How to write a business proposal

A business proposal is a document sent from a seller to a potential buyer with the aim of selling a product and/or service to the potential buyer.

Proposals are important because they help businesses win projects. Big customers often require proof that the business will deliver on their projects and want to have an in-depth look at why they should pick you for the project.

If you’re new to writing business proposals, we’ll show you how to write one in this guide!

Template/Layout

You’ll need to find a good template with a clear layout for your proposal.

In a proposal, you need the following:

  • Your business details
  • Your contact information
  • The client’s business details
  • The client’s contact information
  • Proposal date
  • Proposal number
  • Project Overview
  • Goals
  • Your methodology
  • Timeline
  • Items/services provided
  • Pricing (including tax if applicable)
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Any relevant notes

Other things that can be on a proposal are:

  • Any relevant qualifications
  • Benefits to hiring you
  • Proof in the form of testimonials or past works

As you’ll be trying to impress likely a large company or even a government body, you want something that looks professional. Keep in mind that this might be the first time that the buyer has come into contact with your business.

Make sure that your template meets any requirements of your industry. This could be including any certifications.

You can find a number of templates on Word or Excel to help you create your proposal. Keep in mind that these are not overly customisable and might require some design skills to make the proposal look good.

Proposal software can be used to create and send proposals to potential clients. All of the design is done for you. All you need to do is add in the values and text and send it to your potential client.

Assess the project

Often, large companies or government bodies will send a Request For Proposal (RFP). 

An RFP will usually detail the timeline, budget and scope of the project. They will also outline any necessary requirements for the project.

While RFP’s are a good place to begin assessing the project, to win the project, you will need to look beyond the RFP.

When you get an RFP, you should start by asking the following:

  • What are the company’s goals?
  • How can my business help them in a way that is better than another’s business?
  • What is something unique I have that others who are applying do not have (Unique Selling Point)?
  • Am I in the best position to meet the project scope, budget and timelines?

Just as they are assessing you, you are also assessing them and whether this project will benefit you.

Proposals can take a lot of time and effort to create so you need to first decide whether it is worth you going through that process of creating and submitting a proposal.

You should ask yourself the following questions when you read the RFP and before you create the proposal:

  • Am I equipped or in a position to do this job and do it well?
  • Will I benefit from this project in the long run? Is it potentially an ongoing project or could it bring about future work?
  • Is this business well connected? Can they connect me with other work in the future?
  • Could I miss a better opportunity if I take this one?

Talk to the client

There is only so much information you can get from an RFP.

If you really want to submit a winning proposal, you need to speak to the client either over the phone or in person.

To write a good proposal, you want to be extremely clear about what the client wants.

An RFP might also not account for certain problems that could occur in the project.

Clarifying such problems in a call or meeting can give you a better idea of how to deal with such problems, lets the client know that there is an issue with the RFP and shows initiative on your behalf.

Having a call or meeting with the potential client can also be used to check if they were previously working with another company. 

Depending on their answer, it is a good idea to ask why the relationship did not progress. If it was a matter of the client being unable to fulfil the project’s goals, you will want your proposal to demonstrate that they will not have the same problems with you. Alternatively, if it was because of an issue with the client, you might want to consider whether the client is someone you would like to work with.

A phone call or meeting can also be a good opportunity to see if they have already received a number of proposals and whether they have rejected a number of proposals.

In a call or meeting, you should ask the potential client about the following:

  • Any concerns you have about the project
  • Who is the decision-maker?
  • What are their operating policies?
  • Has the project been attempted before? What didn’t work in the previous attempts?
  • How is the proposal evaluated?
  • What are some past experiences that you have had with contractors? Were there any issues?
  • What is their budget?

When you are enquiring about the budget, you can ask them:

  • What is the budget allocated for this project?
  • What do they predict will be their spending?
  • What can they afford?

If they do not clarify their budget, you can give them a rough suggestion and gauge their reaction. If they still do not give you any indicator, you might want to consider whether it would be a good partnership to walk into.

Outside of the phone call or meeting, you should also do some online research. Points that are worth researching are:

  • When was the company founded? What is their history?
  • What products and/or services do they provide?
  • Who are their competitors? How do they compare?
  • How is their company doing financially?
  • Who has worked with them in the past? What was their experience like?
  • Who has been employed at their company before? What was their experience like?

Come up with a solution

The next thing you should do is work out how you can provide them with a solution.

Work out what steps are needed to reach the end goal and in what order they need to be completed in.

Here, you should also analyse the costs and benefits of the solution. Think about how long they will take and the resources needed to complete them.

Use the information you gathered from the phone call. Think about what they value and what were the points that they kept going back to. Was it cost-effectiveness? Was it a good quality finish?

Use the information from the RFP. The RFP will be the best place to find the criteria of the project. Look at which criteria is compulsory and which is emphasised. Is it timelines? Is it pricing? See how your solution matches this and consider changing it to better suit what has been asked.

Now you need to add your solution to your proposal. Add the following headings along with the accompanying text to your template.

Overview of Project

  • This is the research section where you address the problem at hand.
  • Give some context and background information on the project.
  • You can use information in the RFP as well as your own research into the project and the issues the project is trying to solve.

Goals

  • This section is where you want to address the goals and objectives of the project.
  • You should refer to the goals set out in the RFP.
  • Include your own company’s goals and how these link to those outlined in the RFP.

Methodology

  • Use this section to explain how you are going to solve the problem and achieve the goals of the project.
  • Break down the steps you will take and in what order.
  • It can also be good to outline anything you will need to complete the steps.

Timeline

  • In this section, you should add a detailed timeline of the project.
  • Add major milestones and when they will be completed.
  • You can also add where payments will be due in the timeline.

Pricing

  • To this section, add an itemised list of all the products and/or services involved in the project.
  • You will want to add the unit price, quantity and the total for each product or service.
  • After you have listed each product and/or service, you want to create a subtotal, the tax payable and the proposed grand total.

Sell your value

A proposal is where you get a chance to sell your business.

You need to prove that your business is the best business to solve the buyer’s problem.

Think of your proposal as a sales document that you use to win a job and prove that you are better than the competition.

Make sure to research your competitors when you are writing your proposal.

Figure out their strengths and weaknesses and if they have any history with the buyer.

Now, compare this to yourself. 

If they are weak in an area that you are strong in, you’ll want to highlight this on your proposal. 

If they have a history with the buyer, you’ll want to make sure that by the end of the proposal that the buyer knows you and your business just as well. If their history has been complicated by issues, you can also use this to your advantage.

To sell your value, you can add:

Qualifications:

  • This section can be used to demonstrate how you are qualified for the job.
  • If you have completed any study qualifications, these can be added here.
  • In some industries you must meet certain requirements or licenses to be allowed to work in a certain job, like a Working with Children’s Check

Benefits:

  • In this section, you should explain what the buyer will get from you that they won’t get from someone else.
  • Emphasise what you are good at and what your Unique Selling Point is.

Proof:

  • Here, you would provide demonstrable evidence that your business has value
  • What you would add varies depending on your industry.
  • You might want to add a testimonial from a past client, especially if it was on a similar project or the client was someone noteworthy or even familiar to the potential client.
  • If you are a designer of sorts, you could also add images or copies of past designs.

When trying to sell your value, you should always focus on the company and their goals and problems, rather than just selling your business. You are more likely to find success if you sell a solution rather than a service. 

Assemble the rest of proposal

If you haven’t already done so, put everything that you wrote in the previous sections into your proposal.

Other details for you to add are:

  • Your business details
  • Your contact information
  • The client’s business details
  • The client’s contact information
  • Proposal date
  • Proposal number
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Any relevant notes

You might also want to include a proposal letter with your proposal. 

  • Can also submit a proposal letter

Review and revise

Before you send your proposal, you should take some time to review it.

Once it is completed, ask yourself:

  • Does it meet all the requirements of the RFP?
  • Does it cover the concerns of the client?
  • Is it well structured?
  • Have I added all the necessary components of a proposal?
  • How is the grammar and spelling?
  • Does it look professional?

You might find it helpful to get someone else who understands what it is about to double-check the proposal and make sure that it is both factually correct and convincing.

If you are including any additional documents or links that they are included in the proposal or that there is a working link so they can be accessed.

The last thing to do is to send it. For most businesses, you’ll likely just send it online but in some cases, the buyer might request a printed version of the proposal.

Tips for writing a good business proposal

Some other tips that might help you with writing a good business proposal are:

  • Sell your business as a solution. Explain how you can provide them with a solution that gives them the best value for price. You want your solution to fix their problem.
  • Know your client. You need to know what they value and what they are looking for with this specific project.
  • Make sure you have a presence in the industry. Speak to the decision makers beforehand so you’re on their radar. Gather some testimonials to show that you’re respected in the industry. Create some business exposure through marketing, even if it is just creating a website or social media account for your business.
  • Workshop your solutions. Take some time to really investigate the job. Understand what you are willing to do for the client and how they will receive your solutions.
  • Make it personal and professional. You want a proposal that looks good and shows your capabilities as a business owner but you still want it to show your personality and business’ personality.

If you need to make a proposal for your business, you can do so using Bookipi Invoice.

You can make as many proposals as you want for free!

Kick start your entrepreneurial career with Bookipi.

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