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How to Write a Business Proposal – Step by Step Guide

When starting a business, there is only a small number of people who actually know what is a business proposal and how to write one. Besides, you are more focused on your services, products, sales, business plan, and making everything work out. Therefore, creating a business proposal is one of the last things you would care about. Even then, you can not miss its importance. Creating a strong business proposal whether or not you are starting a new business is one of the wisest decisions that you would ever make. After all, a good business proposal can help you in a number of ways, including creating a business plan, securing funds, defining the direction of your brand, and identifying your strengths and weaknesses. With that being said, read this article thoughtfully to learn everything about a good business proposal, including learning how to write a business proposal.

What is a Business Proposal?

A business proposal is a document that you can send to your prospective client or customer in the hope of signing a business deal or working on a project together. It is a marketing plan that you can use to tell your client what you do and how you can help them with their services.

Besides, it can be a small document such as an SEO strategy document or a document illustrating how you can help a company double its sales. Hence, it can be pretty much about any business topic depending on the nature of your client’s business and your potential solution.

In essence, the goal of a business proposal is to address the needs of your clients and propose your solution to them. Therefore, writing a strong and convincing business proposal is essential to get that dream project and grow your business. Here are a few reasons to help you understand why you need to write a business proposal:

  • Attract new clients
  • Get investors for funding
  • Document your realistic plans and projections
  • Outline your business plan for growth
  • Highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your business model
  • Showcase essential matrices such as your business’s pricing models

Types of a Business Proposal

Now that you know what is a proposal and the fact that you can write a business proposal about any topic one can name, you might be wondering what are the different types of a business proposal. Basically, they can vary depending on the nature of the service you are providing and the nature of the project you are going to work on with your client business. Nevertheless, three distinct categories of a business proposal are as follows:

Formally solicited business proposal

It is a type of business proposal that is only written as a response to an official request for a proposal from a potential client. In such a case, you will have all the necessary information about your client and the issues they are facing in their business. Hence, your sole responsibility is to review all the information provided and write a business proposal. The client will review your proposal and initiate the sales process.

Informally solicited business proposal

Unlike a formally solicited business proposal, the informally solicited business proposal is written without an official request for a business proposal. Meanwhile, the need for a business proposal arises from casual conversations with your client and when there is no detailed structure for a proposal. So, whenever a client expresses their interest in either your services or product and requests for an analysis, you can write one. However, you should be ready to conduct additional research. After all, you might not have all the necessary information about your clients and any issues they are facing.

Unsolicited business proposal

The third type of business proposal is the unsolicited business proposal. When you reach out to a potential client with a proposal, you will have to write an unsolicited business proposal. Even if your client has not asked for any business proposal, you must write one to ensure that you win the project. So, you can consider them as a generic cold email or a marketing brochure. Besides, to make an effective and convincing business proposal, you must conduct research to identify market trends, your client’s pain points, and their needs. Then, tailor your proposal to meet them effectively.

Moreover, it would be best if you remembered that not all the proposals that you write will fit into the above three categories. The goal is to familiarize you with some traditional ones that any business owner will write at some point in their career.

How to Write a Business Proposal

Now that you know what is a business proposal and the different categories, you are good to start writing one. The format and structure of a business proposal may vary depending on the nature of the business of your client and the service that you provide. Otherwise, there are a couple of elements that remain consistent in any type of proposal that you write. Read the following guide to learn how to write a traditional yet powerful business proposal.

Step 1: Research and Outline Your Business Proposal

The first step of learning how to write a business proposal is to conduct research and create the outline of your business proposal. Firstly, before diving into the process of writing your business proposal, make sure that you have conducted thorough research to support your expansion plans. Whether you are a giant business or a small one that has just stepped into the marketplace, having case studies, compelling data, and relevant examples is highly crucial.

The good thing about a well-researched business proposal is that it easily convinces your readers of the benefits they will gain or how their problems can be solved with your product and service. In addition, creating an outline plays an equal role in writing a business proposal. After all, writing a business proposal is a methodological undertaking.

The outline can be as long as one or two pages and should contain bullet points that break down key areas. You can think of them as the building blocks that you can later expand to add further details.

Step 2: Create Your Title Page

The title page of your business proposal acts as its cover. Therefore, it is an essential part of the business proposal and should not only convey essential information but it should also grab your client’s attention and draw them in. It includes the following details:

  • The title of your proposal
  • Your business name
  • Contact information
  • The date you are submitting or crafting (in case of an unsolicited proposal) your proposal

Moreover, the title page should be professional to be able to set the tone of the proposal. Like any advertisement, the title page of your business proposal should convey your company’s aesthetic and character. So, you should also include your company’s logo somewhere on your title page. After all, the cover page is the first thing that your client sees.

Nevertheless, you should avoid adding any complicated graphics because they may create a distraction from the other essential elements on the cover page. Hence, it should be clean and succinct.

How to Write a Business Proposal
via PandaDoc

Step 3: Compile a Table of Contents

Once you have done your research and created the outline and the title page of your business proposal, you must have enough data to compile its table of contents. Compiling the table of contents of your business proposal is essential because it helps in navigating through the content of your proposal with ease. Therefore, the data in the table of contents should be arranged chronologically.

However, avoid adding everything and anything to the table as it can come off as noisy and overwhelming to your reader. A smart strategy is to only add items to the table of contents that either address a specific pain point or answer a question that your client may have. This makes it easier for them to navigate to any piece of information with ease.

How to Write a Business Proposal
via PandaDoc

Step 4: Write a Cover Letter

The cover can either come before the table of contents page or after it. This totally depends on your preferences. Nonetheless, it serves as an introduction to you and your company. It should be short, friendly, and polite. Do not forget to include phrases such as “thank you” to show your gratitude for their time. Besides, the length of a cover letter should not be more than a single page.

In addition, you should also add your contact details to encourage your client to reach out to you without any hesitations. You can also add images and graphics as long as they can successfully illustrate your brand’s identity and motto.

How to Write a Business Proposal
via PandaDoc

Step 5: Write the Executive Summary

An executive summary is probably the most important section of a business proposal. After all, it includes details such as why you are sending them the proposal and why you are the best option for them to solve their problem. It should be strong enough to help your company stand out.

Besides, the executive summary should be specific and two to four pages long. It should be able to identify your client’s exact problem, describe what your company or brand does, and illustrate your proposed solution to solve their problems. Because the rest of your business proposal will explain everything in detail. Besides, you do not need to cover your strategies and logistics in this section.

Moreover, it should address your client’s needs in such a way that they feel relatable even if you are sending the same proposal to more than one client. No doubt, you can either choose to make adjustments or create a new business proposal if any of your clients have different problems.

All in all, the executive summary of your business proposal should clearly state how you are going to help your client get rid of the problems they are facing.

How to Write a Business Proposal
via PandaDoc

Step 6: Outline Your Client’s Problem and Your Company’s Solution

Though you might have already discussed the issue and its solution in the above section, you will go into much more detail in this section of your business proposal. In the executive summary, you explained “what you want to do” and “why you are the best fit for it”. Meanwhile, you will explain “how you plan on doing it” and the time frame “how long you need to get it done” in this section.

So, you should be able to answer thoroughly questions and clarify any uncertainties that your client might have. For instance, you should start by outlining any potential issue that your client might be facing. Doing so will let them know you have a deep understanding of their needs.

This section essentially requires a lot of research. After all, you have to showcase your interest and dedication to your client and that you have done your homework before reaching out to them.

How to Write a Business Proposal
via PandaDoc

Moreover, how you address their problem and break it down by offering a solution is totally up to your preference. For instance, you can choose to write a list of problem statements followed by their possible solutions. Or you can describe a couple of large problems that your client might be facing and provide a list of possible solutions. All in all, you choose to write this section the way you want to. But you must appeal to your clients and make sense to your industry.

Furthermore, you should also consider adding timetables. It lets your client know how fast you will be able to provide a solution and when they should expect to see results. Timetables are excellent tools for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they help you answer specific questions in the clearest way possible. Secondly, they aid in breaking up the text and act as a visual tool.

Or you can break it down into different sections that identify each problem and its potential solution. Besides, here are some key elements that you must address:

  • The problem
  • Implementation
  • Goals
  • Benefit
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Step 7: Create a Pricing Table

Next, the pricing of your services and products. However, how you structure your pricing depends a lot on the type of product or service that you provide. Besides, we recommend that you should provide your clients with a couple of options at least. After all, a single flat fee encourages them to decide whether or not to accept your proposal which is easy to reject.

via PandaDoc

On the other hand, adding more options helps you and your client be more negotiable and open up a conversation. For instance, you can offer different price points, recurring payment options, upgrades, and discounts. Moreover, the pricing structure should be formatted in a table which makes it easy to read.

via PandaDoc

Hence, include all the pricing options and details clearly by making sure that it is easy for them to understand what they are paying for and the different options that they can use to customize it.

Step 8: Share Information about What Your Company Does (The About Us Page)

Just like an About Us on a website, you need to create a similar section in your business proposal too. This should, basically, share the story of you as the founder and your business, in particular.

via PandaDoc

Besides, you should always remember that a good About Us page is brief and to the point while having all the necessary information. Nonetheless, a typical About Us page includes all of the following elements of a compelling narrative:

  • Setting: Firstly, it should be able to set the stage by introducing you as the founder of the company and/or your co-founder if there are any. Besides, it should describe how you came together to build this business.
  • Conflict: How did your business start in the first place? Which problem did you guys want to solve? Describe the problem that your business solves.
  • Plot: How did you and your team in your company find the XYZ solution to abc problem? And what were the challenges that you guys faced and how did you overcome them?
  • Character: The About Us page must talk about the team that your client will be working with. So, introduce the rest of your team and give a brief introduction.
  • Denouement: Lastly, set yourself up for an exciting sequel. Tell them what you expect or working on next. What is the future of your company and how you are going to pursue your goals?
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Step 9: Summarize Your Qualifications

In step 4 while you were writing the cover letter or your business proposal, you briefly talked about what makes your company unique and qualified to solve XYZ problem that your client faces. In the qualification summary, you will have to go in-depth explaining how your business is actually qualified and the best fit to solve your client’s problem.

However, your qualification summary will not be effective enough you just praise your qualities. Instead, include case studies of your previous customers, social media feedback and praise, endorsements from experts in your market, customer testimonials, or anything else that might illustrate the value that you can provide. After all, only social proof makes a business proposal compelling and effective.

via PandaDoc

Step 10: Lay Out the Terms of the Agreement

Now that you have explained everything thoroughly, you are good to talk about the offer that you are making to your client by outlining the terms and conditions of your business proposal. Since proposals are considered legally binding contracts, it is advisable to work with a professional while crafting this section.

Moreover, it is important to note that not all of the business professionals essentially include this section. However, if you are intending to ask your client for further negotiation, you must include a well-crafted terms of agreement. Otherwise, you can also choose to add a simple call to action that tells your client how to further reach out to you.

Nonetheless, make sure that you provide some space for your client to sign the agreement if you are adding the terms of the agreement section.

via PandaDoc

Follow Up Tips

Once you are done writing your business proposal, make sure that you review it carefully. Otherwise, it would be unprofessional if there were any errors. But once you have sent it to your client, you will need to wait patiently. This can definitely be nerve-wracking.

Nonetheless, here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

  • Wait patiently: You should wait patiently once you send them your proposal. If you do not hear anything back, you can send a follow-up after a week. But you should keep in mind that they need to discuss it with their team which can definitely take time.
  • Send a Follow-up Email: If you do not hear anything from them, you can send them a follow-up email with a good subject line. After all, a compelling subject line increases the chances that they will not only open your email but also reply to it.
  • Be Brief: The follow-up email you send should be brief and to the point. You do not need to go into further details. You should only use it to inform them that you are available for questions. So that they can reach out if they have any questions or confusion.
  • Avoid Salesy Language: You should avoid salesy language because you are not looking for a customer but a partner. For instance, avoid saying “Do not miss out on this thrilling opportunity!”.
  • Know When to Quit: It is genius to know when you should quit the idea of securing an XYZ client. After all, one can not overlook the fact that you are reaching out to them consecutively.

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