Crafting an Effective Business Proposal

by Katalyst International contributor Jessica Olivo

If writing a business proposal seems like a daunting task, it’s for a good reason. While a well-crafted proposal could mean a successful sale to a client, an ill-prepared proposal will cost you new business. It’s not only the information you put into your proposal, but also the way your content is presented that will catch the eye of a potential customer. There are several ways to stand out from your competitors to close the deal.
What is a business proposal?
A proposal is a way of presenting and outlining your business offerings to potential clients. It’s a detailed sales pitch that will identify what specific problems your would-be customers are struggling with and explain how you will solve them. Your proposal should give examples of how your product and services will improve the customer’s business.
Solicited vs. Unsolicited
There are two main types of business proposals that you can utilize. The first is a solicited proposal. In this case, a customer would come to you with their problem and request information on what your company can do to help. This can also be done through a formal Request for Proposal, or RFP.
Unsolicited proposals are when you are seeking out new business and submit your pitch to companies who have not reached out to you first. Submitting unsolicited proposals may result in fewer sales than solicited, but you should cast a wide net to catch as many clients as possible.
Business proposals should be straightforward and informative. Just as you would pitch your product or services in person, your proposal should create interest while also providing all of the necessary information to make the deal. There is room for adaptation, but here are the main points that should be covered in your proposal.
The title page is like the cover of a book. It’s the first thing your reader will see and should work to create interest and curiosity. It’s a great opportunity to display your brand and should include your company name, your name, the date of the proposal, and the name of the specific person or people to whom it is being submitted
Table of Contents
List out all of the sections of your proposal including page numbers for easy reference. If you are submitting your proposal electronically, you can include clickable links to each section. The table of contents should make your proposal easily accessible.
Executive Summary
This section provides all of the general information about your company, including where you are located and who makes up your team. It’s also a good place to highlight what you are offering and why you are the best option. The executive summary needs to draw the reader in and make them agree that you are a viable candidate. This can be done by giving examples of past projects and the names of clients you have worked with. You should also provide a description of your product or services.
Statement of Problem
Potential clients want to know that you understand their needs and will solve their specific problem. This is where you can’t be lazy with general information. Give explicit details and examples that will show the reader that you have done your research and that you understand their company. If you have received a request for the proposal, you should already have a well of information to start with.
The Proposed Solution
Again, this section must be personalized to every potential client. It is imperative that you are addressing theircompany and their needs. While your services may be generally similar for each proposal you send out, you will still modify your offerings depending on the requests from the client.
After you detail exactly what solution you are proposing, you can get into the steps you will take to provide your service. This includes the timeline and schedule as well as the method of delivery that will be utilized. These items vary depending on company and industry, but should be specified in each proposal.
Go ahead and toot your horn! You want to build confidence in your company and make your reader see that you are trustworthy and results-oriented. Feature reviews and examples of successful jobs you’ve worked on. Be sure to mention any accolades or awards you have received or any industry accreditations you’ve earned. This is your time to let your company shine.
Pricing and Costs
While your pricing may vary based on the exact services required, you should give the reader an idea of what the project will cost. This includes the price of specific services as well as any additional costs that may be incurred. If you are tailoring services to any distinct needs you are already aware of, you can indicate those prices here.
Terms and Conditions
This is where to detail any necessary legal information. Spell out when payments are due and what your cancelation policy is. You can also include how changes to the project should be made. Include all relevant information that applies to your business including confidentiality agreements, instances and definitions of what can be considered force majeure, as well as where and how to resolve disputes.
Acceptance Agreement
The client may sign an acceptance agreement as a part of your proposal or else you can request they send you a separate letter of acceptance. Either way, you should have a signed agreement to the terms of your proposal, separate from the final contract.
There are many templates available to assist in preparing your proposal. Take advantage of programs that will streamline the process for you. Companies like Duuers not only provide templates, but also help creating and customizing your proposal with your logo, colors, and background images. You can also share and track your proposal through the Duuers site, giving you insight into the entire process from when the client opens the proposal to when they sign the acceptance agreement.
Business proposals should be straightforward and informative. Just as you would pitch your product or services in person, your proposal should create interest while also providing all of the necessary information to make the deal. To keep customers engaged, make sure the content of the proposal is customized to each individual business. Vague, general descriptions won’t hold the attention of the reader as much as specific details tailored to meet the needs of the person reading your proposal.
This is also an opportunity to reveal your company’s style and character. Keep the proposal true to your branding through the use of logos, colors, and photos. Visuals will help draw the reader in and graphs and charts can be utilized to better illustrate your proposal.
Your business proposal may be your only foot in the door and it’s imperative to make a good impression. Keep your language concise and clear and avoid using too much industry terminology or clichéd jargon. Double check the accuracy of any facts and statistics and always spell check and proofread a few times to ensure you haven’t made any embarrassing typos.