How to write a compelling business proposal

A business proposal is one of the most critical documents you need to be able to write, whether you’re a freelancer, you work for someone or you have a company of your own. In the business world, companies usually spending hours and hours submitting proposals to potential clients, and usually not getting any results. So how does one create a business proposal with a higher chance of being accepted?

A carefully prepared business proposal strikes a chord with your audience and helps you land whatever contract you are bidding for. For that to happen, it must be crafted with proper formatting and compelling content. In this article, we are going to discuss on how to write a compelling and powerful business proposal.

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What is a business proposal?

A business proposal is a document you send to a potential client to convince them to give you a particular job or contract.

A business proposal is different from a business plan, which is used to outline your whole business idea before you start. A business proposal can either be solicited or unsolicited.

Solicited business proposal

A solicited business proposal is when a client puts out a request for proposal (RFP), asking you to state your case on why you believe you’re the best firm for the contract. Solicited business proposals usually require less research and are generally easy to prepare because the client typically includes most of the important information about themselves and their needs in the request for RFP document.


Unsolicited business proposal

An unsolicited business proposal is when the client asks the contractor to submit a proposal without the having put out a request for proposal. It is similar to cold emails which are sent to potential customers, clients, and investors with the hope that they will be interested to hear more. Unsolicited business proposals are difficult to prepare because you will not have been provided with an RFP document first. This means that you will have to conduct thorough research on your own about the client and their needs in order to understand your them prior to writing the proposal.

What makes a business proposal compelling, persuasive and effective

Any business proposal structured in the right format with the necessary information is okay. It has equal chances of being accepted or rejected. What increases its chance of being accepted is how compelling or persuasive it is written. In business, persuasion is an art. So the important question now is, how do you make your business proposal persuasive?

So now let us look at art of making a business proposal persuasive. A persuasive business proposal is:

  • specially crafted to suit its audience. It should focus on the audience’s specific needs and explain clearly how your specific solution will address them.
  • structured in a format that is easy to read, follow and understand. Avoid adding distracting and irrelevant details.
  • written in a confident and direct tone. Always avoid a passive writing as it sets a timid tone can easily undermine the authority in an otherwise good proposal.
  • professional in its presentation. It should be unique and free of mistakes.

Now that you know the basics of a persuasive business proposal, let’s take a look at how to write it.

How to write a business proposal that drives action

Every project or contract is different and requires a different set of thinking but every proposal more or less follows the same structure. Understanding this structure saves you time and effort, and lands you more clients. Sometimes the client may give you clear guidelines as to what proposal format they’ll accept. But if the requirements aren’t rigid, here are the basic elements your proposal should include:

  1. Title page
  2. Cover letter
  3. Table of contents
  4. Executive summary
  5. Proposal
  6. Services and methodology
  7. Why hire us
  8. Costs
  9. Terms and conditions
  10. Agreement and call to action

Title page

Your business proposal should an impressive title page to introduce your business and create a good first impression of the way you do business.

  • It should also clarify what the topic of your proposal will be, eg. “Proposal to Increase Marketing Budget.”
  • It the proposal is targeting an external audience, you should include the full name of your business, your name, and all relevant business contact information.
  • If its targeting an internal audience, such as another department in your company, you need only to focus on what your proposal is about.

The title page should be professionally designed, with some relevant imagery and text that addresses the client. However, the design should be simple and clean. Avoid unnecessary text and too many imagery or graphics.


Cover letter

The cover letter is more of an introduction of proposal. It should be a warm and friendly letter outlining your business and your proposal.

Here is an example of a cover letter:

Dear [Client FirstName]

Thank you very much for considering [Your Company] for [Proposed Service].

Enclosed, you’ll find a proposal based on our understanding of your [Proposed Service] expectations. Briefly, we propose:

  • [Your first proposal]
  • [Your second proposal]
  • [etc]

Our methods and procedures are based on extensive research and analysis the [Client Company]’s [Blah blah blah].

We are very confident in delivering [Your Service].

Thanks again for considering us, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. My contact details are are below.

Table of contents

The table of contents is a brief list of topics covered in your proposal. It makes your proposal easier to navigate and allows your potential client to see at a glance what’s included in your document.

  • If your proposal is a soft copy it would be convenient for your potential client if you make this section clickable. This would easily allow them to easily jump to any sections they want to read.
  • If its a hard copy, it is necessary to include the titles of each section as well as page numbers.

Whatever way you design your table of contents, prioritise clarity above all.

Executive summary

This is a concise summary of your proposal. This is your first chance to properly introduce yourself and your brand, but however, keep it short so as not to waste people’s precious time.

  • Briefly describe who you are, what you do and then outline a high-level overview of the problem, the expected outcome, an overview of the solution, and a call to action. Avoid unnecessary jargon, instead be clear and concise. Reword every term that might need an explanation.
  • For internal proposals, just focus on the reason for your proposal and how your solution will benefit the company.

Keep your sentences short, simple, and clear to the point. Don’t get into too much detail, you can do that in the following sections.

Proposal

This is where you get the chance to highlight the gap that you are going to fill. The most import things to talk about here are the problem and the solution. Talk about the client’s need or problem and how you are you going to solve it. Focus more on the business proposal than on your business itself.

  • Show that you understand both the problem and how to solve it.
  • Emphasise on why it’s so important that the problem gets solved.
  • Include a clear and detailed outline of your solution, its benefits and why they should choose it.
  • Think of any concerns your audience might have address them.
  • Include as much detail as needed to fully convey the purpose of the proposal but be sure to only include directly relevant information.

Though this section is about your proposal, write in such a way that the audience feels you are writing for them. The more tailored your proposal is to your audience’s perspective, the more persuasive it becomes.


Services and methodology

In this part, you talk about the services and methods you are going to use to address the specific needs of the client. This is where you get the chance to go into the finer details of your products or services the client will benefit from.

Be clear and detailed about what you’re offering and how you are offering it and how you will be held accountable. Create timeline of your delivery plan. Remember to allow yourself more time if there are no strict deadlines.

Why hire us?

This is where you get the chance to “brag”. This section is about you and your business. This part gives you the chance to sell your business as the best one for the contract. Talk about what sets you apart from the competition and why they should hire you.

  • Reassure your audience that you have the experience and expertise required to solve their problem.
  • Use a confident tone to reinforce the trust you are building.

Write about your previous working experience on similar contracts and how you managed them. At this point it will be reassuring to the client if you introduce your team and also add positive testimonials from clients you’ve worked with in the past.

Costs

In this part, you now let the client know how much it’ll cost to hire you put your proposal into action. Let them know what you expect the return to be.

  • Clearly break down the different costs in order to make sure your readers know exactly what they will be paying for and how much it will cost.
  • Use simple data presentation methods such as tables, charts, or lists to clarify the costs.

Terms and conditions

This section is for laying out what the terms and conditions on what the client can expect from you if they agree to your proposal. It should thoroughly cover billing procedures, project timelines, and other legal formalities. Though this section is may not be necessary for internal proposals, it is absolutely necessary for proposals targeting external audiences.

  • Avoid frustrating your audience with legal and industrial jargon here. Keep it simple and direct.

Agreement and call to action

This is the section where the client can formally agree to your proposal and add their signature. You can then add a call to action, such as to let them know how they can contact you to discuss your proposal further.

Final thoughts

Here are the most important things to remember when writing a proposal.

  • Do a thorough research about the potential client, their competitors and their customers. This will make sure that your proposal is as comprehensive and as detailed as possible.
  • Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes and try to think of what you would most likely ask if you were them.
  • Trim unnecessary information. Here is the guideline, anything that doesn’t clarify the problem or the solution is not relevant.
  • Make your proposal easy to read, by breaking long paragraphs into lists, tables, or smaller paragraphs.
  • Use charts, graphs, or other graphics to make your main points clear.
  • Proofread your work. Spelling and grammatical mistakes can be distracting and reduce your credibility points.

Juliet Muturuki

Quantity Surveyor and Freelance Writer.

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