement this proposed solution?

Identify the proposal implementation pathway and give a rough estimate of the timeline to completion – to be adjusted based on further input from the client/customer. It’s very important that a prospect can visualize what the process is for engaging your company and implementing your proposed solution.

7) What are the resources required to achieve success?

Explain the resources needed from the prospect’s company and the resources coming from your company as well as any third-party resources needed to implement the proposal. It’s best to be upfront about what everyone will need to bring to the table for all stakeholders to enjoy success.

The 10 Elements of a Business Proposal

An effective business proposal is a beautiful patchwork of words, graphics, facts and figures that fits together that compels the reader to act. Most business proposals comprise the following ten elements:

  1. Title Page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Executive Summary
  4. Problem Statement
  5. Proposed Solution
  6. Company Background and Qualifications
  7. Timeline
  8. Terms and Conditions
  9. Pricing, Billing, and Legal Information
  10. Acceptance Page

Title Page

When you write a proposal, it starts with the Title Page. You need to write a compelling title that is irresistible and specific. Use the name of the prospect’s company in the title, acknowledge the pain point/opportunity, and show the numbers.

Examples of compelling titles to use when you write a proposal are:

  • {insert company name} Loses $7,367,490 Each Year To Fraud – How to Stop It!
  • {insert company name} to Capture 400% Sales Increases in Six Months- Guaranteed
  • {insert company name} Risks a Multi-Million Fine for Non-Compliance

Get the idea? Compare those titles to a lame title like “{Sales company} Releases Version 2.09b of Fraud-Monitoring Software.” Which one would you want to read? Some dry technical manual about software or a clear way to stop losing over $7 million annually?

Make sure the title page has the proposal date, the company name, the person to contact, and contact information.

Table of Contents

A table of contents makes it easier to find portions of interest. Expect clients to read the pricing section first. But a professionally structured and designed table of contents sets the right tone from the start.

Executive Summary

This section is written last, and is one page. And only one page only. It should summarize the most important features of your proposal, and compel the reader to explore the balance of the document. Expect senior executives to scan only the executive summary page and then if it piques interest, hand off the rest of the proposal to others for a thorough review.

Problem Statement

If you don’t know the pain point (problem or opportunity) that you solve in a significant way for a client/customer, there is NO point in writing a business proposal. After a compelling title, this is the next most important element in the proposal. You need to become exceptional at identifying the problem(s) being experienced by your prospective clients, and explaining how your product or service will make their lives better (i.e. less stressful, more productive, better off financially, etc).

Proposed Solution

The solution should be innovative and not easily duplicated by others. You want to avoid giving a road map to a solution that the client/customer can do for themselves, or use to shop around and hire out to others for a lower cost.

Company Background and Qualifications

This section of your business proposal needs to establish your organization as a credible business partner – a firm that has the experience, expertise and track-record to deliver the proposed solution. Remember – prospects are taking a risk when they recommend a new vendor or supplier. Give them what they need to recommend your company to others within their firm without hesitation.

Timeline

Use a calendar, chart, roadmap, or infographic to illustrate the timeline – from the day they sign on the dotted line until your product or service is implemented. Assume that a decision is made two weeks after the date of your business proposal, and that implementation will begin one week thereafter. It’s always best to use real dates and timeframes to make the timeline more relatable for the prospect. Also, your timeline should indicate all major milestones, and where specific resources or decision points are required.

Terms and Conditions

In this section, summarize all standard terms and conditions related to your product or service. If you offer a service level agreement (SLA) or product/service guarantee of any kind, include it here.

Pricing, Billing, and Legal Information

Three-tiered pricing is easier for clients to make a choice. Everyone prefers to have a choice, as opposed to a “take it or leave it” offer. Take some time to figure out how to provide your customers a few different options to do business with your organization.

Most will opt for the service one step up from a basic level. Highlight any advantages for pre-paying and the billing cycle if any. Include a legal disclaimer that says the proposal is not a contract, is not binding, and only becomes a binding agreement by the client/customer once a formal contract is signed

Acceptance Page

Make sure you receive an indication of acceptance from the final decision maker, not some without the authority to bind the company legally. You want the client to sign and return this acceptance page to you. Always ask them to do something else to reinforce acceptance, like provide information by a certain date. The acceptance is stronger if more than one stakeholder signs and must take action by contributing something to the project for its implementation.

What is an effective business proposal design?

Make sure the design looks professional and there are no mistakes in the text. Choose a business proposal template that represents your industry well. Use attractive images and photos. Be sure to leave plenty of white space between paragraphs. Keep the sentences short. Use active verbs. Limit paragraphs to a few sentences. Break up the sections with subtitles as is done in this How to Write a Business Proposal Guide.

The effectiveness of a business proposal template is enhanced if you customize the images to make them unique to your company. Be sure to brand it with your company and products/services logos. A business proposal template is only a guide. If your project does not fit such a business proposal template, hire a graphic designer to create a new design that meets your needs.

Go for quality and invest in a proposal style that impresses others. You want to use a business proposal temple or design that feels classy, solid, and conveys a sense of expertise and professionalism.

Conclusion

Here is the bonus tip we promised you. If this all seems a bit daunting, even if using a business proposal template, and too much work to do alone, we can help. Usually, only a small fraction of proposals are successful. That can be depressing if you work so hard on a proposal and it fails to generate a positive outcome.

We’ve authored hundreds of successful business proposals – solicited and unsolicited. Some of those proposals were for projects in excess of $500 million. But most were for far smaller amounts But all told, we’ve helped our clients secure over $1 billion worth of new projects with professionally written and designed business proposals. We are very proud of that.

Now, you can sit back, relax, and engage us to write a proposal for you. Contact us today to get a proposal from us about our writing a proposal for you!