Do you want to create business proposals that will bring loyal clients to your company? In a business proposal, you are not simply selling your products and services; you are providing solutions to your clients’ problems. As William James said, “Act if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
A well-written business proposal leads to lasting relationships with new clients. It is also the first step in employing valuable customer engagement strategies. And in the age of remote work and video conferencing, the need for establishing strong partnerships from day one is more vital than ever. In this guide, we will make this first step simple by outlining what a business proposal is, the types of proposals, and what you should include. It will finish with design and delivery tips that will be sure to make your products/services impossible to refuse!
What is a Business Proposal?
A winning business proposal represents the ultimate sales document. You are turning leads into loyal clients. It provides tailored solutions to your client’s problems. The proposal identifies your potential clients’ pain points and provides them with the goods/services to alleviate them. However, do not confuse a business proposal with a business plan. So, what is the difference?
Although you would not take a business proposal to an investor, it still holds an important function in making your company successful. Like a business plan, it is a formal document, but its purpose is to secure a business agreement. The business proposal should work in tandem with your sales playbook to ensure cohesion across your marketing strategy.
What Type of Business Proposal is Right For You?
There are three different types of business proposals:
- Formally Solicited
This type of business proposal is a response to a specific request from a client. They send an RFP (request for proposal) for businesses to come to them with solutions to their problems. In this situation, you know all the requirements and most of the information about the potential customer. You can tailor your products/services directly to the needs of the client.
- Informally Solicited
This is like a formally solicited proposal but there is not an official request. A potential client is interested and informally asks for a proposal to meet specific needs. Because these types of proposals come from informal conversations, more research is required at your end.
In this case, you approach a potential client without any request for proposal from them. The business proposal is often the first contact you will have with the customer. Although these are often less tailor-made, (with effective marketing) you can use these proposals as a way to optimize your sales pipeline.
Whether solicited or unsolicited, you will need to communicate to your potential client: the problem they are facing, the proposed solution, and the pricing breakdown.
Preparing to Write
Before you start writing, you must take the time to prepare. Understandably, some people feel they need to be qualified to write a complex, thorough business proposal.If this is the case, there are tons of online courses on Coursera and other MOOCs to help you get by. If you’re ready to brave this high-profile document with your skills and formidable proposal team, there are still things you can do beforehand to gather the best resources. To prepare, you must:
1. Identify Your Audience
In a solicited proposal, identifying your audience can make things slightly easier. For example, it’ll greatly narrow down what information you can use to your advantage or not. You wouldn’t write a proposal full of retail statistics for telemedicine founders; instead, you would share market size information about the intersection of your industries. Use your client knowledge and expertise to present them a proposal that’s 100% of interest to their specific needs. Otherwise:
- Who is the decision-maker?
- What is their role?
- What is their problem?
- What resources and services do they have already?
- Are they familiar with your products/services/company?
- What is their background?
For unsolicited proposals, consider doing marketing research to consider who is using your products and potential untapped markets. To uncover current patterns and relationships in your customer base, consider using call center reporting software.
2. In a Solicited Proposal, Conduct an Informal Discussion Call With the Client.
This is a great way to make a connection with your client and better understand their needs. Send out an onboarding email for everyone involved and schedule a call so you can get key insights into the problem and develop tailored solutions. Consider using business VoIP solutions to make this step simple and reliable, as well as open to collaboration with different team members. While fully-remote teams becoming more of a norm, the process of proposal writing should not suffer.
3. Consider Why a Company Should Choose You!
This may seem obvious, but you should reflect on why your audience should entrust you with their business. What do you have that your competition does not? What makes you stand out from the crowd?
What do You Include?
|The basic structure:|
|1. Title Page|
|2. Table of Contents|
|3. Executive Summary|
|4. Address your Clients Problems|
|5. Propose a Solution|
|6. Tell them About Your Business and Qualifications|
|7. Pricing Options|
|8. Terms and Conditions|
|9. Space for Signatures|
1. Title Page
The title page is the first impression your potential client will have of your proposal. Even though we are told since childhood to never judge a book by its cover, we inevitably do. We never wander through a bookstore and pick up a book that has an underwhelming title. Choose a persuasive and incising title to rope the client in before they even turn to the first page.
2. Table of Contents
Your table of contents allows clients to easily revisit aspects of your proposal. If you are sending the proposal electronically, provide a clickable table of contents or showcase your material during meeting with screen sharing apps. A table of contents would allow for easy navigation on laptops and smartphones that will illustrate your attention to detail.
3. Executive Summary
This serves to:
- Introduce your company
- Provide an overview of your company’s goals
- Showcase your business record
- Illustrate your vision and future plans
- Provide any other relevant details
Even without reading your entire proposal, the executive summary should give your prospective client a clear idea of who you are and what you do. Make it concise and clear.
4. Address Your Client’s Problem
Show your client that you understand their needs. If you are writing a solicited proposal, you should already know their problem. If you are writing an unsolicited proposal, market research should give you an idea of the trends of your target demographic. You can start selling products or services to that target demographic by anticipating their needs.
5. Propose a Solution
This is your time to shine. Show that you not only understand your client’s problem but also are ready to offer a solution. Offer a strategy that is tailored to your client’s needs. Let them know the deliverables you’ll provide, the methods you’ll use, and a predicted timeframe. And when it comes to today’s digital landscape there are more options than ever to make communication easy.
Make sure you:
- Anticipate their questions
- Describe exactly what deliverables they can expect
- Provide a specific timetable
A timetable—like the one above—can make your proposal easier to digest and more visually appealing.
6. Tell Them About Your Business and Qualifications
This is your opportunity to drive home why your prospective client should choose you. Why are you qualified to solve their problem and why should they trust you? Make them feel like they have gotten to know you and your business. This is an ideal place to tell client success stories or to mention any awards or accreditations. This will boost your credibility.
7. Pricing Options
Specifics are key. Make sure that you create a pricing table that clearly outlines your products and services. Overestimating or underestimating costs will create issues for you and your clients in the future. It can also jeopardize your credibility for this and future clients.
8. Terms and Conditions
This is where you underline the exact agreement you are proposing. In the terms and conditions, you should include:
- The project timeline (start date and completion date)
- The total payment due (and potentially the payment schedule)
- When the payment is due
- The types of payment accepted
- Any other terms and conditions that you expect between you and your client
If you have a legal team, have them read over the terms and conditions before sending it to your client. Using collaboration tools for business always helps when the need to collaborate and arises. However, most industries have standard terms and conditions. In this case, you can just stick to a consistent template for your clients.
9. Space for Signatures
Make sure to leave a place for your new clients to sign! Also, make sure to clarify what they are agreeing to and prompt them to reach out to you with any unanswered questions they may have.
Design and Delivery Tips
- Include Graphics and Charts
Make sure your proposal is both informative and visually appealing! Including information via a visual medium also makes it more easily digestible.
- Go Digital
Make your documents electronic. Today, documents can be signed and sent on laptops and smartphones. It is more convenient for both you and your client. It also allows you to include marketing videos about your products and provide links to your web content. The more content you have on the internet, the more you can optimize your conversion funnel.
- Embrace your Brand
Make your company’s personality shine throughout the proposal. What makes your brand special needs to be on every page of your proposal. The love and loyalty to your own company will make your clients return that loyalty with dividends.
- Create a Sense of Urgency
Give your clients a deadline to act on your proposal. You want to expedite their decision-making process. Make it seem like they would be passing by a great deal if they let the offer on the table go cold.
- Stay Connected
Make sure to stay in contact with your clients after sending your proposal through conference apps free of presentation limitations. Your software should include essential features such as screen sharing, file sharing, and a virtual whiteboard to be visually engaging with your agenda. This will illustrate your dedication to customer service and allow you to answer any questions they may have in the most comprehensive way.
Also, make sure you follow up with your team members if the client signs the agreement. Consider investing in top of the line computer systems for maximum accessibility and compatibility. If your virtual meeting space can’t accommodate people’s devices, you won’t be able to get their input properly.
In the end, writing a winning business proposal is all about understanding your clients’ problems and what they need to fix them. You now have all the tools you need, so go and write those winning proposals and grow your business!