How to write a successful business proposal?
A strong and well-written business proposal makes the difference between winning or losing a prospective client. In fact, it is what spells the difference between success and failure, whether you’re a freelancer or you have a company of your own. And since we’re surrounded by such fierce competition, it’s more important than ever to know how to write a successful business proposal that will close a sale.
However, it’s not that easy peasy Japanesey to compose outstanding business proposals. There are a lot of aspects that need to be considered, starting from the audience to the content and formatting of your presentation. Yeah, we know, it might sound daunting and exhausting, but don’t worry, this article covers each of your questions and works as a complete step-by-step guide. Besides teaching you the important elements to include in your next business proposal, we’ll also share with you some tips and tricks to help you win clients easier.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a seat, pour yourself a coffee, and let’s get started.
What is a business proposal?
In just a few simple words, a business proposal is a formal document created usually by a B2B company where a seller wants to convince a prospective client to buy their goods or services. Within the document, the seller outlines the service they’re offering and explains why they are the most suitable company for the job.
Now that it’s crystal clear for everyone what a business proposal is, it’s time to move on to another crucial aspect:
How many types of business proposals are there?
Generally speaking, there are three main categories of business proposals:
- Formally solicited – these ones are made when you aim to respond to an official request for proposal (those typically used for governmental contracts). In this case, you already know all the requirements and have the necessary information about a prospective buyer. All you need to do is to write a proposal for your buyer to evaluate.
- Informally solicited – prospective buyers are interested in your services and ask for a proposal so they can evaluate it. These types of proposals require a lot more research, because they are usually created out of informal conversations and are not based on official requests which often contain all the necessary information.
- Unsolicited – these are the business proposals that are not requested, but given as an introduction or a marketing piece to prospective clients/customers.
After you’ve decided what kind of business proposal you’re going to write, you should get ready for the most important part:
What should a business proposal include?
How to write a business proposal that seals that deal? And, what are the main things that should be included? Well, let’s start with the basics: make sure that you understand completely the company you are addressing.
If they’ve sent you an RFP (that request for proposal we’ve mentioned earlier), assure yourself to read it carefully, so that you know exactly what they are looking for.
Only after you’ve done your research, you can start thinking about what you should include in your business proposal. Of course that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach, but there are some core elements that should be included in all business proposals, be they solicited or unsolicited.
Here are the 10 elements every business proposal should have:
- Table of contents
- Executive summary
- The problem statement
- The proposed solution
- The timeline
- Pricing and billing
- Terms and conditions
- The acceptance
We’ll take them one by one and analyze them thoroughly:
You might say that this is common knowledge, but trust me, an outstanding title could make a huge difference. Someone could actually open your business proposal and read it, and not just stack it on top of other unread proposals that will probably be in the trash a few days later.
So, when you’re going to choose your business proposal’s title, make sure to tailor it for the company or the industry you are addressing. Also, you should choose a few compelling words such as remarkable, improvement, amazing, promote, and so on. Avoid the negative ones. Words like loss, vulnerable, and incapable should never cross through your mind when thinking about how to write a business proposal.
Besides the title, you should also think of the other important elements you need to put on the first page. Include your name along with your company’s name, the date you submitted the proposal, and the name of the client or individual you’re submitting the proposal to. Keep everything neat and tidy, because the first impression always matters. It’s your first chance to stand out and look professional, that’s why you should make sure you pay attention to all the little details of your business proposal’s cover.
2. Table of contents
No matter how straightforward you might find this second element, it’s good to remember that a successful business proposal should be scannable and easy to pick. In order to do so, you need to insert a table of contents right after the first page.
Like any typical table of contents, this section will simply outline what the client can expect to find in the remainder of the proposal. Include all the sections you’ll cover in your presentation, and remember to insert a clickable table of contents if you’re going to send the proposal electronically. This way, the client will be able to jump to different sections of your proposal and the entire process of reading and navigation will become a lot easier.
3. Executive summary
Next, in our how to write a business proposal article, comes the executive summary. This type of summary details exactly why you’re sending your proposal and why your solution is the right one for your prospective client. It outlines the benefits of your company’s products and services, and how they can solve your potential client’s problem.
Just to make it clear, it’s not a summary of your whole business proposal, but an elevator pitch or value proposition. Write about your company’s strengths, areas of expertise, similar problems you’ve solved, and the advantages you provide over your competitors.
And while you’re presenting all of these aspects, you should keep in mind the most important aim of an executive summary: to give your prospective clients a clear understanding of how your business can help them, even if they don’t read your entire business proposal.
4. The problem statement
This is the part where you state the exact problem your prospective buyer is facing. Your ultimate goal is to show them you have a clear understanding of their needs and the problem they need help solving.
A well-defined problem statement should express that you’ve done your research thoroughly and not just sent a generic pitch, and should also create an opportunity to point out a problem your prospect might not be aware they had in the first place.
If you want to write a successful business proposal, keep in mind that your problem statement section should probably look very similar to this:
5. The proposed solution
Right after you’ve expressed the problem statement, you should come up with a proposed solution for your client’s needs. These two sections go hand in hand in all cases. Always think of this aspect when wondering how to write a business proposal.
Make sure your proposed solution is customized to the client’s requirements, so they know you’ve created this proposal specifically for them. Let them know which deliverables you’ll provide, how you plan to deliver your solution, the methods you’ll use, an estimated timeline of when they can expect your solution, and also any relevant details that could be essential to your client.
For this section, inspire yourself from this business proposal template:
Let’s say that the prospect you’re pitching your solution to likes it, but they still can’t trust you to fix their problem. Why is this happening? Simple: they don’t know you. No worries about that! This section’s goal is precisely to convince your prospective client why you’re trustworthy and suitable for their needs.
It’s not a bad idea to showcase your most successful client’s testimonials, relevant case studies, industry awards, specific accreditations that can boost your authority, and any other forms of social proof to establish yourself as a credible business in your buyer’s eyes. You should also mention how you’ve solved similar problems for other clients in the past. This particular achievement is very powerful for your current customer.
7. The timeline
Whenever you’re wondering how to write a business proposal, you should also consider inserting a timeline of how and when you provide all your deliverables to your prospective client. You can easily do this by creating a usual flow chart or a roadmap that leads your customer down the path of your solution.
However, if you choose to pitch a long-term project, our advice is that a timeline infographic is a better fit. Even something as simple as this table example over here can also do the trick. You can easily create one of your own with Flipsnack’s useful table feature. Insert how many rows and columns you want, and then add your information, such as the main phases of the project, the deadlines, and the people who are responsible for each issue.
Keep in mind that a timeline is not always set in stone, rather it’s just an estimation. The goal is to make clear any questions your client might have about how you will deliver your work or about the entire B2B sales process. But assure yourself to be transparent, fair, and honest throughout the entire business proposal. Clear communication is an important key when it comes to successful partnerships.
It’s also worth mentioning here that when you’re inserting a timeline in your business proposal, you’re setting clear expectations from the beginning and give everyone the opportunity to see you as a professional. This helps you build trust and healthy relationships with your potential customers.
8. Pricing and billing
This is an extremely important aspect when it comes to writing a business proposal. And is the second most read section of any proposal – people usually jump straight from the introduction to the pricing. That being said, there are a few things you want to make sure of.
The first one is that the pricing should be crystal clear. Simplify any pricing structure that might be confusing for your client. The second one should let the client know how much it’ll cost to put your proposal into action and what you expect the return to be. You need to find the perfect balance between overestimating (you might scare the client off and lose them to a competitor with a cheaper price) and underestimating (you might disappoint the client and undervalue your work).
One good piece of advice in this regard is to break up your pricing in stages so that your client knows what they’re paying for. This business proposal template example from here is a good source of inspiration for a section like this one:
9. Terms and conditions
Well, well, well…this is the part where you put your money where your mouth is. Use this section to lay out clearly what your client can expect from you and your business by agreeing to your business proposal. Summarize everything you have promised to deliver and what the prospective buyer will offer you in return. Include things like the overall project timeline from start to end, payment methods, and also payment schedule, so the both of you are clear on what each is agreeing to.
This aspect of your business proposal is crucial, as it outlines all the legal aspects of the deal which is why it’s important to be as clear as possible in the terms and conditions of your proposal. Our advice is to consult a lawyer or your legal team when working on this section of your presentation.
However, if you feel like this part regarding the terms and conditions occupies too much space within your document, you can always use a simple trick to make your business proposal look more tidy and professional. With Flipsnack, you can easily insert a hyperlink that will lead directly to your website’s section about legal aspects.
10. The acceptance
This is the last section you should include in your successful business proposal. It’s the final step of this whole ordeal. Your client has studied the offer and they’re convinced to seal the deal.
When adding this section, make sure to add two signature boxes both for you and your client, so that you sign the proposal and make everything official. Also, assure yourself that you won’t forget to include your contact information to act as a gentle prompt that your client can contact you in case they have any unanswered questions. To make the whole process smoother, you should insert a hyperlink that will lead them directly to your email address.
How to write a successful business proposal? 7 Tips & tricks:
If you’ve thought that this was all about business proposals, you’re sadly mistaken. Yes, you’re right, we’ve covered a huuuge aspect of this article, but there’s another one that’s been waiting patiently for you to be discovered. And trust us, it’s really worth reading it, because besides knowing what to include in a successful business proposal, you should also learn some useful tips and tricks that will help you close a deal easier.
So, here they are. 7 ultimate tips & tricks to improve your business proposal:
- Conduct a findings discussion call with the client
- Do your research
- Sketch out the scope of the project
- Estimate the cost
- Start writing your business proposal
- Edit and proofread
- Client follow up
Let’s take them one by one and get into more important details:
1. Conduct a findings discussion call with the client
The first step to writing a successful business proposal is to gather all the information you find necessary. And what better way to do that than to talk to your client and see exactly what they’re expecting from you and your business.
Everybody knows that when you’re working with a client, you want to manage the nuances of the conversation and know everything in detail, that’s why the phone call is the best communication tool. Of course that a face-to-face meeting could work wonders, but this is available only for people who live in the same city and have time for these kinds of meetings. Not to mention that with all this worldwide pandemic situation, a phone call is so much safer.
Coming back to our starting point, a Zoom meeting, a strategic phone call, or even a Google Meet conversation could help you collect all the information you need for building a comprehensive business proposal. This essential information is collected through targeted questions asked with an open mind. Here are a few examples in this regard:
…and many others related to these ones. Answer these questions and be prepared to call your client. Keep in mind that your proposal is a response to their problem. Therefore, your team must have a deep understanding of the client’s needs and concerns.
2. Do your research
The most crucial part of learning how to write a successful business proposal is doing your research. I can’t stress this enough. Do your research! The first step is to gather all the information you need directly from your client. The second one is to do your research carefully and thoroughly. This is highly important, especially if you’re submitting an unsolicited proposal and it’s quite impossible to obtain explicit details of the wants and needs of the client. Thereby, go for detailed research and include the competitors of your potential client, and their customers as well. This way, your proposal will be as comprehensive and as detailed as possible.
Another important aspect when doing your research is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients. Doing this will help you provide a sneak peek into the customer’s viewpoint and help you answer questions such as:
Knowing the answers to these questions will definitely help you understand your client’s unique needs, work style, and industry. Eventually, they will also convince your prospective buyer to choose you instead of anyone else.
3. Sketch out the scope of the project
You’ve talked to the client, did your research, gathered all the necessary information…what’s next? To sketch out the scope of your business proposal. But what does this mean, more precisely? It’s that part of project planning that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverables, features, tasks, deadlines, and ultimately costs. In other words, it is what needs to be achieved and the work that must be done to deliver a successful project.
Try not to get distracted by little details. It’s better to start with a rough draft and focus on the outline. Only after you’ve finished this part, you can start filling in the missing pieces. Also, make sure that the project is supervised by an owner. He’s the one that will bear business responsibility for successful project implementation. This way, everything will go smoothly and the project will be presented on time.
Therefore, take it one step at a time. Here are some useful questions to help you create your business proposal outline:
The answers to these questions will make up the bulk of the business proposal, so pay huge attention to them. They will also give you a final confirmation that you have the necessary resources to complete a successful project.
4. Estimate the cost
Whenever you’re thinking about writing a successful business proposal, you should always take into consideration this aspect we’re going to discuss right here. You can never create a project without thinking about its costs. In fact, when you are presenting your business proposal, which page do your clients usually tend to flip to first? Yes, you’ve guessed it correctly: the pricing page!
Therefore, learning how to price proposals as attractively as possible is critical. When it comes to payment, every business owner should learn how to stay profitable and still win against the competition. Consider these three factors whenever you’re creating a proposal budget:
To estimate the salary cost, determine who will be involved in the project. For example, an advertising agency might support their clients with:
- Associate Creative Director;
- Copy Supervisor;
- Senior Copywriter;
- Senior Graphic Designer;
- Art Business Manager;
- Senior Traffic Manager;
- Studio Manager;
- Creative Manager.
Once you know who will support the prospect if they select your organization, determine how much they make per hour. Then, simply multiply that figure by the number of hours they will need to work.
These are essential to remember when creating a proposal budget. Sum up costs such as marketing, sales, utilities, maintenance, general staff, and any other expenses that might occur out of the blue.
Finally, you should understand your target profit margin. This margin compares revenue to variable costs, and it tells you how much profit each product creates without fixed costs. In simple terms, these variable costs are any costs incurred during a process that can vary with production rates.
When your business’ objective likely centers around your customers, you can’t serve anyone if you don’t stay in business. Therefore, it’s important to understand and consider your profit margin before finalizing your proposal budget. For the most accurate analysis, try using a margin calculator.
5. Start writing your business proposal
So far, so good! You’ve done comprehensive research, thought of a pricing budget, and created an outline for your project. It’s finally time to write your successful business proposal. Follow the steps that we broadly explained above, and you are good to go. Here is a quick reminder of what should a business proposal include:
6. Edit and proofread
Before submitting your business proposal, it is very important to carefully proofread it. Always leave room for revision and review. Proofreading should be the final step that must be taken before the document can be considered complete.
Firstly, read it slowly and carefully to figure out whether or not it communicates its message. If the proposal does not seem to verify what you are attempting to communicate, you may rethink some details or the overall structure. Take advantage of the team collaboration software from Flipsnack, where team members can communicate on the same document and give each other feedback or even leave comments as soon as a new version is released. This keeps the entire team constantly in the loop regarding the latest developments, saving you from the hassle of unnecessary meetings and tons of back and forth emails.
So, once the overview editing has been completed, it is time to search for errors in spelling, word usage, grammar, and punctuation. Feel free to use an online writing assistant app, such as Grammarly, that detects potential mistakes in writing and suggests context-specific corrections. After all, a poorly written business proposal cannot communicate its message properly to the client.
Last, but not least, pay attention to the tone and length of your business proposal. Make sure your presentation is short enough to read in a single sitting and contains language that is professional, yet clear. These two are the main qualities prospective buyers expect to encounter when receiving a business proposal.
7. Client follow-up
Here it is, the final aspect to take into account when wondering how to write a business proposal. When you’ve finished with the editing and proofreading part, it’s time to hit send and submit your proposal. But don’t assume that your client is sold. Until they say “Yes to your business proposal!”, your job is not done. On the contrary, you need to prepare your next strategy: compose follow-up emails and ask your potential client if they have any questions. By sending these emails, you assure yourself that you’re in control and that the deal stays on track.
But is it necessary to follow-up? Well, studies indicate that almost 80% of sales leads require at least 5 follow-ups after the initial sales meeting, so we consider that it is not only necessary but crucial. Unfortunately, nearly 44% of salespeople give up after just 1 follow-up or forget to follow-up altogether. Don’t be like them. Try until you succeed.
It’s really not a big deal to elaborate a follow-up email. In the subject line (and also the first line of your follow-up email to your client after sending a proposal), remind your reader why you’re following up. Use a brief, and relevant subject line that will immediately explain the purpose of your email. If the client doesn’t reply within a reasonable time or at all, you could try your luck with this follow-up email example over here. Who knows, it could work wonders!
So, here it is a follow-up email example that you can use:
Free business proposal templates
Thank you for sticking with us ‘till now! We’re almost done, we promise you. Remember those templates that we talked about at the beginning of this article? Well, there is more where those came from.
We helped you out with all the information you need for writing a successful business proposal, and now it’s time to put everything together and design a killer presentation that turns heads. Start by choosing a business proposal template from Flipsnack’s vast gallery, and then personalize it to your own needs within minutes.
Having a hard time deciding which template to choose? No worries, we’ve made a selection of our favorite business proposal templates to give you some ideas. Inspire yourself from these five examples, pick one, and then start designing your own!
Design Company Business Proposal Sample
The first example on our list is this design company business proposal sample. It looks so neat and spectacular, that it will catch the attention of any prospective buyer. This template is ideal for the design industry because of its simplistic palette, which can be changed with a click of a mouse.
Edit it within minutes however you like it, but make sure to keep the important sections such as the welcoming message, the presentation of your team, the pricing and billing you’re offering, and so on. We’ve already discussed all these topics in the first part of our how to write a business proposal article, so you know what you have to do. Feel free to add your proposal’s content using any of the fonts and typography ideas from our Design Studio.
Then, upload your own photos of your team and offices, as well as any other data you find necessary. Moreover, make it more official-looking by inserting your company’s logo both on the front and cover page. Once you are happy with the final result, make it a flipbook and send it directly via email to your client, or take it to the printer.
Professional Job Proposal Example
Spread the news about what you have to offer with the help of this free editable job proposal example. This professional-looking design frames the main body in white with vivid blue borders. The layout of this job proposal is perfect for corporate businesses, but you can also adapt it by changing the content. Open our Design Studio and add your own valuable information.
This template is not exactly a business proposal, but it can be edited to become one. Start with some details about your company, insert some info about the compensation package, and write the job description. You can also browse our library for icons. Make it official by adding your logo on the first page. Also, make sure to insert all your contact details, so people will get to you easier. When you’re done, simply download your template, and share it via email, or send it to the printer.
Simple Marketing Proposal Template
Prepare for the next big success by pulling off a comprehensive proposal with the help of this simple marketing proposal template. Our third example on the list looks both professional and clean. And with a custom-made design such as this, all you have to do is fill the premade sections with relevant content.
Add information about your company, your team, your objectives, and also do not forget about the services you’re offering. You know what we’re talking about, we’ve mentioned everything about these issues in the first part of our how to write a business proposal article. Right after you finish editing this section, you may want to add and discard certain elements to meet the design advised by your company.
Also, feel free to choose from our collection of photos, illustrations, shapes, lines, and font styles. Or, upload your own in just a few minutes. Graphic designer or not, anyone can create engaging business proposal presentations with Flipsnack!
Product Business Proposal Template
Enough of those generic black-and-white documents! Your project proposal deserves a bold, new look. Waste no time and use our editable product business proposal template. This modern layout is specifically designed to help you showcase your proposition while retaining a professional look. Just remember to add your information with Flipsnack’s drag-and-drop tools.
Focus on the most important sections, just like we’ve taught you in the first part of this article. Write an executive summary, say a few words about your company and its members, insert some relevant and useful testimonials, showcase your various services and products, include a pricing offer, and conclude with an agreement section.
When you’re done with this part, you can also change the fonts, colors, and images to suit your brand style. We have millions of resources available. Simply choose your favorites. Once you’ve made your business proposal picture perfect, you can download it.
Then, you can print it and distribute it however you see fit. With Flipsnack, you can share your documents both internally and externally. We value privacy a lot, that’s why we allow you to password protect your business proposal or save it as unlisted. This way, you can share it only with those specific people that know your secret password or receive the link from you.
Business Partnership Proposal Sample
This fully customizable business partnership proposal sample ends our list of professional templates. It features an eye-catching cover page and also an exquisite design layout throughout the entire proposal. The color combination, stock photos, and vector icons are perfect for any business type. But to make sure that it fits your overall brand image, customize this business partnership proposal sample by adding your brand colors, fonts, images, or logos. Only by doing this you’ll become and act as a professional.
Then, insert your personal information in just a few minutes. Write about your company’s services and packages, say something about your strategy, insert a few relevant testimonials and case studies, and also add a project timeline. Just follow the guidelines we’ve presented you in the first part of our how to write a business proposal article.
When you have finished editing the entire template, share it online with your potential client, or send it to the printer and distribute it personally. If you want to keep your business proposal private, you can choose the password protection option. In this case, no one can share or access your documents unless you give them your password.
There you have it. The ultimate guide on how to write a business proposal that’s going to impress your potential client. It’s not a quick or easy job, but if you succeed to do it well, then you’ve just discovered the key to business success. However, it’s not enough to only create a killer presentation. You should also know how to present it in front of your potential clients. Gather your team and make sure everybody is familiar with every little detail within the business proposal. Only after you’ve solved this problem, you can consider yourselves ready to seal a deal!
What’s more to say about business proposals? That each of them is unique in its own way. Even though it seems that they all present the same information and have quite the same layout, each project is different, even if it’s with the same company. So, make sure you take as much time as possible to create spectacular proposals that both communicate knowledge and catch the attention.
In order to do so, check Flipsnack’s free business proposal templates, select your favorite, and then start personalizing it to your own needs. Make it stand out ahead of the competition by following the guidelines outlined throughout this article. Invest time and resources to get a successful presentation that will easily enable an easy win. Yes, we know, the work may be tedious, but it will surely pay off in spades in the long run.