Business plans, marketing plans, quarterly business planning…there’s a lot of planning and documentation that goes into running a business. Some of the most impactful documents you’ll put together will be business proposals—they’ll help you bring in clients and keep the cashflow moving.
No matter the type of company you run, it can be daunting to craft the perfect pitch and bring in new clients. Having a strong business proposal can make this significantly easier, as it provides all the information you want to share with potential clients and will give you an outline of how to grow your business successfully.
You could craft a business proposal from scratch, but this is unnecessarily time-consuming. Instead, take advantage of the free business proposal template we included for your convenience. Using a template:
- Saves time
- Prevents you from forgetting a section
- Assists with phrasing
- Ensures a professional appearance
- Adaptable to your needs
- Can combine elements of multiple proposal templates if necessary
If you’ve never sent a proposal before or if you’ve never used templates to streamline your processes, you probably have a few questions. That’s where we come in. In this article, we’ll will dive into why you should consider using proposal templates and how to make the most out of them.
Let’s get into it.
What is a Business Proposal?
A business proposal is a written document that your company creates to persuade a potential client to use your product or service. Most experts classify business proposals as unsolicited or solicited and is an integral part of the marketing skills you need to make your business venture successful. This refers to whether the company that you want to convert to a client is actively seeking proposals.
An example of an unsolicited business proposal could stem from a discussion at a trade show or conference. Perhaps your representative talks to a potential client and offers a solution. They would likely follow this up with a formal business proposal.
It is also common to see several acronyms used when referring to business proposals. Each refers to the type of information that the potential client requested in the case of a solicited proposal. The most common acronyms are:
- IFB: Invitation for Bid
- RFI: Request for Information
- RFP: Request for Proposal
- RFQ: Request for Quotation
What Are the Types of Business Proposals?
Writing a business proposal can be a daunting task for small business owners, but with the right knowledge and resources, it doesn’t have to be. There are three main types of proposals: unsolicited, formally solicited, and informally solicited. Each type requires specific attention to detail and considerations when writing. Let’s dive deeper into each one.
Unsolicited Business Proposals
Unsolicited business proposals are written without having received a request from the potential client. This is usually done with the intent of finding potential opportunities that may arise from submitting the proposal; however, it can also be done to introduce products or services for feedback or review. When writing an unsolicited business proposal, particularly for a prospective client that you have no prior relationship with, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to make sure your document is as tailored and complete as possible in order to demonstrate how your product or service meets their needs.
Formally Solicited Business Proposals
Formally solicited business proposals are written in response to a request from the client. These requests could come directly from the organization or they could be posted publicly via job postings or advertisements. This kind of proposal is highly competitive due to the fact that multiple businesses will likely be responding with similar solutions and products. To stand apart from competitors when responding to these requests, it’s important to ensure that your proposal clearly articulates how your solution uniquely solves their problem while also incorporating any additional elements requested by the customer such as pricing information and delivery timescales.
Informally Solicited Business Proposals
Informally solicited business proposals are submitted at different stages within a customer’s decision-making process without an official request being made by them first-hand. This usually happens after initial discussions between both parties have taken place—for example, if you have had informal meetings about a particular project or opportunity that you feel would benefit both parties then it is likely appropriate to submit an informal project proposal outlining further details of what you could do for them. When writing an informally solicited business proposal, it is important to remember that clarity around objectives and desired outcomes should come first before delving into any technical specifics such as pricing models or deliverables.
Business Proposal Template Example
We’ll go over what elements a good proposal includes later in this article, but first, let’s take a look at an example of a good business proposal template. The template in the image gives context by outlining goals, objectives, and recommendations, has a section to explain why their offering is the best solution to the client’s problem, lays out a timeline, and includes a bid proposal page. It’s thorough, digestible, and effective.
What Does a Business Proposal Include?
If you look at more than one business proposal template, you will notice some variations. All business proposals tend to feature the same first few elements, such as the cover or title page, cover letter, table of contents, and executive summary. After that, there is some flexibility as to the order of the other elements.
Cover Page or Letter (Also Called Title Page)
The cover or title page lists the basic information. You will want to include your company name, logo, and contact information. It should also feature a title, the date, and the client’s name.
The cover letter is the first section of the proposal after the title page. Think of it as an introduction. Write the cover letter to be friendly yet informative and personalize it with a signature and your contact information. Note: research to whom to address it.
The cover letter should give some (short) background about your company and how you stand out from the competition.
Table of Contents
The next part you will see in any business proposal template is the table of contents. You can skip this if the proposal is concise, but you almost always want to include it. Think of the Table of Contents as a preview. If the client receives the proposal electronically, include clickable links in this section for convenience.
As the name implies, the executive summary of your proposal is a summary. It lets potential clients know why you wrote the proposal and why it is worth their time to read. Make this section relevant by mentioning your client’s challenges and how your company’s products or services can help.
Problem Statement or Overview of the Need
This part of a business proposal template has you outline the issues that your potential client is dealing with. You want this section to outline that challenge as clearly as you can and make it seem urgent.
There are several goals in this section. You want to show potential clients that there is an issue they need to address, even if they weren’t aware. You also want to show the client that you have tailored your pitch to them. This demonstrates that you feel they are worth the time and effort and makes them more likely to consider your proposal.
Approach, Strategy, or Proposed Solution
This is perhaps the most critical part of any business proposal. This is where you outline how your products or services will reduce your potential customers’ pain points.
You can choose to eliminate this section and just combine it with the previous one. However, that only works if you keep it brief. It is better to make it a separate section and go into more detail. You can be as detailed as you can in this section, as that will help convince the client to consider your company. However, keep in mind that later sections will go into more detail.
Methodology or Services
This is the part of the business proposal template where you go into more detail about how you will deliver your services or products and how they will help the client.
As you create this section, think about the questions the client is likely to have. Then, include the answers.
You should also include the deliverables that the client will receive if they accept your proposal. This part of the proposal can also mention the project timeline for your services. Experts suggest taking a visual approach, such as the following:
Schedule or Timeline
If you prefer, you can also include the timeline or schedule in its section, separate from the services or methodology.
In addition to a chart like the one above, consider a visual roadmap or flow chart. A timeline infographic can also work well.
Costs or Pricing
As the name implies, this part of the business proposal has you outline your products or services will cost the client. Make the pricing as accurate as you can. Remember that underestimating can displease the client when the final bill comes, while overestimating may scare them away.
Depending on your product or service, you may want to include a list of potential services and how much each one costs. If your sales proposal is digital, take this a step further with a responsive pricing table that automatically calculates a total estimate based on what services the client selects.
Don’t forget to include the accepted payment methods.
Company Qualifications or About Us
Think of this section of the business proposal template as your chance to show off what makes your company the best fit for the client. Include success stories or case studies from past clients. Include client testimonials. Be as quantitative as you can in this section and include social proof. For example, mention how many clients you have provided services to or how much impact your services typically have on those clients’ bottom line, or highlight reviews from Google or social media sites.
You can also use this section to give the marketing proposal a more personal touch. For example, you could provide brief bios (with photos) of the people on your team that the client will work with, either directly or indirectly.
Terms and Conditions and Rights Reserved
The terms and conditions provides an overview of the legal aspects you and the client will agree to if they accept the proposal and sign a contract. It should provide a complete overview of what each party promises to deliver. It will have the timeline, costs, services, payment methods, and any other relevant information.
CTA and Agreement
This section of the proposal will typically have phrasing such as “by signing you agree to” and list some conditions.
The following is an example of what it could look like:
You should also include a phrase encouraging the client to contact you with any questions.
How to Write an Effective Business Proposal: 8 Tips
Alright, now you know the basics. It’s time to get into the nitty gritty and actually write your business proposal. If it’s your first rodeo, you might find yourself facing some writer’s block. Following the tips below will help you create the proposal possible so you can win customers and grow your business.
1. Include Visuals
Visuals go a long way in communicating your message in an effective and memorable way. Numerous studies have shown that visual information is processed up to 60,000 times faster than text—meaning that including visuals in your business proposal can significantly help the reader understand your points more easily and quickly. Choose visuals that support your message, such as charts, diagrams, or images that emphasize key data points.
2. Include Figures and Data
When crafting a business proposal it is important to include figures and data to make it more convincing for its target audience. This could include financial models that demonstrate the profitability of the proposed project, market research reports on customer trends, or any other relevant metrics to help put your pitch in perspective from a financial standpoint. Data should be reliable, backed by hard facts, and presented clearly and concisely for maximum impact.
3. Make Your CTAs Compelling
Calls-to-action (CTAs) are essential elements of successful business proposals as they motivate readers to take action—whether this is signing the agreement or taking another specified step towards completion of the project. A well-written CTA should outline exactly what you want the reader to do next and why they should do it now—so make sure you create an irresistible offer with clear benefits or incentives for doing so.
4. Incorporate Videos
Videos can be powerful tools when trying to convey complex concepts or messages in a business proposal—helping you connect with potential clients on an emotional level rather than just relying on words alone. You could consider incorporating short video clips into your proposal which will help engage audiences while also demonstrating the value of what you are proposing in a visually appealing way.
5. Keep it Simple and Straightforward
When writing a business proposal it is important not to overcomplicate things by using too much technical jargon or industry-specific terms which may confuse potential clients who have less knowledge about the subject matter at hand. Your language should be easy to understand for all audiences and focus on capturing their attention through straightforward explanations of how you plan to achieve results without getting bogged down in too much detail about how these results might be achieved specifically (this can come later).
6. Create a Sense of Urgency
One effective technique when crafting a business proposal is to create urgency among readers by setting deadlines for the completion of the project or offering discounts if they act within a certain timeframe (i.e., “Act now and save 20%!”). This encourages people who are already interested in your offer/project but haven’t yet taken action—giving them a push towards making decisions quickly so they don’t miss out on any opportunities presented by working with you instead of competitors who may already appear more attractive due their quick response times/solutions offered elsewhere in their market space, etc.
7. Summarize Your Qualifications
Summarizing your qualifications is important when writing a business proposal because it provides credibility which helps instill confidence among potential clients about whom they are investing their money/time into working with—so don’t forget to provide links towards portfolio pieces, past projects developed successfully under your direction, etc. Additionally, discuss any awards won within relevant industries as this further demonstrates expertise & commitment towards achieving quality results for those who work with you regularly over time (which again builds trust & creates good relationships between parties involved).
8 . Add Success Stories
If you want to perfect your client pitch, adding success stories into the mix is a must. This further reinforces credibility since these stories provide evidence that tangible results were achieved previously through similar activities/projects which helped improve clients’ businesses overall—e.g., providing customer feedback/testimonials regarding efficacy & satisfaction levels experienced as a result of engaging with services provided, etc. Writing clear, detailed success stories ensures that readers gain a deeper understanding of why this particular service may benefit them if chosen over alternatives currently available on market today—ultimately influencing the decision-making process which helps convert leads into paying customers sooner rather than later.
How to Get More Customers
Simply put, using a business proposal template will help set your company up for success. It will make it easier to present your arguments to potential clients in an organized manner. With a business proposal template, you have the freedom to include the information and sections you need to without the risk of accidentally forgetting to include necessary details.
Growing your business is—literally—a full time job. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Having the right tools in your toolkit will allow you to get more done in less time so that you can scale quickly.
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