You’ve got a new business going and you’re building a client base. But how to reach your target customers and show them you have the solution they need is still blurry in your head.
The simple answer is a business proposal.
When properly laid out, a business proposal helps to connect you and the services you offer to your prospective customers. It articulates your value proposition and unique selling point. The end goal is to convince the client to engage your services or buy your products.
A business proposal may be unsolicited or solicited, in which case an organisation sends an RFP (request for proposal).
Whether solicited or unsolicited, every serious business needs to send out well-drafted proposals to target businesses regularly, identifying a need and detailing how they can solve it.
First things first.
The first thing you should do before you put together your proposal is to research the company. If they sent you an RFP, read it line by line and understand the solutions they want. It may also be a good idea to have a quick chat or meeting with the new client, so you have a very clear picture of their needs and objectives.
Once you’ve done your background checks, it’s time to write your proposal. There’s no set-in-stone approach to writing a business proposal, but below are vital features and order of a good business proposal.
1. The title page.
Use the title or cover page to introduce yourself and your business. It should be simple with few words, but well designed. It should include the title of the proposal, your company name, the client company name and the date of submission.
2. Table of contents.
A table of contents provides the reader with a quick overview of the main sections of the proposal. If you’re submitting an electronic version of the document, link the items in the table so the prospective client can easily jump to a section he wants to view quickly. This will also aid in easy reading and navigation.
3. An executive summary that explains ‘why.’
Here, you’re selling the value proposition to the client by outlining what the client will gain when they use your services or buy your products. It explains to them how your offering is an answer to their current needs.
Even if the client cannot or is not ready to read the rest of the proposal yet, the executive summary should give them a clear idea of the solution you’re providing.
4. Highlight or specify the need or pain points.
This section is where you outline current and specific problems the client needs to solve to reach their full potentials. This is where you show the client you understand their needs and the solutions they need.
5. Propose a solution.
In this section, you draw up a strategy that will help solve the client’s identified need. Be sure you tailor the solution you’re advancing to the needs of the client so they know you’ve created the proposal with them in mind.
You need to be clear about your deliverables, methods of execution and timeline for when they should expect them.
6. State how you are ultimately qualified to provide the solution.
Are you the right person to fix the prospective client’s pain point? Why should they entrust you with that responsibility? This section is where you show why you’re the best for the job.
It will help if you can include testimonials/case studies of past clients’ success stories and mention any outstanding qualifications, awards or accreditations that establish your authority in your field.
Please note to not bombard the client with unnecessary details or features of your offering. Instead, focus on the benefits the client will receive when they agree to use your service or product.
7. Add price options.
This is where things can get tricky as you want to be careful you’re pricing right – not under-pricing or going over the top with it. It’s best to provide a few options for the client to suit different budgets and needs.
You can find some proposal software that provides responsive pricing tables. It lets the prospective client check the product or service options they prefer while the price adjusts automatically.
8. Provide timelines, schedules and projections.
This allows you to provide details on key processes and phases in the planning and execution of the proposal, including the project timeline, pricing, and payment schedules.
Basically, this page summarises the commitments and deliverables of both parties (you and the client) on the project – in the event the client accepts your business proposal.
Be clear on the terms and conditions and crosscheck with your legal team before submitting the document to the client.
Other key things to keep in mind.
There’s a lot to internalise when putting together a quality business proposal. Here are a few tips to help you create one.
- Begin with an outline.
Before you plunge into the details of proposal writing, list out the sections of your business proposal and the key information you’ll include in each page. This will help to keep you focused and your message clear and intact as you transition from section to section.
- Keep it simple.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all length for business proposals, you must not sacrifice quality for quantity. Maintain the KISS (Keep it short and simple) principle of good writing and don’t sound jargon-y.
Maintain a brand voice.
As you create your business proposal, explore the opportunity to let your brand personality shine through. Keep the brand voice consistent and distinct from your competitors and let the client see it.
- Use data and visuals.
Use visuals like charts, graphs and infographics, and compelling, quantitative data to enhance your message.
Include a call-to-action.
Don’t keep the reader hanging or guessing about what to do next after they’ve read and understood your proposition. Include a clear CTA (call-to-action) so the client knows what steps to take, if they’re impressed with your proposal, to kick-start the business relationship.
- Create a sense of urgency.
Your proposal should have a timeframe within which the client should take action. Do not make it indefinite. Let the client know there’s a deadline on your special offer and making a decision as soon as possible is important for their business interest.
- Proofread and proofread again.
Before you submit the business proposal, take a little more time to read again, rewrite a few lines, if necessary; edit and re-edit, and proofread well so the document reads well, devoid of spelling, grammatical or factual errors.
3 ingredients of a successful proposal presentation.
There are three vital factors that make a winning business proposal presentation.
This is the information the readers or listeners need to digest so they can take the required action after your presentation.
2. Visual Design.
This includes images, infographics, slides and other visual elements that support and enhance the message.
This is the process of how you convey the essence of the entire business proposal.
These three parts are like a three-legged stool. They complement each other. If one component is missing or not properly applied, it reduces the effectiveness of the proposal.
Comfortable writing zone.
Perhaps the most difficult part of business proposal writing is organising all the key sections and actually writing the proposal it in a coherent, flowing and articulated way. No doubt, this requires a certain level of expertise and experience to pull off.
If you don’t have the skill or background to write a good business proposal and still try to rush up things to beat a deadline, you may end up with a document with little or no semblance to your original goals. In that case, it’s best you hire professional business proposal writers to help you create a winning business proposal.