A solid business proposal serves as one of the best ways to secure new business opportunities. A business should see it as the ultimate sales document, condensing all the value a client expects to get in solving a particular problem. However, most companies fail to get the most out of this opportunity.
The fact of the matter is that there are numerous aspects to writing a winning business proposal. Every single component of an impactful business proposal deserves your full attention and deep understanding, from its target audience to its content and structure.
While it may seem quite daunting initially, especially to new businesses, we’re here with all the assistance you’ll need in producing a proposal that will earn you some reputation as well as new business opportunities.
What is a Persuasive Business Proposal?
In simplest of terms, it is a formal document a company creates and offers to a prospect intended to secure a business agreement with them. People often end up confusing a business proposal with a business plan. Both differ from each other. The proposal focuses on selling your product/service while the plan concerns selling the business, i.e., securing loans or funding, for instance.
Types of Business Proposals
Most experts segregate business proposals into 3 different categories.
- Formally Solicited
Companies prepare this type of proposal when they get an official request for a business proposal. It is a scenario where you’re aware of most (if not all) of the information about a prospect. You simply need to prepare a document against the requisites of that potential client so that they can evaluate it.
- Informally Solicited
When a company prepares a proposal document without an official request for it, you refer to it as an informally solicited proposal. For this kind of document, you need a lot more research so that a potential client finds it worthy enough to take interest and respond against it.
To better understand it, you may equate it with a business text, email or a marketing brochure. Such proposals often adopt a generic, one-size-fits-all approach, as they lack a proper understanding of a client’s requirements. However, they make up for this by adding market research, identifying customer pain points, and industry-level personalization to make it worthwhile for a potential client/buyer.
What are the benefits of writing an effective business proposal?
Some of the major benefits you can reap with a compelling proposal include:
Better Project Planning
Everybody agrees on one thing. Poorly planned projects fail, doing more harm than good. The drill of producing a viable project proposal pushes you to think from a client’s perspective, explaining the project comprehensively. In doing so, you’re likely to dig into the aspects of the project you might’ve missed otherwise. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, explaining the project details to a prospect, and preparing yourself to handle it successfully.
We often see people sticking to different opinions on how to handle a project despite agreeing to achieve a single goal. There are many moving parts to even the simplest of the projects. Most of these remain in hindsight until it’s too late. Documenting a proposal for your project allows you to reflect everything before the whole team in writing to bring them on the same page. It gives the entire team a single point of reference, making consensus-building a convenient endeavor.
Better Monitoring and Evaluation
Objectives, strategy, and expected results are integral parts of a comprehensive proposal. Having everything ready and available, structured in a detailed document, helps tremendously in monitoring and evaluation efforts. Despite its high significance for continual learning and improvement, monitoring and evaluation often don’t get their fair share of focus in the planning stages. Documenting a formal proposal helps businesses set a foundation for better monitoring and evaluation.
Better Marketing Opportunity
Every proposal you send out serves as both an application as well as an advertisement. If you handle your project proposals seriously by introducing some subtle marketing techniques, your market recognition and long-term prospects can nurture greatly. Even if your proposal fails to hook you with a new client immediately, it may catch someone’s eye in the process, opening doors to further such opportunities for your business. In the same way, a poorly structured proposal may give your company a bad name, slashing your chances of securing a future project with your prospects.
The Structure of an Impactful Business Proposal
There is no hard and fast rule regarding how you should structure a business proposal. But a properly structured document will be more persuasive, yielding you better results. Let’s have a look at the basic structure of an effective business proposal.
Cover Page: It should include your company’s name, the title of the proposal, date, and the reference to request, in case it is applicable.
Executive Summary: Consider this as an abstract in a report. Most experts recommend confining it to one or two paragraphs. It should summarize your product/service, highlighting how it best caters to the client’s requirements. Also, make your case how can it exceed their expectations if possible.
Background: Squeeze in the history of your product/service/company, redirecting on how it can help achieve a better relationship between you and your potential client.
Proposal: It should showcase the main idea of the proposal, covering the who, what, when, where, why, and how aspects. Keep it clear and concise. There’s no need of wasting your words or exaggerate about your company, products, or services. Supplement it with fact-based reasoning in demonstrating your product, service, or solution.
Market Analysis: Starting from the overall market scenario, zoom in on how your offering outplays your competitors. Better comparison with your competition means better opportunity for your prospects to understand your point.
Benefits: Perhaps the most important is how well your product/service can benefit your client’s needs. You need to be as clear, concise, and specific as possible, providing a detailed list of short-term as well as long-term benefits to them.
Timeline: It is another of the major areas of concern for your prospects. The better you explain the timeline to your potential clients, the sooner they’ll respond to your proposal. Layout all details concerning their expected dates of completion, making the process clearer and transparent.
Marketing Plan: Often, businesses either fail to lay out the basics of a viable marketing plan or simply don’t give it enough importance. If you want to outsmart most of your competition at the project proposal level, you better add a solid marketing plan to it.
Finance: Business is all about managing finances. And you’re doing a disservice to your client (and yourself, of course) if your proposal fails to outline the financial details of the proposed project. It should cover estimates of initial cost, operational cost, final cost, return over investment, and so forth. If the product or service in the project needs to be delivered more than once, the proposal should also cover the costs of doing so.
Conclusion: Whether long or short, your proposal should have a proper ending. Just like an essay or speech, reiterate the main points in there, drawing your client’s attention to them again.
Tips for Writing Your Own Persuasive Business Proposal
You need to follow the same steps whether you’re looking to create a solicited proposal or an unsolicited one. Make sure it covers three areas in particular: a problem statement highlighting the main problem of the organization, your proposed solution, and pricing details. The passage below further breaks these three main areas into smaller chunks of information easy to handle for your prospects.
- Reflect a Clear Understanding of Your Client’s Main Concern
Make sure your proposal promptly and aptly captures the core of the problem your client is facing. It will help your potential client develop trust in you because you’re well aware of the challenge they face.
- Signify an Existing Relationship
If you’ve already successfully partnered with the client you’re writing a proposal to, you better signify it. It will instill a sense of ease, convenience, and confidence about you in your client’s mind. Your client relishes your previous relationship with them while going through your proposal, improving your odds of success.
- Introduce Your Solution
The sooner you introduce the solution to your client’s problem, the better. And make sure you do so in a way that informs them of what it is and how it’s the best fit for them.
- Elaborate on the Functional Details of Your Solution
Follow the introduction to your proposed solution by explaining how it will cater to their imminent needs. One of the best ways to do so is by relating different scenarios to it, which will help your client visualize the solution with respect to your services.
- Highlight the Return on Investment
Everyone, including your potential client, works for money. So, don’t forget to emphasize the return over investment your proposed solution can offer your prospect. For instance, if your proposed solution can help your client cut on time to do a task, quantify it to convince them easily.
- Zoom in On Your Team
Don’t forget to talk about your team if you want to write a convincing business proposal. It’s the most valuable asset your business may have. So, it’s imperative to introduce your team thoroughly, also describing how your team’s skillset makes them the best fit for the job. You can also highlight if any of your team members have handled a similar project successfully in the past to add more weight to your proposal.
- Cover Contingencies
Last but not least, don’t forget to make a contingency plan a part of your proposal. No project can rule out risks with absolute certainty. So, it’s better to outline the potential problems and how you plan to minimize the risks and threats they pose.
We conclude this blog with a final checklist to help you make sure you’ve covered all essential areas in writing a winning business proposal:
Is your proposal realistic and sensible? Do your research before you write the proposal. And once you’ve written it, read it once, read it twice, and then ask someone else to reread it before you finalize it. You don’t want to sound silly or over-committing to your prospects.
Does your prospect get any value from your proposal? The more weight your proposal has for your potential client, the more likely it will win you some new business.
Does your proposal address what your prospect needs? The alignment of your proposed solution to your prospect’s actual need is perhaps the single most crucial aspect of business proposal writing. Make sure your proposal takes that into account, succeeding in grabbing your prospect’s attention in the very first instance.
Does your proposal explain how it fulfills those needs? That’s because your client wants to make sure you know what you’re talking about before they hand you out the project. If your proposal fails to explain the workflow, the chances are that your potential client can start looking elsewhere.
How appealing your proposal is visually? You cannot deny that visual appeal is one of the first cues most clients respond to. So, make sure to work on the aesthetics of your proposal, especially if you’re sending it electronically. And one of the best ways to do so is by adding relevant images and videos, making it stand out against the competition.
Remember, proposal writing can play a vital role in helping you establish a steady stream of income in this era of cutthroat competition. So, you better be great at it. If you fail to lure in new business opportunities, sustaining it will become a challenge every passing day. Just follow the tips and tricks above and make the best of your proposal writing endeavors.