Learn how to write a business proposal in our guide covering business proposal examples. Tips. And best practices.
Whether you are a B2B or B2C company. You are working to convince customers to choose to spend their money on your business. For a B2B company, this process usually includes a business proposal. In the B2B industry. Once you attract new customers. Who are most likely other businesses. You really have to cut a deal. Unlike B2C companies. Which use marketing strategies and then hope that their customers will respond and buy their products and services. There is very little involved in this exchange. This is where your business proposal will come into the picture.
Fortunately. Although your process and the exact format of your business proposal can be unique to your company. There is also a general formula you can follow to make things easier. Especially the first few times you write a proposal.
In this guide. We’ll walk you through the general steps of how to write a business proposal – including how to decide what type of proposal you’re writing, how it should be structured. And what information to include.
How to Write a Business Proposal: 7 Basic Steps to Follow
With these starting points in mind. Let’s move on to the process. Whether you’re just learning how to write a business proposal. Or you want to change the proposal you’ve already been using. You’ll want to break the writing down into a step-by-step approach. Organization is key when you write a business proposal – not only will structure help you answer the basic questions above. But it will also help you create consistent and successful proposals every time you pitch to a new business.
However. When writing a business proposal. You can divide the document into the following sections:
- an introduction
- table of contents
- Executive Summary
- Project details
- Deliverables and milestones
Bonus: Supplement (if needed)
Step 1: Introduction
The introduction to your business proposal should provide your client with a brief overview of what your company does (similar to the company overview in your business plan). It should also include what sets your company apart from its peers. And why it is particularly suited to being the vendor of choice for a job—whether the job is a one-on-one arrangement or an ongoing relationship.
More effective introductions to business proposals achieve more with less: it is important to be thorough without over-dictating. You’ll want to resist the temptation to share every detail about your company’s history and lines of business. And don’t feel the need to specify every detail of your proposal. You’ll want to keep the introduction section to one page or shorter.
Step 2: Table of Contents
Once you’ve presented your work and why you’re a good fit for the client you’re sending the proposal to (a semi-cover letter). You’ll want to create a table of contents next. Like any typical table of contents. This section will simply outline what the customer can expect in the remainder of the proposal. You’ll include all the sections we’ll cover below. Explained simply as we did above.
If you are submitting an electronic presentation. You may want to make the table of contents clickable so that the customer can easily move from one section to another by clicking on the links in the actual table of contents.
Step 3: Executive Summary
Then. Your business proposal should always include an executive summary outlining answers to the who. What. Where. When. Why and how of you’re proposing to the client. Here. The customer will understand that you understand them.
It is important to note that despite the word “summary.” this section should not be a summary of your entire business proposal. Instead. This section should serve as a presentation or value proposition. You’ll use the executive summary to explain why your company is best suited to a potential client’s needs. Talk about your strengths. Your areas of expertise. Similar problems you’ve solved. And your advantages over your competitors – all from the perspective of how these components can help your prospect’s business thrive.
Step 4: Project details
When it comes to how to write a business proposal. Steps four through six will cover the main body of your proposal – your potential client will understand how you will approach their project and scope of work.
Within this body. You will begin by explaining your recommendation. Solution. Or approach to customer service. The deeper you explain. The more your main goal will be to convey to the customer that you are bringing something truly customized to the table. Show that you have created this entire proposal for them based on their needs and any problems they need to solve. At this point. You will detail the proposed solution. The tactics you will undertake. And any other details regarding the recommended approach for your company.
Step 5: Deliverables and Milestones
This section will overlap within the Project Details section. But is an essential step in and of itself.
Suggestion recipients don’t just get an idea of your plan. Of course – they get suggested outcomes. You’ll outline the accomplishments proposed here with in-depth descriptions of each (may include quantities or scope of services. Depending on the type of business you run). You never want to assume that a customer is on the same page as you with expectations. Because if you’re not compliant. They may think you’ve made exaggerated promises that weren’t delivered. So. This is the section you want to delve into in the most detail.
Along these lines. You can also use this section of your potential client proposal to limit the terms and scope of your services. This can be useful if you’re concerned that the work you’re selecting may lead to additional projects or responsibilities that you don’t plan to include in your budget.
Furthermore. You may also want to consider adding features to this section. Either along with the output or separately altogether. Milestones can be small. Such as delivery dates for a specific package of project components. Or when you submit a first draft of your design. Or you can choose to break the project down into phases. For longer projects. Milestones can be a great way to express your company’s organization and responsibility.
Step 6: Budget
There is no way to get around the fact that pricing projects aren’t easy or fun – after all, you need to balance earning what you’re worth and proving value, while not scaring a potential customer. Or getting beaten up by a competitor at a cheaper rate. However. The budget or pricing section is an integral part of a business proposal. So you’ll want to prepare your pricing strategy ahead of time before getting into the weeds of any support.
This being said. If you fear the fee might seem too high to your potential client. You might decide to break out the individual components of the budget—for example: social media services. $700; web copywriting $1,500—or create a few different tiers of pricing with different services contained in each. The second approach might not work for all types of businesses or proposal requests. But it may be worth considering if you’re worried about your overall fee appearing steep.
With these points in mind. Once you’ve determined how to outline your pricing. You’ll list it out (you might even include optional fees or services) and the overall cost for the scope of work you’ve described.
Step 7: Conclusion
Finally. Your conclusion should wrap up your understanding of the project. Your solutions. And what kind of work (and costs) are proposed. This is your last opportunity to make a compelling case within your business proposal—reiterate what you intend to do. And why it beats your competitors’ ideas.
If you’re writing an RFP. Again. Meaning a potential client has requested this document from you. You might also include a terms and conditions section at this point. This end-one piece would detail the terms of your pricing. Schedule. And scope of work that the client would be agreeing to by accepting this proposal.
Bonus step: accessory (optional)
After the conclusion. You may also decide to include an appendix – where you add any supplementary information that either does not fit into the main proposal without being annoying to the reader. Or is less than necessary to understand the main components of your proposal. Chances are you’ll only need an extension if you have stats. Numbers. Illustrations. Or examples of work that you want to share with your potential customer. However. You can also include contact information. Details about your team. And other relevant information in this section.
If you don’t have any additional information to include. Don’t worry—you can end your business proposal with a conclusion section.
Business proposal considerations
Before we dive into deciding how to write a business proposal that will give you a competitive advantage. There are a few important things to keep in mind.
First. You’ll want to make sure that you achieve the right goals with your proposal. When writing a business proposal. You are trying to walk a fine line between promoting your company and meeting the needs of a potential client, which can be difficult for any company to do.
Having said that. You’ll want to remember that a business proposal is different from a business plan. Which you likely already wrote for your company when you were starting your business. Your business plan outlines your company’s overall growth goals and objectives. But the business proposal speaks directly to a specific customer who could be a customer for the purpose of winning their business for your company.
With this in mind. In order to write a business proposal for any potential client. You will need to identify your internal goals and how those goals will contribute to the business you are proposing. To be clear. You will need to consider the following:
- What tasks must be performed for this work?
- Who will do each task, and oversee the job in general?
- What will you get paid for the job?
- Where will the work be delivered?
- When is that done?
- Why are you best suited for the job the client needs to accomplish?
- How will you achieve results?
These questions are not only at the heart of clear and concise writing, but you also wouldn’t be able to write your business proposal without answers to them. So as you go through the different parts of your business proposal, keep your business goals in mind, while also maintaining persuasion as to why a potential client should be working with you rather than someone else.
The next important thing to keep in mind before you start writing a business proposal is the type of proposal you are writing. Basically, there are two types of business proposals – requested proposals where someone requested the offer from your company – and unsolicited proposals, where you send the document to another company without a request.
In the case of solicitations, often called RFPs (short for Request for Proposals), this potential customer probably already knows at least a little about your business. With these types of business proposals, you’ll want to spend less time convincing the client that you’re the best small business consultant for the job and more making your proposal appear tailored to a specific brief, project, or issue. In general, the less general your business proposal is, the more likely you are to win the business.
On the other hand, unsolicited proposals are hard to sell
As you write a business proposal for a company you don’t know might need your services, you’ll want to focus on getting them to understand specifically why your company stands out. You want to show them that you can add significant value to their business that they don’t already have. If someone is currently doing the job you want, selling will be more difficult.
Business Proposal Examples
Now that we’ve gone through all the steps to show you how to write a business proposal, let’s discuss some examples. As you go through the writing process, you may find it helpful to consult external resources to review business proposal forms or templates and see how other companies have structured these types of documents. Specifically, it may be helpful to review examples of business proposals that relate to your particular industry – such as marketing, advertising, or finance.
general business proposal template
If you are looking for an example of a generic business proposal, you can consult BPlan, which provides tips, examples, and templates for the documents required to plan and operate a small business. In the BPlan sample, the BPlan divided their example into three overarching parts – the problem statement, a proposed solution, and a pricing estimate. This might be a good place to start if you are writing a business proposal for the first time and need a simple and general example to follow.
For an offer or solicitation of a solicitation that has been solicited, you may wish to refer to an example of a business proposal that operates specifically under the assumption that you have been asked for that proposal. In that case, you can check out one of the downloadable RFP templates from Template Lab.
Template Lab offers Word and PDF versions of their templates – these business proposal templates will include more RFP-friendly sections including terms and conditions, scheduling, and contact points.
Business proposal template services or software
For more advanced and up-to-date business proposal templates, you may decide to use a service like Proposify or PandaDoc. These software services allow you to choose from their library of professionally designed and detailed (and usually industry-specific) business proposal examples and customize the template to your business needs.
However, it is important to note that while you may be able to sign up for a free trial of these services, most of them will eventually require a paid subscription.
5 best practices for writing a business proposal
Writing a business proposal can seem overwhelming at first, as it requires you to provide information about your company and its services because it relates specifically to what a potential client needs. However, as you go through the process over and over, it will become easier and easier to write a concise and effective business proposal.
However, there are some best practices you can keep in mind to help you get started:
1. Be direct
While you may feel the need to flaunt your language skills while trying to impress a client, when you write a job offer, your best bet for earning a job is to be clear, concise, and direct. You wouldn’t want to use overly flowery language or anything that could be misunderstood.
2. Leave no room for ambiguity
You will need to make sure that your proposal is clear, straightforward and easy to understand, with no room for misinterpretation about what you say you are going to do or offer.
Therefore, you will need to avoid overly complex industry jargon to ensure that your customer can understand exactly what you are talking about and what it means within your (and your) business.
3. Write for the right audience
If you’re writing a proposal for a food business, it shouldn’t look or sound exactly like you’re writing a proposal for an asset management company. You will always want to have your audience in mind as your craft and develop your proposal.
In the end, your best bet is to be clear, articulate, and stick to detail, but you also shouldn’t be afraid to tailor your writing to your audience so that your client feels that the proposal was actually created with their business in mind.
However, your proposal should show that you not only understand your potential client, but also respect them professionally.
4. Consider the title page
While this may not be necessary for a shorter business proposal, a title page can help with the overall organization, flow, and professional feel of your document.
Like the title page for any other type of report, a one-page cover sheet precedes the rest of your proposal and is likely to include your business name, contact information, and logo, as well as the person you’re sending the proposal to.
Depending on your business or the potential client to whom you are sending the proposal, you may decide that the title page is unnecessary, however, it is useful to keep in mind that it may be something that visually engages the reader from the start.
5. Error on the side of brevity
Finally, in the world of business proposals, the shortest is usually best. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should ignore details or omit important sections – it simply means that you should try to find the most succinct way to say what you want to say and get your point across to the potential client.
There’s no doubt about it – learning how to write a business proposal takes a lot of work. Fortunately, however, you can follow our steps so you know what to include in your proposal and how to include it.
Ultimately, selling your services to potential clients is part of running and managing your business, and when you do it over and over again, it gets easier.
However, as you progress through your business lifecycle, you’ll begin to accumulate a library of business proposals that you can refer back to and use to develop your presentation strategy and writing process based on the ones that worked and didn’t. Hopefully, by taking the time to invest in this business proposal process, you will earn the business you need to grow your business.