How to write a business proposal
When you are in the early stages of starting a business, building your clientele is vital for growing your company. You must be careful to craft your sales and marketing strategies so that they “hook” customers with a product that truly adds value to consumers’ lives. One of the most powerful tools for hooking potential customers is a business proposal – a document outlining how your product or service is uniquely designed to meet a prospective client’s needs. Given the make-or-break nature of this document, learning how to write a business proposal is one of the most foundational skills you will ever develop as a business owner. Take the reins now, and you’ll find that the process of writing a business proposal provides greater confidence in your brand.
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What is a business proposal?
A business proposal is a sales pitch proposing your product or service to a potential client for a specific job, along with a cost proposal. Businesses may undertake writing a business proposal for a number of reasons. In some instances, a client may request a proposal in the course of a sales call, seeking details on the scope of work and costs that would be incurred should the project move forward. In other instances, potential clients may solicit business proposals (request for proposals, or RFPs) to recruit vendors.
How to write a business proposal
Include the following components when writing a business proposal:
Describe the problem or issue you intend to solve.
In writing a business proposal, you’ll want to express an understanding of the problem the client is trying to solve. Capture the client’s goals and objectives for the job so that it’s clear you understand the problem they’re facing.
Convey your approach to solving the problem.
In submitting a business proposal, you’re competing against other bidders (your competitors), so you must detail your approach and why it’s superior to your competition’s approach.
Emphasize your qualifications for the job.
Again, since you’re competing against other bidders, make yourself stand out by emphasizing how your skills and background distinguish you from the rest.
Outline your methodology and costs.
Provide a timeline with benchmarks to assess your progress on the job, along with a schedule. Convey the method by which you’ll be assessing costs, a budget estimate and a payment schedule.
Package the business proposal.
Include a title page (with your business name, the client’s name and date of submission), a table of contents (if your proposal is lengthy and/or complex) and an executive summary, which summarizes the client’s goals and your approach for the job.
Writing a business proposal: Tips for success
As you consider business proposal ideas, incorporate the following tips:
Do your homework.
Research suggests that, from a client’s perspective, a successful business proposal indicates that the bidder has done its “homework.” The proposal conveys the bidder’s attentiveness to the client’s needs and goals. Put in the time to truly understand exactly what the client is seeking, and don’t be afraid to ask the client as you write the proposal.
Presentation is key.
In addition to centering your business proposal language around the client’s needs, your presentation is also key. Make sure that the language flows smoothly and create a visually-appealing presentation package.
Be fair in your pricing.
Set your prices so that you’re not undercharging (i.e. losing money on the job) or over-pricing (i.e. gouging clients for your product or service). The former will put you in the red and the latter will taint your reputation. Clients want to know that they’re getting what they pay for, and they want to know they can trust you. Carefully assess your costs for the job and be prepared to convey these assessments to prospective clients.
Identify your prospective client’s decision-makers.
Rather than risk missing a curveball – a decision-maker you were not aware of – research your client’s complete network. This way you can craft your business proposal’s language to appeal to the entire team.
Make sure you’re adding value for your prospective client.
Innovation – constantly adapting your product to meet your target market’s evolving needs – is critical so that your business is not eclipsed by the competition. Make sure your product is adding value for your prospective client so that they don’t need to seek solutions elsewhere. Learning to build constant and strategic innovation into your larger business strategy will take you lightyears as you master how to write a business proposal.
An effective business proposal appeals to emotions.
Cold-hard data is one component of mastering how to write a business proposal – emotional appeal is the other. While a client’s decisions are certainly bound by logic (budgetary restrictions, for example), the client’s choices are also shaped by emotions, like the client’s sense of excitement over the business proposal. Express the tangible benefits you’ll provide to help your client visualize your working relationship. In this way, you enable your prospective client to feel confident that your services “fit” the outcomes sought.
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