Business proposals are common among B2B companies, however, even an individual trying to sell a good or service to a company may stand a better chance of convincing them if they present a business proposal. But to do that, you need to know how to write a proposal first, because not just any proposal will be good enough.
Before you settle down and start writing the proposal, you must understand that you are trying to convince someone to buy something, and for them to do that, they need to know:
When these are established, then you can get down to structuring the proposal.
Experts strongly advise that a business or individual uses a template to guide them through the process of writing a proposal. You might reason that you have already grasped the basics of writing proposals and can make headway with that knowledge, however, sometimes ignorance may make us think we are fine without something. For example, our ancestors may have successfully calculated profits using just a pen and paper but that was simply because they didn't know how effective accounting software could be.
A template provides structure and flow to the value position you are trying to present to a prospect. You can also work faster because you know exactly what should be placed where within the proposal.
Although templates may have certain variations depending on a business and individual, here is the basic structure of the template.
Title Page: This is the opening page of your proposal where you introduce yourself to the client. Include details such as who you are, what you are offering, the date, and any similar information you would provide if you walked into an office and had to introduce yourself.
Table of Contents: This is a section to prepare the person reading for what to expect. The best way to present this is as an itemized list. The fields that follow here are what you will include in the table of contents.
Executive Summary: This is a key section that can determine if the prospect reads more of your proposal. Although it is to be brief, it should be concise and able to attract interest in your product. Give this field prominence in the template with its own page. You may even consider particular formatting to let certain words stand out. Content included in this field should effectively explain how you can solve the client’s problem. By the end of this section, a client must know what your proposal is about.
Pain Point: Your business needs to display an understanding of the client's problem. This section is the opportunity to do that. It doesn't have to be a long-detailed sob story, just simple facts about a problem, for example: “It is our understanding that company X needs reliable document scanners that are compatible with their software.”
Keep it precise but display knowledgeability about the problem that you will offer a solution to. However, go into slightly more detail than what you may have included in the executive summary.
Solution: Here is the section where you give the client good news that you have a solution to that problem. It is a section that needs to be tailored for a client. Generic solutions will not cut it. This section may need bulleted points since the solution may not be just one, you also need to explain why that is a good solution.
Competence: What qualifications does your business or you have that makes you trusted to provide the service. The way different people will organize this section may vary with inclusion or exclusion of certain points. However, whatever is included needs to be convincing. For example quality awards, membership of certain prestigious bodies, customer reviews as well as training in relevant fields.
Price: After reading how incredibly competent you are, the client will want to know what they will have to pay to enjoy that solution you offer. This section needs to be as clear as possible with the different price options stated.
Call to Action: Here, you could include a contact for the client to get in touch either with questions or to seal the deal. You can also add an area for signature. These days many organizations are going paperless so the signature area can be a digital signature.
There are various examples of business proposals. Most businesses need to write them if they want to gain business from another business. Some examples include:
Financial Service Proposal: If you intend to provide financial services to another business, you may need to explain the kind of service you will provide. These are some of the details that will be included in the proposal. Some common financial services include:
Technical Assistance Proposal: IT companies can write business proposals introducing their services to prospects. The proposals are usually digital because they need to demonstrate that they are actually a modern company with knowledge about IT. Such proposals spell out the kind of solution they offer and expert understanding of the pain point of a client. Examples of solutions include:
Product Provision Proposal: Manufacturers as well as retailers write proposals to different companies expressing their interest in providing particular products that the business may need. Sometimes, this is after the business advertised for interested product providers to present proposals and other times they could be unsolicited proposals. Sometimes it may be necessary to use video demonstrations to show how their products work and how they can solve a problem.
Insurance Proposal: With a wide range of insurance covers, an insurance company needs to send proposals to companies suggesting a particular insurance product that can suit the target business. This requires extensive research to know what kind of insurance product would best suit the business. Such proposals may also mention in the executive summary or letter, what other products they provide.
There are as many examples of business proposals as there are businesses. If you intend to provide a service or product to another business, you probably can find an example of one in your field.
Having a well-structured proposal may not be enough to win you that deal, you also need to get creative to ensure the prospect is enticed and their attention is held all through the document or at least they should pay attention to main points. Here are some creative ideas for your proposal writing.
Magazine Style Cover: Magazine covers are usually designed to attract attention and sell the publication. The pictures are attractive, the cover is glossy and it contains carefully chosen cover lines that would prompt someone to open it. In your case, besides the typical information that should appear on the cover, you could add attractive quotes and the page number on which they are found, it doesn't hurt even to include an offer upfront like discounts. However, do not lose your brand identity and professionalism as you do this.
Feature Blocks: These can be used to highlight important sections of your proposal. Blocks can come in different sizes and shapes depending on what you want to bring out. They are also a great way to break the monotony of text. Some of the ways you can use blocks include:
Colors: Have you noticed how colors can affect our emotions? You can use colors to attract the reader's attention as well as to help them remember key points or even just to enjoy the experience of reading the proposal. Experts recommend the use of about five colors within a proposal. These can be background colors for feature blocks, page colors, call to action, or even title blocks.
Video: Thanks to modern technology, we can send digital proposals and add videos or video links. You can use this to enhance your executive summary. Wouldn't you admit that you are more likely to remember an exciting video more than unending text? You can also include a call to action in that video.
Gallery: If you have a range of products, a gallery may be a great way to showcase them. A gallery can even be used as evidence of the different awards and memberships you belong to. You can choose to have a section dedicated to pictures within the proposal.
Humor: Do not become a paid comedian, but add a dash of humor to your proposal. One area where this is possible is in your call to action. You can replace the ordinary run of the mill “click here” or “Order Now” with something light-hearted. It could be a pan associated with your business or the client’s business, alternatively, an emoticon or minion showing them where to click. If you give it much thought, you will find the most appropriate way to use humor and still remain professional.
At times it may also be necessary to accompany your proposal with a letter or simply to send the letter first. The business proposal letter is a document communicating your intention or requesting cooperation between your business and a prospect business. It is similar to a proposal but more concise. It has more detail than an executive summary.
This letter could be a make or break communication based on how well it communicates all the details that need to be included.
Content plays a huge part in determining the success of the letter. Because of this, you shouldn't leave out any important detail. The main content of this letter should be:
In part, the content of your letter may be determined by the fact that it was either solicited or unsolicited. A solicited letter is usually sent after a business has expressed interest in your service or product. Now you simply need to build on that interest. A key feature of such a letter is the comparative advantage. You need to indicate what makes you better than the competition.
An unsolicited letter on the other hand is a first-time contact with the business and you need to give them a reason to read that letter. Your intro should quickly but effectively explain who you are and what your intentions are. Before getting to your comparative advantage, you also have to explain what use your service or product serves and demonstrate that the business actually needs it.
The best plan is to have an outline that can be followed whether you are creating a template or writing a proposal from scratch. You might even get ideas from a business proposal sample that you can edit to your need. In the end, however, the structure will include the following:
Research the business you intend to send the proposal to and use the information you gather to write the proposal. Personalizing a proposal shows you know what you’re talking about and increases the chances of locking down that deal. There is a lot you can accomplish using digital documents like the insertion of multimedia sections and getting the client to commit with a digital signature. Do not forget to get creative without compromising professionalism.