How to write Informal Business Proposals
- April 12, 2018
- Mar 29, 2023
Balance is the key. Sort it out from the beginning.
Here’s the issue – you want to be professional, send a contract, a detailed price, have them sign your proposal and have them take you seriously but at the same time, you don’t want them to reply with a text “What’s all this nonsense you’ve sent me? How much is it and are you coming to the pub on Friday?”
In talking to people about this, one of the biggest fears is that it will change the relationship from a friendship based one to a transaction based one and I think this fear is completely unfounded. It’s far better to have a relationship based on respect , so if your friend doesn’t respect that you conduct your business in a professional manner then what sort of friend are they?
This article is going to cover the idea of selling to your friends but also selling to someone who isn’t a friend as such but someone where you feel that a full-blown proposal is overkill.
First, let’s try and get to the bottom of what an informal proposal actually is.
What is an informal proposal?
Let’s start by suggesting that a formal proposal is a document explaining the entirety of a project, contains words like “executive summary”, “specification” and “investment”, it likely would also include a contract.
If you sent a proposal with none of those things it would make absolutely no sense and you’d lose the job instantly.
It’s important to note, your proposal needs what it needs and nothing else.
Just because the person knows you well and knows what you do, that doesn’t mean they know about the results you get for people with your service. You still need to tell them that.
You can’t just leave out parts like an executive summary, because it sets the entire proposal up and gives it context. You can call it an introduction though – that’s cool.
A specification or statement of work – People ride on both sides of the equation here, some prefer to not put anything in and others like to detail everything that is going to be completed. I prefer the latter. It means if the deal goes bad, there’s no debate about what should / should not be done. It’s right there in black and white.
Pricing – don’t put discounts in. The only time we ever discounted anything as an agency was in return for a video testimonial. That was highly worth it to us as we could use it in our marketing. No other reason for discounting in my opinion. Certainly not just because they’re a friend or client.
Contracts – Even an informal proposal needs a contract. You’re still doing work, and they’re still paying. Contracts are for far more than just payment terms. They cover you and they cover your client.
Signing the proposal – No negotiation here. It gets signed or work doesn’t start. No verbal confirmation is good enough. Get it signed.
Dealing with friends
You must remember that your future and your business is going to exist long after this business arrangement is going to last so you have to put yourself first. To do that you must prioritise your procedures over their wish to skip that part.
What does that mean? It means making sure:
- You send a professional looking proposal
- You have your contract
- No “mates rates”
- Sticking to your timescales and processes
One of the things you can do here is “set them straight” before the whole thing starts and simply explain that you do your best work for everyone regardless of who they are, you don’t do discounts or mates rates and you will hold them to a high standard the same way you expect them to hold you one.
This lets them know you’re not mucking about and that you’re there to get the work done and do a great job. They might not like it, in which case it’s better to know that now than 2 months down the line.
When a full-blown proposal is overkill
There might be times where you think “Ah I just need to send them a price and get them to sign it off”. You might be right but I want to mention a few things to challenge you on that thought.
Let’s clear a few things up first, if this is a potential client then you always send a full proposal. No arguments here.
Don’t send them “just a price” because they asked for it. You’ve gone in, seen them, spoken to them or whatever has happened, you have every right to send whatever you think is going to give you the best chance of winning the job. Don’t let them tell you what to send.
I used to get this all the time “Just send me the price, don’t worry about all that other stuff”. I used to just say “Every proposal we send is different and it’s tailored perfectly to best explain how we imagine working with you. If you don’t want to read that then it’s best we don’t do one at all”.
“Oh no no please do that, that’s exactly what I want. Perfect”.
Yeah right. Sit down, my rules. You’ll get what you’re given 😉
There are times when it’s wise to exclude certain things from your proposal. Let’s look at what those are.
What should always be included and what’s debatable.
Things to add:.
Introduction – this is the most important part of the proposal. Must-have.
Specification – You’re always going to be doing something for them. You need to detail this. How detailed it is depends on the project.
Price – You need to include a price and make sure it’s clear.
Next Steps – Explain what they need to do next to get the project started. Don’t skip this.
Contract – You can’t start work without a contract. Even if they’ve signed it 20 times in the past. Always include this.
There are some things you don’t need to include if you want to trim it back a bit.
Social proof or case studies – If they are an existing client, you can lose this. If not, keep it in.
Guarantee – Not necessary in all cases but if you offer it, why not include it.
Your proposal should have in it what it needs to close the deal. Cutting anything out reduces that from happening. Don’t pay attention to people who say they don’t read proposals or skip to the price, it doesn’t matter.
There are tons of free proposal templates available to you for inspiration or to just use straight out the box.
Remember, your rules.
Start sending better proposals today
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How to Write Winning Business Proposals: Examples & Free Templates (2023)
By Aditya Sheth , May 25, 2023
The great Mark Cuban once said, “Sales cure all.” If a business doesn’t sell, it doesn’t make money and by extension the business fails. That’s why you need to write business proposals .
A well-written business proposal can often mean the difference between winning or losing a prospective client.
In this in-depth guide to creating business proposals, we show you how to close more deals, make more sales and crush your business goals — all by using easy-to-edit professional business proposal templates .
Here’s what this guide will cover (click to jump ahead):
What is a business proposal.
- How to write a business proposal step by step
What should you include in a business proposal?
Business proposal format, what are the types of business proposals, more business proposal examples + writing and design tips.
- FAQs about business proposals
Looking for a shortcut? Watch this quick video for an overview of everything to include in your business proposal:
An effective business proposal is a document used by a B2B or business-facing company (this may not always be the case) where a seller aims to persuade a prospective buyer into buying their goods or services.
A business proposal outlines what your business does and what you can do for your client . It can be general like this business proposal example:
Or it can be more specific, like this business proposal template which focuses on proposing a project for the Newton Center Rail:
Or this business proposal sample, which presents a plan for a social media strategy and campaign:
To design a business proposal that holds the client’s attention, identify their pain points . Then provide your buyer with the right solution to alleviate those frustrations.
Return to Table of Contents
How to write a business proposal step by step
Before you start creating your business proposal template, you need to know what it comprises. At a high level, your effective business proposal should include the following:
- Table of contents
- Executive summary
- The problem statement
- The proposed solution
- The timeline
Pricing, billing, and legal
- Terms and conditions
- The acceptance
Below, you can see business proposal examples that demonstrate how to include these 10 sections.
Business proposal title
A compelling title could mean the difference between someone reading your proposal or ignoring it in favor of a competitor’s.
What makes a good title page? Here are the essential elements to include:
- Your name along with your company’s name
- The name of the prospect (or their business)
- The date you’re submitting the proposal
The gray business consulting proposal template above contains all the details a prospect would want to know. The title also offers a strong tangible benefit to the prospective buyer. Honestly, “Who doesn’t want to grow their business?”
Return to business proposal content sections
The table of contents is a fundamental part of every winning business proposal template. It makes your proposal scannable and easy to read.
The people you will be pitching to are usually C-level executives. These are busy people who don’t have time to read your entire proposal in one go.
That’s why most of the business proposal examples in this list include a table of contents.
Adding a table of contents to your document makes it easy for them to go through it at their own pace. They can also skim through parts of the proposal that they deem more important. You can see how this abstract business proposal template uses the table of contents:
You can also make your business proposal template easier to navigate by adding hyperlinks to the document, particularly in the table of contents. This way your clients can jump to specific sections without having to scroll through the entire document.
It’s easy to add hyperlinks in the Venngage editor. Select the text you’d like to turn into a link, then click the link icon in the top bar. From there, select the page you want to link to! Then download your completed design as an Interactive PDF .
The executive summary is a staple in all kinds of annual reports , leadership development plan , project plans and even marketing plans . It is a concise summary of the entire contents of your document. In other words, write a business proposal outline that is easy to glance over and that highlights your value proposition.
The goals of your executive summary are:
- Introduce your company to your buyer
- Provide an overview of your company goals
- Showcase your company’s milestones, overall vision and future plans
- Include any other relevant details
This gray business proposal example has a detailed yet short executive summary including some social proof in the form of clients they’ve worked with:
Take note of how precise this business proposal example is. You want to keep your executive summary concise and clear from the get-go. This sets the right tone for the rest of your proposal. It also gives your buyer a reason to continue reading your proposal.
Pro Tip: Try to write an executive summary such that, even if your prospective client doesn’t read the entire proposal (with a good executive summary, they most likely will), they should have a clear idea about what your company does and how you can help them.
The point of writing a business proposal is to solve a buyer’s problem. Your goal is to outline the problem statement as clearly as possible. This develops a sense of urgency in your prospect. They will want to find a solution to the problem. And you have that solution.
A well-defined problem statement does two things:
- It shows the prospect you have done your homework instead of sending a generic pitch
- It creates an opportunity for you to point out a problem your prospect might not be aware they had in the first place.
This bold business proposal template above clearly outlines the problem at hand and also offers a ray of hope i.e. how you can solve your prospect’s problem. This brings me to…
The good stuff. In the proposed solution section, you show how you can alleviate your prospective buyer’s pain points. This can fit onto the problem statement section but if you have a comprehensive solution or prefer to elaborate on the details, a separate section is a good idea.
Spare no details regarding the solution you will provide. When you write a business proposal, explain how you plan to deliver the solution. Include an estimated timeline of when they can expect your solution and other relevant details.
For inspiration, look at how this business proposal template quickly and succinctly outlines the project plan, deliverables and metrics :
At this point, the prospect you’re pitching your solution to likes what they’re reading. But they may not trust you to deliver on your promises. Why is this?
It’s because they don’t know you. Your job is to convince them that you can fix their problem. This section is important because it acts as social proof. You can highlight what your company does best and how qualified your team is when you write a business proposal for a potential client.
This free business proposal template showcases the company’s accolades, client testimonials, relevant case studies, and industry awards. You can also include other forms of social proof to establish yourself as a credible business. This makes it that much more likely that they will say yes!
Pro Tip: Attaching in-depth case studies of your work is a great way to build trust with a potential client by showcasing how you’ve solved similar problems for other clients in the past. Our case study examples post can show you how to do just that.
To further demonstrate just how prepared you are, it’s important to outline the next steps you will take should your buyer decide to work with you.
Provide a timeline of how and when you will complete all your deliverables. You can do this by designing a flow chart . Or add a roadmap with deadlines. Pitching a long-term project? A timeline infographic would be a better fit.
If you look at this abstract business proposal template below, even something as simple as a table can do the trick.
The timeline is not always set in stone, rather it’s an estimation. The goal is to clarify any questions your potential client might have about how you will deliver for the underlying B2B sales process.
On this page, you can outline your fees, payment schedule, invoice payment terms , as well as legal aspects involved in this deal.
The key to good pricing is to provide your buyer with options. A pricing comparison table can help with this. You want to give your client some room to work with. Make sure you’re not scaring off your client with a high price, nor undervaluing yourself.
Breaking up your pricing in stages is another great way to make sure your potential client knows what he’s paying for. Look at how this simple business proposal template does this:
The legal aspects can slot right into the terms and conditions section. Alternatively, you can add them to the signature section of the proposal to keep things simple.
Summarize everything you have promised to deliver so far. Include what you expect from your prospective buyer in return. Add the overall project timeline from start to end, as well as payment methods and payment schedule. This way, both of you will be clear on what is being agreed on.
This step is very important as it outlines all the legal aspects of the deal. That is why the terms and conditions section of your proposal needs to be as clear as possible.
I recommend consulting a lawyer or your legal team when working on this section of the business proposal. If you’re a business veteran and understand the legalities of your business, you can use the same terms and conditions across all your proposals.
The final step of this whole process. Your client has read your business proposal and they want to buy what you have to offer.
Add a small section at the end of your proposal to get the necessary signatures. This way, you and your client can sign the proposal and the partnership becomes official.
Be sure to also include your contact information in your business proposal template. It acts as a gentle prompt to your client to contact you in case they have any questions.
A business proposal usually aims to answer the following questions:
- Who you are and what your company does
- The problem your buyer is facing
- The solution your company offers to alleviate the problem
- How your company will implement this solution effectively
- An estimate of resources (time, money, etc) required to implement the solution
You can see how this sample business proposal template covers the above points.
Notice how this proposal template addresses the same project like in one of the previous templates, but uses a completely different design style (more retro, while the previous business proposal template is more modern and minimalistic).
You can remove or add more sections depending on the goal of your business proposal. Essential, your business proposal can follow this format:
- Pricing, billing and legal
We go into detail on how you can write a business proposal (plus different business proposal templates you can apply the tips to) in the next section . But you can also click on the format items above to learn how you can best write them!
If you aim to create a holistic business proposal, feel free to just edit from the two templates right above. You can also add your brand colors and logo to your design, using My Brand Kit :
Here’s another example of a business proposal template that you can edit:
Generally, there are three types of business proposals:
1. Formally solicited
A formally solicited business proposal is made when you respond to an official request to write a business proposal.
In this scenario, you know all the requirements and have more (if not all) information about a prospective buyer. You simply need to write the business proposal for your buyer to evaluate so you can begin the sales process .
2. Informally solicited
Informally solicited business proposals are written when there isn’t an official request for a proposal. A prospective buyer is interested in your services and asks for a proposal so they can evaluate it.
An informally solicited proposal requires a lot more research from your end. These types of proposals are usually created out of informal conversations. They are not based on official requests which often contain more detail.
Think of this as a marketing brochure or a cold email . Unsolicited business proposals will often take a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to business proposals. Unsolicited proposals lack any understanding of the buyer or their requirements.
But with additional market research , personalization and identifying customer pain points , you can propose a customized solution based on your buyer’s needs. This can be a very persuasive approach, such as in this business proposal example:
Now that you know how to write a business proposal, let’s look at how you can optimize your proposal to deliver results!
Below you’ll find some winning business proposal templates and examples to get you started. I’ve also included some design tips to keep in mind when you’re creating your next business proposal:
1. Know your audience
If you have some clarity on who your ideal buyer is — their pain points, their budget, deadlines, among other things — you’ve already won half the battle.
If you are a business that helps clients with everything from running giveaways or helping grow their blog , identify which customers to pitch. This is a sure-shot way to close the deal.
Mapping user personas for your ideal buyer can help bring some clarity. It will also help you position your business proposal correctly. This improves the chance of your buyer moving your business proposal to the “Yes!” pile.
2. Put your brand front and center
If your company follows certain brand guidelines, incorporate them in your business proposal templates. Consider how business proposal examples like the one below highlight brand identity :
From the color palettes to the company logos , everything follows their brand guidelines. The result: a business proposal that’s consistent across the board.
Pro Tip: Switching this template to match your brand assets is actually pretty easy. Venngage’s My Brand Kit feature allows you to import your color palettes, logos as well as font choices. Any Venngage template can now be your template.
You can also consider this sample business proposal template:
Design companies sure do know their design. They did a phenomenal job keeping their brand colors consistent while opting for a black design. This unique color scheme also makes their white logo prominent throughout the proposal.
3. Try less text, more visuals
Have you ever read a proposal and thought to yourself, “Wow, this is all text and has no images, I love it!”? Yeah, me neither.
The free business proposal template below is a perfect example of the “less is more” principle. It does a phenomenal job of communicating what it needs to. By substituting some of the text with icons and visuals, you get a clean business proposal that’s much more scannable.
Want to keep things strictly professional? Instead of icons, you can always add your team’s headshots. This shows your buyer exactly who they’ll be working with.
Check out this formal business proposal format for some inspiration:
4. Switch up your business proposal designs
It doesn’t hurt to go above and beyond once in a while. Jazz up your business proposal template with some extra colors. This helps make your business proposal more engaging. It also helps your buyers retain information faster.
The business proposal example alternates between black, white and grey backgrounds. It still manages to maintain consistency in its branding . Just switching up your backgrounds once in a while can also bring in some variety to an otherwise standard business proposal.
This SEO business proposal sample proves that it’s possible to switch up the colors in every other page. But it still maintains the same color scheme across the entire proposal just like a professionally designed website :
Pro Tip: Not a color expert? Our guide on picking colors can help you pick the right color scheme for your proposals.
FAQ about business proposals
What is the purpose of a business proposal.
A business proposal aims to streamline the B2B sales process (which is often complex) between you as a seller and a buyer.
It does this by serving the dual purpose of acting as a source of information. The proposal also acts as a sales pitch aimed at convincing your buyer why they should buy what you have to offer.
What are the best practices for business proposal design?
- Do a thorough spell-check. The goal of your business proposal is to convince your buyer why you’re the perfect person for the job. A proposal with typos or grammatical errors communicates the opposite. A thorough spell-check before you send your proposal is a must.
- Keep things clear and readable: Clarity is an important aspect that you have to ensure in your business proposal. If you want your proposal to hit home and make an impact on the buyer, you have to write it in an understandable way. To keep things clear and readable, there are a couple of things that you can do. You can, for one, take care to use easy wording and segmented sentences from the get-go. You can also try paraphrasing the hard parts of your proposal once you are done writing it.
- Let your brand shine. As discussed before, writing a business proposal is all about knowing your ideal buyer and focusing on their pain points. But that doesn’t mean your business proposal template has to be boring. Demonstrate how different you are compared to other companies. You can do this through your brand guidelines , by using more visuals, switching up your proposal design or showing off your personality in your writing .
- Create a business proposal PDF. Downloading your business proposal in PDF format allows you to attach other collaterals with your business proposal. These can include a company explainer video or case studies showcasing the work done with past clients. Also, who doesn’t love saving paper?
How long should your business proposal be?
The length depends on the scope of the work as well as the complexity of the project. Here is a one-page business proposal template:
Can your business proposal template really be one page? Yes, as long as you understand who your buyer is and their pain points. You should also have the ability to communicate everything your ideal buyer needs to know about your business in a succinct manner.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous how about just two pages? Often, clients prefer if you go straight to the point and avoid all the fluff.
For example, this green modern marketing proposal template wastes no time in getting down to brass tacks:
Need more inspiration? Check out this blog on the 5 marketing proposal examples that’ll help elevate your business.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to deciding how many pages you should include in your business proposal template. And at the end of the day, “the only rules are the ones you set for yourself”.
At the end of the day, writing winning business proposals that sell is all about you understanding your buyer, their potential pain points and positioning yourself as someone who can alleviate those pain points.
Now that you know how to write compelling business proposals, what are you waiting for?
Take action and start creating your own business proposals to close more deals and grow your business today!
More business communications templates + writing tips you might be interested in…
31 Consulting Proposal Templates to Close Deals
How to Write a Project Proposal [10+ Templates]
20+ Professional Business Letterhead Templates + Branding Tips
How to Write a White Paper [Tips & Templates]
Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.
Chapter 13: Business Proposals
- Describe the basic elements of a business proposal
- Discuss the main goals of a business proposal
- Identify effective strategies to use in a business proposal
Business proposals are documents designed to make a persuasive appeal to the audience to achieve a defined outcome, often proposing a solution to a problem. Much like a report, with several common elements and persuasive speech, a business proposal makes the case for your product or service. In order to be successful in business and industry, you should be familiar with the business proposal.
Let’s say you work in a health care setting. What types of products or services might be put out to bid? If your organization is going to expand and needs to construct a new wing, it will probably be put out to bid. Everything from office furniture to bedpans could potentially be put out to bid, specifying a quantity, quality, and time of delivery required. Janitorial services may also be bid on each year, as well as food services, and even maintenance. Using the power of bidding to lower contract costs for goods and services is common practice.
Effective business proposals are built around a great idea or solution. While you may be able to present your normal product, service, or solution in an interesting way, you want your document and its solution to stand out against the background of competing proposals. What makes your idea different or unique? How can you better meet the needs of the company than other vendors? What makes you so special? With the competitive nature of business proposals, your aim is to make your proposal stand out and ultimately win the contract.
Planning a Proposal
To begin planning a proposal, remember the basic definition: a proposal is an offer or bid to do a certain project for someone. Proposals may contain other elements—technical background, recommendations, results of surveys, information about feasibility, and so on. But the difference with a proposal is that it asks the audience to approve, fund, or grant permission to do the proposed project. If you plan to be a consultant or run your own business, written proposals may be one of your most important tools for bringing in business. And, if you work for a government agency, nonprofit organization, or a large corporation, the proposal can be a valuable tool for initiating projects that benefit the organization or you the employee/proposer (and usually both).
A proposal should contain information that would enable the audience of that proposal to decide whether to approve the project, to approve or hire you to do the work or both. To write a successful proposal, put yourself in the place of your audience and think about what sorts of information that person would need to feel confident having you do the project.
It’s easy to get confused about proposals. Imagine that you have a terrific idea for installing some new technology where you work and you write up a document explaining how it works and why it’s so great, showing the benefits, and then end by urging management to go for it. Is that a proposal? No, at least not in this context. It’s more like a feasibility report, which studies the merits of a project and then recommends for or against it. Now, all it would take to make this document a proposal would be to add elements that ask management for approval for you to go ahead with the project. Certainly, some proposals must sell the projects they offer to do, but in all cases, proposals must sell the writer (or the writer’s organization) as the one to do the project.
Persuasion- Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
Proposals are built on the three elements of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos. A proposal’s ethos refers to credibility, pathos to passion and enthusiasm, and logos to logic or reason. All three elements are integral parts of your business proposal that require your attention. Who are you and why should they do business with you? Your credibility may be unknown to the potential client and it is your job to reference previous clients, demonstrate order fulfillment, and clearly show that your product or service is offered by a credible organization. By association, if your organization is credible the product or service is often thought to be more credible.
In the same way, if you are not enthusiastic about the product or service, why should the potential client get excited? How does your solution stand out in the marketplace? Why should they consider you? Why should they continue reading? Passion and enthusiasm are not only communicated through “!” exclamation points. Your thorough understanding, and your demonstration of that understanding, communicates dedication and interest.
Each assertion requires substantiation, each point clear support. It is not enough to make baseless claims about your product or service; you have to show why the claims you make are true, relevant, and support your central assertion that your product or service is right for this client. Make sure you have sources to support your points. Be detailed and specific.
Types of Proposals
Consider the situations in which proposals occur. A company may send out a public announcement requesting proposals for a specific project. This public announcement—called a request for proposals (RFP)—could be issued through newspapers, trade journals, Chamber of Commerce channels, or individual letters. Firms or individuals interested in the project would then write proposals in which they summarize their qualifications, project schedules and costs, and discuss their approach to the project. The recipient of all these proposals would then evaluate them, select the best candidate, and then prepare a contract.
But proposals come about much less formally. Imagine that you are interested in doing a project at work (for example, investigating the merits of bringing in some new technology to increase productivity). Imagine that you visited with your supervisor and tried to convince her of this. She might respond by saying, “Write me a proposal and I’ll present it to upper management.” As you can see from these examples, proposals can be divided into several categories:
- Solicited or unsolicited. Proposals are solicited or unsolicited. A solicited proposal is one in which the recipient has requested the proposal. Typically, a company will send out requests for proposals (RFPs) through the mail or publish them in some news source. But proposals can be solicited on a very local level: for example, you could be explaining to your boss how great it would be to install a new technology in the office; your boss might get interested and ask you to write up a proposal to do a formal study of the idea. Unsolicited proposals are those in which the recipient has not requested proposals. With unsolicited proposals, you sometimes must convince the recipient that a problem or need exists before you can begin the main part of the proposal.
- Internal or externa l. Proposals can be internal or external. A proposal to someone within your organization (a business, a government agency, etc.) is an internal proposal. With internal proposals, you may not have to include certain sections (such as qualifications) or as much information in them. An external proposal is one written from one separate, independent organization or individual to another such entity. The typical example is the independent consultant proposing to do a project for another firm.
- Informal or formal. Another type of proposal is informal or formal. An informal proposal is a short document, only a few pages long, normally in the format of a memo or letter and includes fewer sections than a formal proposal. Informal proposals generally include six sections: introduction, background, plan, staffing, budget and authorization (Guffey et al., 2019). Formal proposals are longer, more complex documents, and in addition to the six sections from the informal report, they include many of the other sections found in a typical report: a letter of transmittal, title page, table of contents, list of figures, executive summary , and additional information in the appendices . They may also include a copy of the RFR.
Common Sections in Proposals
You can be creative in many aspects of the business proposal but follow the traditional categories. Businesses expect to see information in a specific order, much like a résumé or even a letter. Each aspect of your proposal has its place and it is to your advantage to respect that tradition and use the categories effectively to highlight your product or service. Every category is an opportunity to sell and should reinforce your credibility, your passion, and the reason your solution is simply the best. Keep in mind that the sections included in your proposal are based on the type of proposal and the audience’s needs. Figure 13.1 highlights some of the common sections found in a proposal. Figure 13.1 provides an example of a proposal.
Copy of RFP
Include a copy of the RFP you are responding to when submitting a proposal. A company undertaking a major project may send out different RFPs for different parts of the project, so it is best to include the RFP to identify which issue you are planning to address.
Letter of Transmittal
As with a formal report, include a letter of transmittal which should briefly identify the issue you are aiming to solve and the benefits of your proposed plan.
The executive summary provides a summary of the proposal and highlights the main aspects of the proposal. If some information seems repetitive, remember that business reports are not always read in the order written.
Write a title that clearly and accurately describes your proposal. Include the name of the organization the proposal is for, the RPF number and the date. The title page should also have the name of the author(s) and the author’s organization.
Table of Contents
The table of contents enables the reader to quickly find the desired sections in your report. Format this page the way you would format the table of contents in a formal report.
List of Figures and Tables
Include a list of figures and tables if your report contains numerous illustrations, diagrams and charts.
Plan the introduction to your proposal carefully. Make sure it does the following things (but not necessarily in this order) that apply to your particular proposal:
- Indicate that the document to follow is a proposal.
- Refer to some previous contact with the recipient of the proposal or to your source of information about the project.
- Find one brief motivating statement that will encourage the recipient to read on and to consider doing the project (if it’s an unsolicited or competitive proposal) and to give you the contract to do the project.
- Give an overview of the contents of the proposal.
Background on the Problem, Opportunity, or Situation
Often occurring just after the introduction, the background section discusses what has brought about the need for the project—what problem, what opportunity there is for improving things, what the basic situation is. It’s true that the audience of the proposal may know the problem very well, in which case this section might not be needed. Writing the background section still might be useful, however, in demonstrating your particular view of the problem. And, if the proposal is unsolicited, a background section is almost a requirement as you will need to convince the audience that the problem or opportunity exists and that it should be addressed.
Benefits and Feasibility of the Proposed Project
Most proposals discuss the advantages or benefits of doing the proposed project. This acts as an argument in favour of approving the project. Also, some proposals discuss the likelihood of the project’s success. In the unsolicited proposal, this section is particularly important as you are trying to “sell” the audience on the project.
When writing the plan, you want to explain how you’ll go about doing the proposed work. This acts as an additional persuasive element; it shows the audience you have a sound, well-thought-out approach to the project. Also, it serves as the other form of background some proposals need. Remember that the background section (the one discussed above) focuses on the problem or need that brings about the proposal. However, in this section, you discuss the background relating to the procedures or technology you plan to use in the proposed work. Once again, this gives you the proposal writer a chance to show that you know what you are talking about and to build confidence in the audience. Give enough information in your plan to secure the contract, but don’t include all the specifics (Guffey et al., 2019).
Most proposals contain a section that shows not only the projected completion date but also key milestones for the project. If you are doing a large project spreading over many months, the timeline would also show dates on which you would deliver progress reports. And if you can’t cite specific dates, cite amounts of time for each phase of the project.
Most proposals contain a summary of the proposing individual’s or organization’s qualifications to do the proposed work. It’s like a mini-resume contained in the proposal. The proposal audience uses it to decide whether you are suited for the project. Therefore, this section lists work experience, similar projects, references, training, and education that shows familiarity with the project.
Budget and Resources
Most proposals also contain a section detailing the costs of the project, whether internal or external. With external projects, you may need to list your hourly rates, projected hours, costs of equipment and supplies, and so forth, and then calculate the total cost of the complete project. Internal projects of course are not free, but you should still list the project costs: for example, you can list hours you will need to complete the project, equipment and supplies you’ll be using, and assistance from other people in the organization.
The final paragraph or section of the proposal should bring readers back to a focus on the positive aspects of the project. In the final section, you can end by urging them to get in touch to work out the details of the project, to remind them of the benefits of doing the project, and reiterate the reasons your organization is the right choice for the project.
Special project-specific sections
Remember that the preceding sections are typical or common in written proposals, not absolute requirements. Think about the following questions:
- What else might your audience need to understand the nature and scope of the project?
- What else might your audience need to understand the benefits arising from the project?
- What other information might your readers need to be convinced to allow you to do the project?
- What else do they need to see in order to approve the project?
Format of Proposals
A professional document is a base requirement. If it is less than professional, you can count on its prompt dismissal. There should be no errors in spelling or grammar, and all information should be concise, accurate, and clearly referenced when appropriate. Information that pertains to credibility should be easy to find and clearly relevant, including contact information. If the document exists in a hard copy form, it should be printed on a letterhead. If the document is submitted in an electronic form, it should be in a file format that presents your document as you intended. Word processing files may have their formatting changed or adjusted based on factors you cannot control—like screen size—and information can shift out of place, making it difficult to understand. In this case, a portable document format (PDF)—a format for electronic documents—may be used to preserve content location and avoid any inadvertent format changes when it is displayed.
Effective persuasive proposals are often brief, even limited to one page. “The one-page proposal has been one of the keys to my business success, and it can be invaluable to you too. Few decision-makers can ever afford to read more than one page when deciding if they are interested in a deal or not. This is even more true for people of a different culture or language,” said Adnan Khashoggi, a successful multi-billionaire (Riley, 2002). Clear and concise proposals serve the audience well and limit the range of information to prevent confusion.
You have the following options for the format and packaging of your proposal. It does not matter which you use as long as you use the memorandum format for internal proposals and the business-letter format for external proposals.
- Cover letter or memo with separate proposal : In this format, you write a brief “cover” letter or memo and attach the proposal proper after it. The cover letter or memo briefly announces that a proposal follows and outlines the contents of it. In fact, the contents of the cover letter or memo are pretty much the same as the introduction (discussed in the previous section). Notice, however, that the introduction to the proposal proper that follows the cover letter or memo repeats much of what preceded. This is because the letter or memo may get detached from the proposal or the recipient may not even bother to look at the letter or memo and just dive right into the proposal itself.
- Consolidated business-letter or memo proposal: In this format, you consolidate the entire proposal with a standard business letter or memo. You include headings and other special formatting elements as if it were a report. This consolidated memo format is illustrated in the left portion of Figure 13.2.
Figure 13.2 | Consolidated vs Letter Memo
Revision Checklist for Proposals
As you reread and revise your proposal, watch out for problems such as the following:
- Make sure you use the right format. Remember, the memo format is for internal proposals; the business-letter format is for proposals written from one external organization to another.
- Write a good introduction.
- Make sure to identify exactly what you are proposing to do.
- Make sure that a report—a written document—is somehow involved in the project you are proposing to do.
- Make sure the sections are in a logical, natural order. For example, don’t present the audience with schedules and costs before you’ve gotten them interested in the project.
- Break out the costs section into specifics; include hourly rates and other such details. Don’t just include the final cost.
- For internal projects, don’t omit the section on costs and qualifications: there will be costs, just not direct ones. For example, how much time will you need, will there be printing, binding costs? Include your qualifications if you think your proposal will go to somebody in the organization who doesn’t know you.
- Watch out for generating technobabble. Yes, some of your proposal readers may know the technical side of your project—but others may not. Challenge yourself to bring difficult technical concepts down to a level that non-specialists can understand.
- Proofread and revise for grammar, mechanics and style.
An effective business proposal informs and persuades efficiently. It features many of the common elements of a report, but its emphasis on persuasion guides the overall presentation. Writing effective business proposals is a skill every business writer needs. Plan your proposal well and only include the sections necessary to both inform and persuade your audience. Remember that though you are offering a solution to a problem, your main intention is to sell your service.
End of Chapter Activities
13a. thinking about the content.
What are your key takeaways from this chapter? What is something you have learned or something you would like to add from your experience?
13b. Discussion Questions
- Have you ever written a proposal? If yes, what were the sections you included?
- Search for an RFP (request for proposal) or similar call to bid, and post it to your class. Compare the results with your classmates, focusing on what is required to apply or bid.
- Identify a product or service you would like to produce or offer. List three companies that you would like to sell your product or service to and learn more about them. Post your findings, making the link between your product or service and company needs. You may find the Web site on creating a business plan ( https://www.scu.edu/mobi/business-courses/starting-a-business/session-2-the-business-plan/#3 ) useful when completing this exercise.
13c. Applying chapter concepts to a situation
Proposing a new software
Nate was recently hired at the Green Grocers Supermarket as a part-time cashier. He only does the evening shifts as he has classes in the day time and wants to avoid having any conflicts in his schedule. A part of his daily duties includes balancing the cash register drawer at the end of his shift. When his colleagues do the evening shift, they have to complete this task as well.
The owner of the supermarket is concerned as she notices that the cashiers are struggling to balance the drawer some evenings. She tries to resolve this issue as inaccurate information is affecting the reliability of the record-keeping process.
Nate is aware of a free software that the cashiers can use to complete their cash register balancing task. This software can save time, eliminate human error and store worksheets digitally instead of having the team file hard copies each day. He shares this idea with his boss who tells him to submit it as a written proposal instead.
Write an executive summary outlining what Nate’s proposal to his boss will include.
13d. Writing Activity
Watch this video from TED.com on Dance vs. PowerPoint, a modest proposal . Summarize the video. What do you think of this idea of using dance instead of a “boring” PowerPoint? Would it work in a business setting, why or why not?
This chapter contains information from Business Communication for Success which is adapted from a work produced and distributed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA) in 2010 by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution. This adapted edition is produced by the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing through the eLearning Support Initiative , Business Communication For Everyone (c) 2019 by Arley Cruthers and is licensed under a Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license , and Online Technical Writing by David McMurrey and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License .
Guffey, M. E., Loewy, D., & Almonte, R. (2019). Essentials of Business Communication, Eighth Edition . Toronto, ON: Nelson Education /Cengage Learning.
Riley, P. G. (2002). The one-page proposal: How to get your business pitch onto one persuasive page (p. 2). New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Chapter 13: Business Proposals by Venecia Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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How to Write a Business Proposal — 2022 Guide and Template
A business proposal can make or break your chances of securing a new client. Write a great one, and you’ll likely snag their business.
Write a poor one, and you might lose out—even if you’re offering the best service out there. So, how do you write a business proposal? What is the proper format? What do you need to include?
While it all depends on your industry, and whether or not you’re offering a product or service, writing a business proposal is pretty straightforward. We’ll answer all those questions and more throughout the course of this guide.
What to expect with this business proposal guide
Whether you’re starting fresh or need to look at a specific section, here’s what we’ll be covering in this guide.
- What a business proposal is
- The differences between a business proposal and a business plan
- The format of a business proposal
- How long to make your business proposal
How to write a business proposal
You can download a free business proposal template here to start writing up your own proposal as you work through this article. By the end, you’ll be prepared to develop a well-written business proposal that can explain your business clearly and win more clients. Let’s get started.
What is a business proposal ?
A business proposal is a document you’d send to a prospective client, outlining the service you’re offering, and explaining why you’re the best person for the job.
It’s a pitch by a business or individual to complete a specific job or project, to supply a service, or, in some instances, to be the vendor of a certain product.
What are the different types of business proposals?
A business proposal can be either solicited or unsolicited. With a solicited proposal, the prospective client will put out a request for proposals; with an unsolicited business proposal, you are approaching a client in hopes of attracting their business, even though they did not explicitly request a proposal.
While both are commonplace, a solicited proposal is an easier sell, as your prospective client has already decided that they want to make a purchase or use a service, and they’re evaluating possible vendors or businesses.
With a solicited proposal, your prospective client might have issued an RFP, or “request for proposal.” This is exactly what it sounds like—they want you to send over a business proposal so they can take a look at it.
Differences between a business proposal and a business plan
A business proposal is not the same as a business plan . This is the most common misconception, but while there are areas of overlap (like your executive summary ) the two are different.
That being said, you can certainly pull information from your business plan while writing your business proposal—in fact, that’s a great way to start.
But don’t confuse the two; they are distinct and separate. In short, a business plan represents the cohesive strategy of how your business operates and makes money. A business proposal is an official pitch to clients selling your products or services.
A business proposal outlines a particular product or service offered by an established business to a prospective client.
You’re trying to sell your prospective client on your product or service, not on your business itself. You’re not after funding, as you are with a business plan, you’re trying to make a sale.
A business proposal is also not an estimate; although you’ll likely touch on costs and pricing in your business proposal, an estimate is much more informal and just a quick look at the costs, not the whole picture.
What goes into a business proposal?
Your business proposal should address the three Ps:
- Problem statement: What your customer’s current problem is
- Proposed solution: How your business solves that problem better than other solutions
- Pricing: How much that solution costs compared to alternatives
If you’re stuck on how to start, maybe try brainstorming first; start with these three points, and you’ll have a rough, bare-bones version of your business proposal.
Once you’ve done that if you’re ready to go more in-depth, here is a step-by-step look at how to format your business proposal.
Your business proposal should start with a title page, which should include your name, the name of your company, the name of the person to whom you’re submitting your proposal, and the date submitted.
Table of contents
Depending on how long your business proposal is, a table of contents is a nice touch. Include it after your title page, and before you launch into any details. If you’re delivering it as a PDF, including anchor links down to each section, so it’s easy to get to specific areas.
Introduce your proposal with a great executive summary, one that really sells your business and the products or services you provide—it’s about why you’re the right company for the job. You can draw from your business plan’s executive summary here, too.
Statement of problem, issue, or job at hand
Following your executive summary, go on to discuss the problem that the client is currently facing. Think of “problem” or “issue” loosely; after all, their main problem may just be finding the right person to complete their project. But be sure you understand why they want the product or service they’re seeking. If the proposal is for developing a brand new website, make sure you understand what they want to get out of the site—better sales, more content management flexibility.
This is the place to show your new client that you understand their needs , and fully grasp the issue they are trying to solve. Take this opportunity to restate the issue they are facing in your own words so that they know you understand what they are looking for.
Approach and methodology
This section shows how you plan to tackle your potential client’s problem, and the steps you’ll take to carry out your plan.
This is where you’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how you actually plan to fulfill your client’s needs. While earlier sections might have been a bit surface-level, this section of the business proposal is where you’ll go into detail about what steps you’ll take to solve their problem.
Be careful of going into too much detail, though—keep the jargon to a minimum. Your client should be able to follow along and get a clear sense of your plan, but you don’t want to drown them in minutiae.
Go ahead, brag a little—this is the section of your business proposal where you get to convince your potential client why you are the most qualified person to take on the job.
You can mention any relevant education, industry-specific training, or certifications you have, your past successful projects of a similar nature, years of experience, and so on.
Schedule and benchmarks
Be clear with your potential client: How long will your proposed project take?
Making sure you and your prospective client are on the same page from the outset will help make sure that the relationship stays positive for both of you, and that you don’t set your client up with unrealistic expectations.
While you might be tempted to underestimate how long it will take you to complete the project, don’t. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver!
If you’re offering a product, this section might not be applicable to you, so feel free to omit it. The business proposal format is flexible, so tailor it to suit your business and industry.
Cost, payment, and any legal matters
Here is where you get down to brass tacks and state the cost, and payment schedule if necessary.
How you structure this section will largely depend on the particular project or service you are offering. A section entitled “Fee Summary” may be sufficient if one-time payment is required; otherwise, a “Fee Schedule” list or pricing table might be more appropriate. Always refer back to the client’s RFP whenever possible, to make sure you’re supplying them with all the information they need to help make their decision.
If there are any legal issues to attend to, such as permits or licensing, include this information here. Feel free to add a section entirely devoted to handling the legal side of the project if need be.
This is your final sell—don’t be afraid to detail for your prospective client all they have to gain by choosing you to complete the project.
Impress upon your clients why you are the best choice, and all the ways in which their business will benefit from choosing you and your business as their solution.
How long should a business proposal be?
When it comes to the format of a business proposal, this is the million-dollar question without an answer. Remember in school, when you’d ask your teacher how long an essay should be, and they’d reply, “as long as it takes to answer the question.”
The same applies to your business proposal. It ultimately depends on your industry, the scope of the project, and the client’s specifications in terms of detail and elements included.
That being said, the tighter your initial proposal can be and the more directly you can make your point, the easier it will be to pitch it to clients. Start by following the business proposal format above as a guide, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a winning business proposal—and securing new clients.
Editor’s note: This article was originally written in 2018 and updated for 2021.
Briana is a content and digital marketing specialist, editor, and writer. She enjoys discussing business, marketing, and social media, and is a big fan of the Oxford comma. Bri is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and she can be found, infrequently, on Twitter.
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How to Write an Informal Business Plan
If you’re not seeking investors, or want to jump into the market quickly to launch your product or service, then an informal business plan can help you clarify your startup’s goals, sales strategy, and target market. At the least, writing it all down will help you crystallize your thoughts, set your priorities, and keep you on track.
An informal business plan should contain, at the minimum:
A company description and mission statement. Describe your business in a few brief paragraphs, including your legal structure (for more on that, see pages 70–75) and the type of unique services or products you provide. Also include a brief description of the management team, detailing each person’s responsibilities.
An overview of your target market. Be specific about the customers you serve, including any demographics you might have, such as age, income, location, purchasing habits, buying cycles, and willingness to adopt new products and services. A goal in this section is to prove that you know your customer, which is important for marketing your company.
Elon Musk's first business plan for tesla
"Build sports car. Use that money to build an affordable car. Use that money to build an even more affordable car. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options. Don't tell anyone."
- ELON MUSK, summarizing his business plan in 2006 in a blog post on Tesla's website
An overview of the competition. Identify the current (or potential) competitors in your area or online who sell a service or product similar to yours, and identify their strengths and weaknesses. Gather this information by checking out their websites and marketing materials, or visiting their locations.
Marketing and sales strategy. Describe how you will promote your business, whether that’s through advertising, social media campaigns, promotional literature, or public relations. Define how you will get your product or service to customers, including whether you need sales representatives (inside or external) to promote your products. Identify what differentiates you, particularly when it comes to price, product, or service.
An overview of your finances. Include your startup costs, your operating costs, and revenue estimates. Keep your expectations realistic and honest: The biggest mistake entrepreneurs can make is to be overly optimistic with sales estimates. Include a cash-flow statement, as lack of cash is one of the biggest reasons small businesses fail.
Colleen DeBaise is contributing editor at Inc., podcast host at The Story Exchange, founder of the Hampton Bee, and author of The Wall Street Journal Complete Small Business Guidebook. She has written for The New York Times, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, SmartMoney, and other national publications.
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Informal Proposal Examples
by Clark Herman
Published on 26 Jun 2019
Business proposals are written statements of how a company will meet a potential client’s needs and help it to solve their problems. Informal proposals usually address smaller projects and are thus smaller in scope and shorter in length. In order to write an informal proposal report sample, you have to consider solutions to problems in the way of specific deliverables, and how to schedule, structure and budget out these deliverables so that they are delivered in a way that makes sense to the client.
Be sure to include the following components. We have included informal proposal letter samples:
Writing the Introduction
State the reason for the proposal and be sure to provide a compelling lead into the rest of your proposal. Find the quickest way to explain a solution to this client’s pressing problem. Or include a unique selling point to your pitch.
Example: “In order to avoid imminent flooding and subsequent property damage, we propose a wall to protect from further asset destruction.”
Adding in Background
Here, you can discuss the problem and any context related to it. Be sure to build solid ground upon which to give a measurable, specific purpose to your proposed project. In convincing the client you understand their pain points, you gain trust in demonstrating competence. Use language that the client is familiar with in order to establish the right rapport.
Aim for accuracy and consistency in your proposal, avoiding assumptions where possible. If you’re unclear about a client’s needs or problems, it’s best to contact the client with any questions.
Example: “Flood insurance in the coastal area has risen 400 percent due to recent hurricanes. Municipalities have increasingly been searching for ways to reduce insurance expenditures.”
Getting into the Proposal
Explain the solution to the stated problem, providing specific information where necessary. Include how the solutions will be implemented and what specific deliverables you propose for the completion of the project. You may include a timeline of when these deliverables will be completed by in the form of project milestones. This can be a way to structure out piecemeal payment for a project or simply to give the prospect an idea of what will be completed and when.
Example: “We propose a concrete, rebar-reinforced wall of 5 feet in height that will reduce the cost of your flood insurance policy for your municipality by 30 percent, according to our research.”
Identifying Key Personnel/Equipment
Identify who will contribute to the project and what their expertise is. This shows the prospective client that you and your team possess the skills and experience necessary to complete the project. Indicate any special equipment, software, facilities and so forth that will be integral to the project’s execution.
Example: “Our dedicated team of specialists in concrete mixture and welding brings a solid 10 years’ experience using materials and equipment especially resistant to marine-related corrosion.”
Breaking Down the Budget
Include a budget to show how you will structure costs. You may not know every detail of the project or its entire scope, but not to worry. A proposal budget is designed more specifically to illustrate your competence in anticipating potential roadblocks and in defining your value to the prospect.
Creating a total estimated budget is good but creating a set of line items to structure out particular costs will show the potential client that you have thought through the project and understand the nature of the work you propose.
Example: “Our estimated budget is $25,000 for planning, $800,000 for execution of the project and $75,000 cost of all raw materials.”
Writing the Conclusion
State in an efficient way how your proposal will benefit your prospective client. Be sure to include contact information and suggest a time to follow up for further discussion.
Example: “As [Town name]’s flood insurance policy cost is projected to rise to over $2.8 million for the next fiscal year, we are confident our proposal will net your municipality at least $800,000 in savings. I can be reached at [email protected] for further discussion of this proposal. Thank you for your time.”
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6 Steps to Write an Informal Letter Proposal
Table of Contents
The prospect of preparing a proposal often intimidates many people, but it does not have to be that way. An informal letter proposal is written when people need to ask permission to make a purchase, start a project, or write a paper.
What Is an Informal Letter Proposal?
An informal letter proposal is written to define the necessity of a project. It offers a viable solution to a specific problem. It declares a problem and outlines the steps to solving it, such as offering the method, money, staffing, and management procedures.
Informal proposals are easier to write than formal proposals.
Informal proposals follow the format of an informal letter . They are not full letters and have less formality than formal letters, but they have a standard structure.
They are not business letters, but they are sometimes used in this capacity and are similar in many ways to a formal letter. The contents of your proposal letter will differ depending on the project.
Following are six steps to keep in mind when drafting a letter proposal.
1. Define the Purpose of Your Proposal
Begin by defining the purpose of your letter and what you hope to achieve. The purpose of your proposal is to describe what you wish to achieve or what problem you want to solve.
Keep it focused and concise, but still ensure the recipient can understand the stakes of the letter. A proposal for a business agreement would include clear details and basic terms.
However, a proposal to revamp a firm website would consist of your knowledge of their current website issues.
2. Establish Your Goals and Objectives
Define your objective, which might range from securing a meeting to being recruited; it’s critical to be specific.
Describe the long-term outcomes and the goals you plan to achieve. Be as explicit as possible. Outline your plans, discuss how you will accomplish them, and describe why the company should pursue them.
Make it clear why the reader should provide feedback to move the process forward. But don’t mistake assuming the reader will do so automatically.
3. Highlight your Unique Qualities
Don’t be afraid to highlight the things that make you unique. Allow your skills and experience to speak for itself. List some of your unique qualities and why you are the best candidate. This could involve describing a unique technique that produces excellent results or having expertise in a similar situation.
If you’re pitching a company plan, emphasize a few points that set your proposal apart from others.
4. Briefly Discuss the Budget
One of the major factors in decision-making is the cost of the project. Based on your proposal objective, you need briefly discuss the costs.
You may want to provide specifics on how you will use a loan or how much your project will cost investors. You won’t need to offer a detailed cost breakdown, but giving investors a rough notion of the budget can help them assess the project.
5. Follow-up with a Call to Action
The letter should end with an invitation for the recipient to follow through with the action requested. Include a call to action request to create a sense of urgency in the recipients. This may improve the likelihood of their response.
Also, state your interest in following up with them to show that you are serious about your proposal and idea. Let them know when you’ll call or email them again so they know when to anticipate it.
6. End the Letter with Contact Information
As you approach the end of the letter, try to leave your recipient a feeling of comfort and goodwill. Close the letter with how you can be of service to them. Thank the reader for taking the time to evaluate your idea and invite them to contact you with any questions.
An informal letter proposal is a letter by a person attempting to illicit a job or a donation of money.
Proposals can be written when a grant or loan is given or when one organization seeks to hire a person as a contractor. These proposals should be brief, to the point, and should provide a personal style that can quickly engage a recipient.
Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.
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Updated: May 24, 2022
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Throughout the buyer’s journey, content obviously plays a huge role during the beginning and middle stages. At the last stage of the buyer’s journey, though, it can be somewhat overlooked.
A lot of marketing teams are focused on creating the beginning- and middle-stage content that brings in the views and leads most sales teams are focused on closing during the final stage of the buyer’s journey. So, in a nutshell, marketing teams don't create enough content for this stage and sales teams don't leverage them enough during it.
However, one of the most important pieces of content any organization can create and leverage really only gets used during the final stage of the buyer’s journey -- the business proposal. By outlining your organization’s value proposition, highlighting how your product or service can solve your prospect’s specific problem, and listing your pricing, your business proposal communicates crucial information your prospects need to know before they even think about doing business with you.
Fortunately, to help you create an engaging and convincing business proposal, we’ve rounded up the best business proposal examples we could find on the Internet. Read on to learn how to start writing business proposals that will win you contracts and grow your organization.
1. “ How to Write a Business Proposal [Tips & Examples] ” | HubSpot
In her thorough blog post about writing a business proposal, Meredith Hart , a Junior Staff Writer for HubSpot’s Sales Blog, fleshes out the fundamental elements included in most business proposals and even created a business proposal example in Canva to give you even more insight on how to craft a compelling one.
After reading her informative blog post, you’ll learn about the fundamental elements you should include in your business proposal, their purpose, how to write each element, overarching tips for creating a top-notch business proposal, and some business proposal examples for web design, SEO, and sales.
2. “ How to Write a Business Proposal (The Modern Way) | PandaDoc
One of the most robust business proposal examples on this list, PandaDoc’s guide on writing a modern business proposal will help you chip away at this daunting task one step at a time.
In their guide, they cover the structure most business proposals follow, the ten sections to include in your own, what information to include in each section, an example of each section, some quick tips for improving your business proposal, and what you should do after you send your business proposal to a prospect to help you anticipate any follow up questions they might have and, in turn, boost the odds that you close them as a customer.
3. “ Business Proposal For PDF & Word ” | HubSpot
Download the Template
In HubSpot’s flagship business proposal example offer, they provide you with a fully customizable sample template that gives you detailed instructions on what sections to include in your business proposal, the information to include in each section, and how you can write each section in a convincing fashion.
Since their business proposal template is completely customizable, you can also replace their instructions with your own information, add additional information and sections, and add your own branding and logo. Additionally, you can download your finished business proposal as a Word or PDF file, print it, and email it to your prospects.
4. “ How to Write a Business Proposal in 6 Steps ” | Fit Small Business
Fit Small Business’ business proposal example is the most fleshed out example on this list. Not only do they cover what exactly a business proposal is, the steps to writing a successful one, and provide an example of one, but they also describe the best methods and tools for sending a business proposal, how to follow up, and what to do after you win a contract.
Additionally, Fit Small Business provides you with some design tips for your business proposal, the best business proposal formats to use (with examples), and answers to frequently asked questions about creating effective business proposals.
5. “ HubSpot Partner Agency Proposal Examples ” | HubSpot
To help marketing agencies write better business proposals, HubSpot teamed up with four of their agency partners to create four downloadable proposal examples for each of the agency’s specializations.
After downloading it, you’ll have access to proposals created by agencies that specialize in inbound marketing, growth content strategy, industrial manufacturing marketing, and digital solutions and consulting marketing. Since your organization operates in its own specific situation, you can sift through each example to see which one best meets your needs.
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How to Write a Business Plan for Your Home Business
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Don't handicap your home business by not taking the steps to create a business plan.
A business plan is a written blueprint for your home business. Business plans are essential for getting a business loan, but even if you don't need outside funding, they are a valuable tool to helping you set goals in your home business, understand what you need to do, and anticipate future growth.
Types of Business Plans
- Formal business plans : These plans are detailed documents, usually prepared for the primary purpose of securing outside funding for the business.
- Informal business plans : These plans are used primarily by the business owner as a road map to success. It might be so informal as to be handwritten notes, or a bit more comprehensive typed out plan.
Whether formal or informal, when properly written and maintained, business plans provide a means to help you stay focused on the tasks that build a profitable home business.
Do you need a business plan?
If you intend to secure outside funding for your business, you'll need a formal business plan.
However, even if you're starting small or have your own resources to fund your business, a business plan isn't required, but it can greatly improve the chances that your home business will succeed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as many as 30% of all small businesses fail in the first two years. Those statistics can be very frightening. After all, why would you want to spend time and effort, as well as risk your own money, when there is only one chance in ten your business will survive?
There are several reasons why small and home businesses fail, but proper planning can help overcome them all. A business plan can help you:
- Get clear on your goals
- Develop a deep understanding of your market
- Organize the day-to-day activities of your home business
- Understand your current financial situation
- Make important management and financial decisions about your home business
- Set a starting point to measure growth
Writing a Business Plan
The answer to this question depends on two key factors.
Is the Business Plan for Internal Use or External Use?
If you're not using the business plan to get a loan or find investors, you can write it yourself. If you're trying to secure outside funding, professionals who write business plans for a living bring a lot to the table even if you only get outside help to review the plan to make sure your bases are properly covered in the document. Additionally, business plans need to be edited and proofread for grammar and good sentence structure. Well-written business plans increase the chances of securing needed outside funding.
How Are Your Writing Skills?
If you're a good writer you can probably write a business plan yourself, at least with some assistance. Software and samples are available to help prepare business plans. Additionally, the SBA is a terrific resource for guiding you through the process. If you haven't already, you'll want to take their online Develop a Business Plan Workshop to get started. While you can easily learn how to write a business plan yourself, you will still benefit from having someone else read through your plan and you may still need outside assistance, such as a CPA to create your financial documents and/or a market research firm to develop statistics about your markets.
Whether you decide to hire someone who writes business plans, write it yourself, or use software, you still need to take an active role in the process. Whoever writes your plan needs accurate information for each section of the document and a clear understanding of your business.
Gathering the information is also of great benefit to you because it helps you understand your business and what you need to do in order to succeed, and it gives you a clearer picture of your competitors and your market.
If the business plan's purpose is primarily for your own use you can follow a simple home business plan outline.While general guidelines are available, if the plan is being written primarily to secure outside funding, such as a small business loan, it's not a bad idea to see in advance if the financial institution has any specific requirements it likes to see in its loan applications and business plans. The basic outline of the business plan includes:
- Executive Summary – A high-level overview of the document that is placed first in the finished document but that needs to be written last.
- Company Description - A history and description of your company.
- Products or Services - Information on the products or services you plan to offer and how they compare to your competitors products or services.
- Market Analysis – A description of your market, your niche, and the demand for your product or service (supported by documentation). The percentage of market share you envision and conclusions of any marketing research data.
- Marketing and Sales Strategies – How you will promote your business, how you will get your product or service to your customers, the costs for distribution and promotion, and how you will measure the effectiveness of the methods you plan to use.
- Organization and Management – The legal structure of your business ( sole proprietorship , LLC , C corporation , S corporation , etc.), who your key players are, who is responsible for what and how much they will cost your business.
- Financial Data – Your balance sheet , a breakeven analysis, an income statement and a statement of cash flows . You'll want to include both historical financial statements and forward-looking financial statements.
- Funding Request – This is the section when you'll be requesting funding for the business. If you are not seeking outside funds right now, you can leave this section out.
- Appendix – Contains supporting information, such as resumes, details of market research findings, estimates, and all other documentation required to support what's contained in the body of the business plan.
What to do with the business plan once it's done?
Once you've completed the above information, you need to use your business plan as you organize you daily to-dos and make decisions about your business. Note that your business plan isn't a static document carved in stone. As you build your business, you may find that you need to make adjustments or changes depending on the market, your ability to reach your goals, and changing trends in the marketplace. As a result, it doesn't hurt to review and revise, if necessary, your business plan every six months or so.
Keeping your business plan current offers some important benefits, such as:
- If you ever need to apply for additional funding through either SBA loan programs or other sources of private funding, up-to-date information will already be available. When it comes time to submitting updated business plans, you'll save time and money.
- It helps you stay focused the important elements of your business, and avoid getting bogged down in busy work, or shiny objects.
It can help you identify areas you need to improve in or can expand.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Table 7. Survival of private sector establishments by opening year ." Accessed April 16, 2021.
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Last updated: 30 May, 2023
What is a business proposal?
Types of business proposals, customer request types.
- How to write a business proposal?
Checkout our Sales Pipeline Templates Freebies
“How to make a business proposal?” — a question that, perhaps, any B2B startup has faced at least once.
Successful selling consists of many components, with the quality product or service being just one of them. Sometimes, a sales presentation or business proposal can boost a customer’s sales funnel movement and increase the number of successfully closed deals.
Here, we’ll explain the differences between types of business proposals and give some valuable tips on how to write them.
A business proposal is aimed at attracting potential clients with what a company sells.
It’s a document in either digital or printed form that explains product or service features, taking into consideration the lead’s needs and wants. In other words, business proposals show how a company can help solve a customer’s specific problem.
Business proposals can be solicited and unsolicited.
A solicited proposal is sent upon customer request and can be formal or informal. An unsolicited proposal is sent out as a base test and, in this sense, is similar to a cold email .
Consider these business proposal examples:
Informally solicited proposal
Company A has discovered Company B and got interested in its products. As the result of an informal conversation between the two, Company A asks for a document to learn more details about the product’s quality, shipping terms, pricing options, etc. It isn’t obliged to respond to the offer.
Formally solicited proposal
Company A is a regular client of Company B and has already figured out what it needs. It’s willing to place an order and wants to double-check the terms before paying.
Company A asks Company B to send a business proposal, containing item names, prices, shipping details, etc. After receiving an offer, it’s obliged to respond during an agreed period. In case Company A agrees to the terms, the offer will turn into a legally binding purchasing agreement.
Company B runs a lead gen campaign and wants to inform Company A about services offered. It creates a general proposal that contains an introduction of Company B, its expertise, terms for cooperation, partnership programs, and other business-related information.
Although solicited business proposals are made upon the request from a prospect , clients’ requests may differ, depending on the number of details included:
Request for information
RFI is a request that buyers issue for discovery purposes, e.g., to compare products, services, or vendors present on the market.
Request for proposal
This is an in-depth document that asks for a formally solicited business proposal. A buyer may send RFPs to several vendors and then choose the best offer.
Request for quotation
Also known as the Invitation for Bid, RFQ is issued when a customer wants to purchase a specific service or product and compares prices on the market. Unlike RFPs where clients consider time estimates, provider’s experience, and other terms, RFQs are issued to make a choice based on the price.
It’s also issued in case of a prolonged deal registration process. To reduce financial or currency risks, the company requests a quote (as a sort of a promise) from a supplier to assure the right to buy the product at a specified price in the future.
How to write a business proposal in 8 steps
There is no conventional design or structure you should use for the proposal, so you may either compile it by yourself or pick up a fitting business proposal template, for example, on PandaDoc , Jotform , or Canva and adjust it to your case.
Still, there are some common elements to include in your business proposal:
1. Title Page: Present your company name, client’s name, and proposal date.
Here you should put your name, your company’s name, and a proposal title, say “Web design proposal” or “App software development.” You can also add the proposal’s starting date, your company’s registered address, phone, email, logo, and the name of the prospect.
2. Table of Contents: Provide an overview of the sections in your proposal
If your proposal isn’t a single-page document, it’s a common courtesy that you list all chapters and specify pages. Besides, you can add hyperlinks to the document to make it easier to navigate.
3. Executive Summary: Summarize your proposed solution
This is a separate-page chapter where you briefly describe who you are, what you do, and the purpose of contacting. You can also list how the customer will benefit if they choose your company, for example, “turnkey service provision,” “insurance coverage,” “dedicated manager or consultant,” and so on.
4. Main Body: Detail the problem, solution, implementation plan, and outcomes
Here you should list initial requirements from the client and precisely describe how you’re going to meet them, how much it will cost, and how long it will take.
To deliver marketing automation for Company A, we will carry out several works:
- Gathering data — [Date completed]
- Setting up CRM — [Date completed]
- Transferring the existing customer database to CRM — [Date completed]
- Testing CRM’s work — [Date completed]
- Connecting CRM with marketing automation tools — [Date completed]
- Test tools’ work — [Date completed]
- Training consultation — [Date completed]
- Training deliver — [Date completed]
The level of precision is up to you and your client; however, it’s better to be as specific as possible. If you respond to RFPs or RFQs, you can add a correspondence matrix — a table where customer’s requirements are matched with the proposal’s page numbers or chapters.
5. Additional Clauses: Include any special terms or conditions
If some details may vary, e.g., you predict that some additional costs can occur during the agreement execution, mention them in this chapter.
6. Pricing and Billing: Detail the costs, payment schedules, and methods
Specify the exact sum and payment details. You can also include shipping terms, in case there’s goods delivery.
7. Terms and Conditions: Define the rules of the agreement
Wrap up your offer — mention the expected duration, payment methods, and schedule.
8. Acceptance Page: Provide space for the client to confirm agreement
This is a page for approval signatures. The client can either send you the letter of acceptance or sign the initial proposal, depending on the prior agreement with you.
And here’s one more tip!
If you want to learn how to create a business proposal in a particular niche, write an RFI and mail it to competing companies. This doesn’t oblige both parties to proceed with some further actions, and you can check out the document’s general structure, length, word choice, and so on.
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How to Write a Business Proposal in 2021: 6 Steps + 15 Free Templates
If you need to know how to write a business proposal, congratulations! You just found an amazing resource packed with business proposal examples and free templates to help you get started.
It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed (and a little bit anxious) about writing a winning business proposal. You want to get it in as soon as possible, but you have no idea what to put in there, how long it should be, or even where to start.
Writing a business proposal doesn’t need to be daunting. In fact, if you soak up all of the information in this article, you’ll already be one step ahead of the competition. So relax, pour yourself a coffee, and let’s make your next business proposal easier to write.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a business proposal?
- 2 Solicited and unsolicited proposals
- 3 What does a business proposal include?
- 4 What’s the difference between a business proposal and a business plan?
- 5.1 Step 1 – Make sure you have all the information you need
- 5.2 Step 2 – Sketch out the scope of the project
- 5.3 Step 3 – Estimate the cost
- 5.4 Step 4 – Start writing your business proposal
- 5.5 Step 5 – edit and proofread
- 5.6 Step 6 – send your proposal (and follow it up!).
- 6.1 Proposify
- 6.2 Free template number 1
- 6.3 Free template number 2
- 6.4 Free template number 3
- 6.5 Free template number 4
- 6.6 Free template number 5
- 6.8 Free template number 6
- 6.9 Free template number 7
- 6.10 Free template number 8
- 6.11 Free template number 9
- 6.12 Free template number 10
- 6.13 PandaDoc
- 6.14 Free template number 11
- 6.15 Free template number 12
- 6.16 Free template number 13
- 6.17 Free template number 14
- 6.18 Free template number 15
- 6.19 Decktopus
- 7 Let’s wrap this up
What is a business proposal?
A business proposal is a document that’s used to secure work. It can be sent by an individual or a business and is usually (but not always) a proposed solution to a specific job, project, or service that’s required.
Business proposals are also sometimes used by suppliers to secure business.
Think of a business proposal as a bit like a sales pitch , or a job interview on paper. You need to explain why you’re the best person (or company) for the job and really sell yourself or your business.
A good proposal will outline the service you’re offering and briefly explain how you will approach the task. It will also include a quote and/or an estimate to complete the work.
Solicited and unsolicited proposals
A business proposal can be solicited or unsolicited . If a business proposal is solicited , it means that the individual or business writing the proposal has been asked to submit a proposal by the prospective client.
RFP’s (request for proposal) is the standard way that businesses ask for submissions.
Any business or individual can send out an RFP, and there are lots of templates available online to help you do this.
To give you an example, let’s say that a company (not yours!) was being sued. The company’s legal team might then send requests for proposals out to various law firms. The RFP would most likely contain an explanation of the situation and ask for help and legal advice.
Solicited proposals are generally easier to write because you are given clear guidelines. With a solicited proposal, you know exactly what the client or customer wants and can tailor your response accordingly.
Make sure you read the RFP thoroughly. Not only will this help you to deliver a comprehensive and relevant business proposal, but the RFP will often contain useful information about the criteria being used to make the final decision.
If you’re asked to submit a business proposal, you may also be given instructions for formatting, so be sure to check those too before you submit.
If you’re trying to attract clients by sending out business proposals without first being asked, then your proposal is unsolicited. Like cold-calling , these proposals are commonly used to try to generate leads.
Unsolicited proposals can be a little more difficult to write because you don’t have any information to go on. An unsolicited proposal also needs to be far more persuasive, which means it’s up to you to do your research on whoever you’re targeting and demonstrate your value proposition.
Unsolicited business proposals should serve as an introduction to your product or service and aim to convince your prospective client that they should be using your service.
An unsolicited business proposal differs from other advertising materials in that it carefully considers the customer’s needs and concerns and addresses them specifically.
Obviously, a solicited proposal is far more likely to win new business as the company already has you on their radar. Unsolicited proposals do have their benefits though, the most obvious one being that there is no competition.
Sending out unsolicited proposals, providing they’re well researched and offer creative solutions to your client’s problems, can be an extremely effective marketing campaign.
Some companies, particularly government agencies, actively encourage the submission of unsolicited business proposals.
If this is the case, they will likely have a review schedule and/or submission guidelines. So it might be worth checking those out and timing your proposal submissions accordingly.
What does a business proposal include?
So, what the heck should you put in your business proposal?
Well, we’re going to deep dive into detail further down, but for now, here’s the basic format to give you a better idea of the key elements that should be included in all business proposals, whether they’re solicited or not:
- Title or cover page.
- Table of contents (optional but useful for longer proposals).
- Executive summary
- Acknowledgement of the problem.
- Proposed solution / Outline of approach.
- Company information.
- Case studies and/or testimonials (optional but recommended).
- Terms and conditions.
- CTA / how to proceed.
Here’s a great video that talks you through what goes into a winning business proposal:
What’s the difference between a business proposal and a business plan?
People often get confused between these two documents, but they’re actually very different.
Proposals and plans differ greatly in both their purpose and their audience .
A business plan is all about you. It’s a document that provides details about your company’s strategy and demonstrates how you intend to grow. The intended reader of this document could be an investor or a bank manager, for example.
The idea of a business plan is to outline your goals, show that you know what you’re doing and that you’re worthy of investment. Therefore, in this document you might discuss how you intend to scale and how you will make and increase profits.
A business proposal is all about them . A business proposal is a document designed to sell your services to someone else.
While you can certainly use some of the information in your business plan to help you write a business proposal, the focus for your proposal should not be on you, but on whoever it is you’re trying to bag as a client.
A business proposal should therefore focus on how you intend to meet the potential client’s problem, how you can help them out or provide value to their business.
Another way to look at it, is that a business proposal is selling your services to clients and a business plan is selling your business to investors.
How to write a business proposal in 6 steps
Step 1 – make sure you have all the information you need.
The first thing you need to do is gather all of the information you need. Actually, scratch that. The very first thing you need to do is take a deep breath and relax.
Now that you’re nice and calm, let’s dive in. First things first. You’re going to be tempted to fly through the process for fear of missing out on the job. Don’t give in to the urge to panic and rush the business proposal!
While you certainly do want to submit your proposal as soon as possible, it’s far more important to do a good job on it.
You don’t want to spend your precious time putting together a business proposal only to realise that you’ve forgotten a crucial detail. So, be methodical and take your time.
Useful questions to ask before writing your business proposal:
Now, what information do you need to write this entire proposal? Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself before you begin writing:
- Have I spoken to the client? – Talking to the client helps you to build up a repore and get a really good grip on what they’re after.
- Do I fully understand the requirements? – Your client is a mine of information. Make sure you’ve gone through everything with them and thoroughly check any documentation you’ve been given. If you have a request for a business proposal, make sure you go over it carefully so that you understand exactly what your client wants.
- Can I deliver what they’re asking for? You need to make sure that you have a clear understanding of the problem / pain points and that you have a custom solution to offer.
- Is this the first attempt to solve this issue? – You don’t want to suggest something that’s already been tried. Looking at prior attempts and why they failed can provide a useful framework that could help you provide a better solution.
- Do I have any questions? – What further information do you need to submit an accurate and successful business proposal?
- Do I need to do some research? – Thorough research makes a great impression. Don’t be afraid to approach your potential clients’ staff, as well as researching your competitors to see if you can offer something that will make your business proposal stand out.
- Who will be reading the proposal? – Is it just one person, or will it be passed through a team? Knowing who you’re talking to will help you tailor your business proposal to your audience and increase your chances.
- Who is the final decision maker? Knowing who makes the final decision (and what boxes they need to check) can give you a great advantage.
- What are the budget and project timeline expectations? – When does the prospective client expect you to start and finish the project? How much are they willing to spend? If you can’t meet the clients budget or deadline then don’t submit a proposal.
Top tip: Customer Relationship Management
If you’re sending out multiple business proposals, you could probably benefit from using CRM (customer relationship management) software .
Basically what this does is allows you to keep track of all of your contacts, appointments and leads. It’s a useful tool for creating a comprehensive system to organise your proposals and your contact with clients.
There are tons of CRM providers out there. So, to save you some time, here are the top 5 CRM options (I highly recommend option 1 if you’re just getting started):
- Hubspot CRM – One of the top CRM services on the market, and it won’t ever cost you a penny! This free platform offers powerful tools that work for any industry or niche. It’s simple, quick, and easy to get started. Check out all the awesome features and benefits.
- Salesforce CRM – This software app lets you track all of your interactions under one umbrella. It is fully comprehensive, offers extensive sales and marketing solutions and is suitable for everyone from beginner to behemoth. Prices range from $25 to $300 per month.
- Freshsales – Freshsales is a global company with a fantastic reputation. Their CRM does a great job of combining organisation with analytics. The interface is simple to navigate, and the software allows you to easily keep track of, score, distribute and nurture thousands of sales leads. They do have a free forever option (Sprout), otherwise prices range from $12 to $79 a month
- Pipedrive. This fully mobile optimised system is praised for its co-operative capacity. It syncs well with Google Calendar, Google contracts and other Google apps. Pipedrive is a popular choice because it can also accommodate most third-party business apps. No freebies here I’m afraid (just a free trial). Prices range from $15 to $59 per month.
- bpm’online. Last but not least, this software is designed to help you streamline and boost productivity. The aim is to bridge the gap between marketing, sales and customer service. They offer 7 different packages ranging from $25 to $50 a month.
Step 2 – Sketch out the scope of the project
Once you have gathered all of the relevant information to write the business proposal, you should have everything you need to outline the scope of the project.
The scope of a project refers to the amount of work that needs to be completed to satisfy the clients requirements. Here’s a useful video that explains the concept (and the dreaded scope creep!):
To complete your scope outline , you need to develop a thorough understanding of what the work is going to involve. You should note down the various tasks to be completed along with any resources you’ll need.
At this point you should also assess how long the project is likely to take and begin taking costs into account.
Try not to get too bogged down with details at first. It’s better to treat it as a rough draft and then once you have your outline, you can flesh it out by filling in all of the details later. This is where a project plan template can help you outline your project in a structured way.
Here are some useful questions to help you create your outline:
Who will carry out the work?
Who will ensure the quality of the work?
Who will be the client’s point of contact?
What needs to be done?
What materials will you need?
What other resources will be required?
What resources do they already have?
What does the customer expect?
What will it cost?
How long will it take?
How will you approach the task?
How will you divide the work?
How will you ensure the client is happy?
How will you communicate?
How can you sell your solution?
Where will you be working?
Where will you get your materials?
Why have you chosen your particular solution?
Why should they hire you?
When can you start?
When will you meet your milestones?
When will you finish?
When will you expect payment?
Step 3 – Estimate the cost
Ok, so you’ve gathered all the information and you have successfully measured the scope of the project. Well done you! Now it’s time to start pricing up the job .
The best way to do this is to first figure out how much it’s going to cost you to do all of the work.
Make sure you include labour and material / equipment costs as well as things like transport. Try to be as accurate as possible and don’t forget to factor in any discounts for bulk buying etc.
You should already have a good idea of how long the job is going to take you, so factor in your labour costs accordingly.
A good rule of thumb is to multiply your estimated labour time by 1.5. This way you allow for any unexpected twists and turns in the project.
You can always make your client really happy by knocking these extra hours off the bill at the end of the project if they weren’t needed!
If the amount of time spent on a job iIs likely to vary (a construction worker may not know the full extent of a job until work has begun for example) then make sure that you include a caveat in your proposal that covers you for this.
Once you have all of your costing done it’s time to decide on your profit margin . This will vary depending on the type of business you are in. So, it’s probably best to do some research and check the industry standard.
Step 4 – Start writing your business proposal
You’ve done all the research, you’re prepared. Now it’s time to start writing. Gulp.
We’re going to break it down into the basic structure and take it step by step, starting with the cover.
Cover / title page
An attractive business proposal template makes your document more attractive.
Design matters. Given the option, 66% of people prefer to read something that’s well-designed instead of plain.
Even if your proposal is well written, offers a cost-effective creative solution and adds a ton of value, if your cover page looks like this:
It’s going to put people off.
You might think that design isn’t that important for a business proposal. All that really matters is the cost, right?.
We live in a highly visual world where design influences our decisions all the time .
For example, did you know that most people (96% to be exact) equate design with how trustworthy a businesses is?
Like it or not, looks matter and you will be judged on them. A great design speaks volumes about your business and if done correctly, interactive proposals can make a fantastic impression.
Design isn’t just about the visuals. It also extends to the layout of your document.
Poorly formatted proposals can be unappealing, confusing or hard to read. For an attractive proposal, you want to make sure that the document has a nice look and an appealing easy-to-digest layout:
Consider the alignment, spacing and the text sizes you’re using. The goal is to clearly present your ideas and make it easy to read.
As a general rule, you want to break up your text as much as possible. So, use plenty of headings, bullet point or numbered lists and images or graphs where appropriate.
Short paragraphs and sentences work better because they are easier to scan.
You don’t need to do anything fancy. In fact, simple designs usually work better for business proposals.
If you have a designer on your team or an eye for design yourself, then it’s well worth putting in the effort to create an enticing cover design for your next business proposal.
There are lots of companies that help you do this, such as Canva , Adobe spark , and Poster my Wall to name but a few.
Not creative? Not to worry.
For those of you without creative bones, there are hundreds of free templates available for you to make your own.
Check out this eyecatcher from proposify which is 100% customisable:
You can see that there is space (on the bottom right) for some information to be put on there.
So, what is the most important information you should include on your title / cover page?
- A snappy title page – putting “a proposal submitted to ABC for the purpose of XYZ” is a wasted opportunity. Remember that the goal here is to sell yourself, so think like a marketer and create some compelling copy .
- Your company logo
- Your name and contact information.
- Your client’s name.
- The name of the person you’re submitting the proposal to.
- The date of submission.
- Any useful reference numbers.
A word to the wise. If you’re using your own (or your client’s) logo on your title page, then make sure it’s a high resolution image.
There’s nothing worse than a grainy, insipid, poor quality image on the front of a proposal!
Introduction or cover letter
Whether you include your introduction in the main body of your report or send it separately as a covering letter is up to you.
In either case, you’ll want to keep this section fairly short. 1 or 2 paragraphs is fine:
Proposify – Architecture proposal template
Introduce yourself and your company in a couple of sentences. You may want to explain your background briefly.
Highlight your strengths and make it clear why you stand out. The tone should be friendly.
It helps if you can keep your clients needs in mind while you’re writing and present your strengths in a way that makes it clear how they can benefit from working with you.
Here’s an example of an effective cover letter:
Most people believe that this is where you present the project in a nutshell. Which is sort of right, but not quite.
You see, it’s more about selling than summarising.
While you do want to summarise your proposal, the main goal of the executive summary is not to provide a basic overview of the whole project, but rather to highlight why your proposed solution is the right one.
A good executive summary needs to be persuasive and benefit focussed. This is your opportunity to sell your solution to the client’s problem!
Focus on persuasion over description, use clear and straightforward language to make your points, and try to keep it short, less than 1 page is a good length.
This might be the first page your prospect ever reads, so make it count! Remember, you’ll have plenty of time to go into more detail later.
Start with something that grabs their attention and makes them want to keep reading.
Next, show that you have a clear understanding of the problem. Once you’ve done that, then you can show off your custom solution. Don’t forget to stress the benefits!
Figuring out how much detail to include here is tricky. You want to put some detail in there to back up what you’re saying, but not so much that it becomes a dull read.
It’s a balancing act and you’ll need to use your own judgement.
It’s a good idea to pop in a bit of social proof , and then round things off with a call to action.
Table of contents (optional)
Depending on how long your business proposal is, you may want to include a table of contents.
A table (showing the page number where each section can be found) will help the reader navigate your proposal more easily.
If your proposal includes industry-specific terms, you may also want to include a table that explains these.
The main body
This section will make up the majority of your proposal.
There’s a lot of information that needs to be included, so let’s break it down into smaller sub-sections that are easier to manage.
Approach / solution
Here’s where you delve into detail about your client’s problem and your solution to it.
You need to go through your entire process, detailing exactly how you intend to approach the problem and what results the client can expect.
You will need to demonstrate that you are aware of any potential challenges and ensure that your solution is customised to your potential client as much as possible.
It can be tempting, when you’re sending out lots of proposals, to just use the same one across the board.
But changing a few details, making the proposal feel more tailored, adds a personal touch that goes a long way to improving your results.
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What exactly do you intend to deliver?
It’s important to have an itemised list of everything that’s included in the price and a detailed description for each item on your list.
You may also want to split your deliverables along a timeline as in the following example:
It’s a good idea to break down the project into several phases. This gives the client a good idea of how the project is likely to progress.
Outline the key events and deliverables involved with each stage. Give a realistic time frame for each part of the project, and say who is responsible for each deliverable.
Budget & pricing
If you want to win clients and maintain good profit margins, you’ll need to price your jobs up accurately.
It’s a good idea to have an itemized table that clearly shows all of your costs.
The more specific and clear you can be about your pricing the better. A table like this is also a useful tool for negotiations later down the line.
This is where you really sell your company. Top tip – think like a storyteller and make it interesting.
If you have an about page on your website, you might want to use this as a resource. And if you don’t, it’s well worth checking out some of the best about us pages on the internet for inspiration.
Explain who you are and what your company is all about. Talk about your values, your team, (include bios and photos to sell your team’s expertise) and your journey.
Highlight your expertise and your USP.
If you have awards, social proof, testimonials or case studies feel free to put those in as well.
This section is all about familiarising the client with your business. You want your reader to feel like they know you and your company well.
Clients and references
This section is optional. However, including contact information for one or two past clients (make sure you ok it with them first) shows that you’re confident and can help to build trust.
If you have a bunch of particularly impressive success stories, you may want to include a slightly longer client list.
Terms & conditions / moving forward
The final section for your main body should first include your terms and conditions and then provide information / steps and a call to action for moving forward.
Your call to action might be an invitation to visit your website for example.
This section serves as a conclusion to the main body. Basically, you want to briefly reiterate how you can help, and go over what you and the client are both promising by agreeing to the business proposal.
Specify the duration of the agreement, the timescale for completion, and payment types and dates.
Proposify’s AdWords and PPC proposal template.
You’ll also want to include any caveats or disclaimers in this section.
Your disclaimers should make your potential client aware that the pricing is for the work stated in the proposal and that you reserve the right to charge more should any unforeseen circumstances arise.
Step 5 – edit and proofread
Once you’re done writing the proposal, you’ll want to go over it and check for any mistakes.
If possible, it’s best to get a fresh pair of eyes on it (or 2).
It’s also a good idea to run it through Grammarly or a similar program – just don’t rely on it completely as it will only pick up on basic spelling and grammar mistakes and not misused or unintended words.
A good test to check if your offer is well explained is to give the proposal to someone who doesn’t work in your industry and ask them if it’s clear what you’re offering.
If you want to be certain that your business proposal is mistake free, consider hiring a freelance proofreader / editor (with experience of dealing with business proposals) to check through it for you and provide some feedback.
Business proposal length
How long is a piece of string? Unfortunately, there’s no ideal length for a business proposal.
Some companies give out guidelines, but the length can still vary greatly depending on the industry and also on the depth and scope of the project.
Unsolicited proposals will generally be shorter than solicited – potential clients that have asked for a proposal are much more likely to sit down and read a longer document.
As a general rule, you want to keep it as short and succinct as possible, while still providing all of the necessary information and detail.
Your language should be clear and concise. It’s a good idea to use plain English and refrain from industry jargon and technical terms.
If you must use technical terms, then break them down to ensure that your reader understands them.
The easier your proposal is to understand, the easier it will be for the buyer to say yes!
How to keep your business proposal short and punchy
When it comes to proposal writing, a good tip to keep the length under control is to use economical sentences.
That means that your sentences should not contain any unnecessary words.
I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s an example of a sentence that is far too long winded and confusing:
For the purposes of adhering to the current regulations, I intend to take each and every precaution necessary in order to adequately fulfill the health and safety requirements.
If we get rid of all the unnecessary words and simplify the sentence, it now reads much more clearly:
Every precaution will be taken in line with health and safety regulations.
Here’s another example of a sentence that contains a lot of unnecessary words:
It’s important to plan ahead in order to avoid unexpected surprises and unintentional mistakes.
There are three words in the above sentence that don’t need to be there:
Ahead isn’t needed because planning always involves thinking ahead.
All surprises are unexpected , so that word doesn’t need to be there either.
It’s rare that someone makes a mistake on purpose so the word unintentional doesn’t belong.
If we take out the unnecessary words the sentence still makes complete sense:
It’s important to plan in order to avoid surprises and mistakes.
Why use “for the purpose of” when “for” will do? Why use “in the event of” when “if” is all you really need?
Check your proposal for unnecessary words and get rid of all the junk words from your sentences. Your proposal will be much more appealing and far better understood.
Also, avoid unnecessary repetition of words and phrases.
Another trick for proposal writing is to take out any tables and graphs and put them into an appendix at the end. Be sure to reference them in the main body of your text so that they are easy to find.
If you’re using examples to make a point, try to limit them to one or two. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re passionate about the results that you can deliver. So make your point (well) and move on.
Use appropriate language and tone
Have you noticed how many companies are dropping the formalities these days?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to adopt a stuffy and formal tone in your business proposal!
You want to be professional, of course.
But there’s nothing wrong with adding a bit of personality.
A friendly conversational style can make you more relatable and work wonders when it comes to winning bids.
Don’t be afraid to have fun, notice the language in the example below is both professional yet informal and playful:
Proposify’s SAAS proposal template.
Obviously, your choice of tone is going to be greatly influenced by the business you’re in.
Have a look at your company’s website. Have a read of their promotional materials. What sort of tone do they adopt?
Think about your target audience, and try to mimic the type of language they use. If you can, try to customise your tone for your reader, while also staying true to your brand.
Step 6 – send your proposal (and follow it up!).
How to submit your proposal.
Most of the time you’ll probably be sending your business proposals as an email attachment.
However, some businesses have a preferred submission process, so you should check whether that’s the case before you hit send.
If you have an RFP make sure you check it for instructions on how to submit.
It’s important to follow the directions exactly so that you don’t start off on the wrong foot.
You may be asked to log into a company’s portal or submit an application form that accompanies the proposal. Some companies may also ask for hard copies.
Some companies may even use submission guidelines as a test of your diligence.
For example, let’s say that the company you’re submitting to asks for the proposal to be formatted with double line spacing.
Any companies that miss this simple instruction will stand out a mile (and appear lax) and their proposal will be likely overlooked.
Even a perfect proposal can lose the contract if it’s submitted incorrectly.
How to follow up
People do business with people, not documents. That’s why it’s important to follow up with your client in order to keep the relationship going.
Ideally, your business proposal will have impressed your client so much that they will contact you back immediately. Unfortunately, this is rare.
They will likely have several proposals to look through and this could take some time.
So even though it’s hard, try not to jump down their throats too soon after you submit.
Once you’ve given them some time, drop them an email or give them a quick call.
Make sure they know that you’re available to answer any questions they may have about your proposal.
If you have submitted digitally and you have document analytics or email tracking software in place, then you’ll know when your proposal has been seen and you can time your follow up accordingly.
Business proposal templates
There are lots of companies that offer free business proposal software and templates. Some of them are terrible.
So, I’ve weeded those out and compiled a shortlist list of the 3 very best options.
Let’s take a look at them.
This is by far my favourite resource for a free business proposal template.
They currently have more than 70 free proposals to choose from, ranging from accounting advertising and architecture, to web design and wordpress development.
Their business proposals are well-written, well-designed and completely customisable.
They also seem to be adding new ones daily.
The proposals are organised into 6 main categories:
- Real estate.
- Professional services.
Let’s take a closer look at some of Proposify’s best business proposal templates.
Free template number 1
Proposify’s advertising proposal template.
This one is 11 pages long and has some great eye-catching designs which are perfect for those in the advertising industry where it’s all about grabbing people’s attention.
This is a great example of how well thought out the designs are on the Proposify options. Not only is this proposal well-designed, but it also suits the industry that it’s aiming for.
Sadly, not many companies put this much thought into the look and design of their proposals.
But, as we’ve already learnt in the cover page section, design is a crucial element of your business proposal. So this one gets two thumbs up!
Free template number 2
Proposify investment proposal template.
This is a page from inside the investment business proposal template. I like how the colour scheme reflects the serious nature of the finance industry but also adds a little fun design element.
Free template number 3
This 12 page business proposal template would be great for anyone in the food business. It has an introduction and about page, and options to showcase themes and previous work:
Proposify catering proposal template
Free template number 4
Proposify market research template
This 10 page offering for those in the marketing game is funky, fun and full of energy.
There’s plenty of space to explain the phases of your project and your overall methodology. There are also pages for introducing your team and including client testimonials.
Free template number 5
Proposify’s SEO proposal template.
Suitable for marketing agencies and freelancers, this 16 page business proposal template is chocked full of information that could save you a ton of time writing. The statement of work and contract at the end is also extensive.
Qwilr has some good modern designs.
There aren’t a huge range of business proposal examples to choose from (Less than 20 by my count), but the ones they do have are very good.
It’s quick and easy to knock one up and the proposals look clean and feel pretty slick.
If you use Qwlir, you can also set up notifications that tell you when your proposal has been viewed.
My only gripe with them is that you can’t easily separate the business proposals from the other documents they offer, which means it takes longer to find what you’re looking for.
I guess they just don’t have enough business proposals to warrant making an extra section for them on the website.
The best way to find them is to look through everything on the popular page. There is an option to select “business” but I found that when I did this, some of the proposals didn’t show up.
Despite the dodgy organisation, it’s well worth checking them out.
Here’s my top picks from Qwilr:
Free template number 6
Qwilr’s sales proposal template .
Video is so hot right now, which is why it’s great that you can easily incorporate video into this sales template. You can embed spreadsheets and slideshare presentations too.
On the whole, it’s very professional looking and feels current. I imagine that this would be a difficult one to say no to.
Free template number 7
Qwilr’s Marketing agency proposal
Those in the marketing biz will love this well-designed offering. This marketing agency proposal ticks all the boxes.
The design on this one somehow makes everything seem simpler and less overwhelming.
The images are great and text is good enough to base your ideas around (with just a few tweaks to customise).
Free template number 8
Qwilr’s Landscaping proposal template.
How nice does that lawn look?
The review summary in this vibrant landscaping proposal template is a nice touch and a good example of how you can include social proof.
As you would expect, there’s plenty of space in here to show off your proposed designs as well as previous work.
As this is a visual industry, this template contains more images than most. But there’s also room to go through the various services you offer and explain your pricing.
Free template number 9
Qwilr’s Advertising proposal template.
If you’re pitching your advertising skills, you might want to use this bold and simple template that focuses on results.
It’s clean, professional and the imagery is minimal, meaning there’s no distractions from the bottom line.
Free template number 10
Qwlr’s Photography proposal template.
This is a great format for freelance photographers. The tone is relaxed and the overall proposal comes across as friendly and inviting, which is exactly what you want if you’re looking to get booked for weddings and events.
PandaDoc has over 450 templates available. But, it’s not as easy to browse through them as it is with Proposify and the Designs aren’t quite as good as either Proposfy or Qwilr, which is why it gets the number 3 spot.
Free template number 11
This is a pricing page taken from PandaDoc’s copywriting template. It has a contents page, room for an introduction and includes an executive summary, testimonials and terms and conditions.
PandaDoc’s copywriting proposal template.
Their proposals are comprehensive and very professional looking.
The design element is somewhat lacking compared to Proposify however, and you’ll find that the same design is used again for different Industries:
PandaDoc’s web design proposal template.
Free template number 12
PandaDoc’s catering proposal template.
The catering proposal will get the job done. It has a nice design and contains lots of useful hints and tips.
There’s a handy table for keeping track of all the equipment needed, a place to break down the menu and to detail staffing and decoration requirements.
Free template number 13
PandaDoc’s IT Services proposal template.
This IT services proposal template is great for those who want to keep it short and sweet. There’s options to add images,video and pricing tables (although this may incur charges).
Free template number 14
PandaDocs sponsorship proposal template.
If you’re looking to pitch a sponsorship deal for an event, look no further than this template.
As with all of PandaDoc’s templates, It’s fully customisable, allowing you to add video and organise information in a way that works for you and appeals visually.
Free template number 15
PandaDoc’s Mobile app development proposal.
If you’re a budding app creator , this one could be ideal for you. This proposal has a nice simple design and contains plenty of useful information that provides a great framework for putting together a well thought out proposal aimed at the mobile app industry.
Decktopus is a new generation business proposal template creation tool that allows users to create good-looking, and living documents in no time.
The tool consists of more than 100 templates that are ready to use. All you need to bring is your content!
Decktopus allows you to share your business proposal template live, or you can also choose to embed the presentation on your website. The greatest feature of Decktopus is that you can easily connect with your clients or leads through the interactive forms that you can add to your business proposal template.
So, you can easily close the deal within the presentation with Decktopus!
Decktopus has over 100,000 users worldwide. Decktopus is climbing the stairs in becoming the fastest and most engaging business proposal & presentation creation tool for no-code creators and busy professionals or anyone who wants to share their know-how!
Let’s wrap this up
There you have it. If you have listened well, you should now have all the information you need to write an effective business proposal and follow up with potential customers.
So, what are you waiting for?
Scroll back up to the top and let’s get cracking!
Best of luck, I hope you nail it!
Read more: top 19 Venngage consultant business templates you could use right away.
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How to Write a Business Proposal in 7 Steps
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Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C company, you’re in the business of convincing customers to choose to spend their money with your business. For a B2B company that process usually involves a business proposal. In the B2B industry, once you've attracted new customers, which are most likely other businesses, you have to actually make a deal. Unlike B2C companies, who use marketing strategies and then hope their customers respond and purchase their product and service, there's a little more involved in this exchange. That's where your business proposal will come into the picture.
Luckily, even though your process and the exact format for 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 kind of proposal you're writing, how you should organize it, and what information you should include.
How to write a b usiness proposal: 7 essential steps to follow
With these starting points in mind, let's get down to the process. Whether you’re just learning how to write a business proposal, or want to change up the one you’ve already been using, you’ll want to break down writing into a step-by-step approach. The organization is key when you’re writing a business proposal—structure will not only help you answer the core questions mentioned above, but it’ll also help you create consistent, successful proposals every time you’re pitching new business.
This being said, when writing a business proposal, you can break down the document into these sections:
Table of contents
Deliverables and milestones
Bonus: Appendix (if necessary)
Step 1: Introduction
The introduction to your business proposal should provide your client with a succinct 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’s particularly well-suited to be the selected vendor to undertake a job—whether the assignment is a singular arrangement or an ongoing relationship.
The most effective business proposal introductions accomplish more with less: It’s important to be comprehensive without being overly wordy. 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 outline 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 introduced your business and why you're the right fit for the client you're submitting the proposal to (a quasi-cover letter), you'll want to next create a table of contents. Like any typical table of contents, this section will simply outline what the client can expect to find in the remainder of the proposal. You'll include all of the sections that we'll cover below, simply laid out as we just did above.
If you're sending an electronic proposal, you may want to make the table of contents clickable so the client can easily jump from section to section by clicking the links within the actual table of contents.
Step 3: Executive summary
Next, your business proposal should always include an executive summary that frames out answers to the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions that you’re proposing to the client lead. Here, the client will understand that you understand them.
It's important to note that despite the word "summary," this section shouldn't be a summary of your whole business proposal. Instead, this section should serve as your elevator pitch or value proposition. You'll use the executive summary to make an explicit case for why your company is the best fit for your prospect’s needs. Talk about your strengths, areas of expertise, similar problems you’ve solved, and the advantages you provide over your competitors—all from the lens of how these components could help your would-be client’s business thrive.
Step 4: Project details
When it comes to how to write a business proposal, steps four through six will encompass the main body of your proposal—where your potential client will understand how you’ll address their project and the scope of the work.
Within this body, you'll start by explaining your recommendation, solution, or approach to servicing the client. As you get deeper within your explanation, your main goal will be to convey to the client that you’re bringing something truly custom to the table. Show that you've created this proposal entirely for them based on their needs and any problems they need to solve. At this point, you'll detail your proposed solution, the tactics you’ll undertake to deliver on it, and any other details that relate to your company’s recommended approach.
Step 5: Deliverables and milestones
This section will nest inside the project details section, but it’s an essential step on its own.
Your proposal recipient doesn’t get merely an idea of your plan, of course—they get proposed deliverables. You'll outline your proposed deliverables here with in-depth descriptions of each (that might include quantities or the scope of services, depending on the kind of business you run). You never want to assume a client is on the same page as you with expectations, because if you’re not aligned, they might think you over-promised and under-delivered. Therefore, this is the section where you'll want to go into the most detail.
Along these lines, you can also use this section of the prospective client's proposal to restrict the terms and scope of your services. This can come in handy if you’re concerned that the work you’re outlining could lead to additional projects or responsibilities that you’re not planning to include within your budget.
Moreover, you might also want to consider adding milestones to this section, either alongside deliverables or entirely separately. Milestones can be small, such as delivery dates for a specific package of project components, or when you send over your first draft of a design. Or, you can choose to break out the project into phases. For longer projects, milestones can be a great way to convey your company’s organization and responsibility.
Step 6: Budget
There’s no way around the fact that pricing projects isn’t easy or fun—after all, you need to balance earning what you’re worth and proving value, while also not scaring away a potential client, or getting beaten out by a competitor with a cheaper price. Nevertheless, a 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 proposal writing.
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 proposed solutions, and what kind of work (and costs) are involved. 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-on 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: Appendix (optional)
After the conclusion, you might also decide to include an appendix—where you add any supplemental information that that either doesn’t fit within the main proposal without being disruptive for the reader, or is less than essential to understanding the main components of your proposal. You’ll likely only need an appendix if you have stats, figures, illustrations, or examples of work that you want to share with your potential client. This being said, you might 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 the conclusion section.
Business proposal considerations
Before you dive into determining how to write a business proposal that will give you a competitive edge, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
First, you'll want to make sure that you’re accomplishing the right objectives with your proposal. When writing a business proposal, you’re trying to walk a line between both promoting your company and addressing the needs of your would-be client, which can be difficult for any company to do.
This being said, you'll want to remember that a business proposal is different than a business plan, which you likely already wrote for your company when you were starting your business. Your business plan spells out your company's overall growth goals and objectives, but a business proposal speaks directly to a specific could-be client with 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'll need to establish your internal objectives and how these will contribute to the work you're proposing. To explain, you'll need to consider the following:
What tasks will need to be done for this work?
Who will do each task, and oversee the job at large?
What you’ll charge for the job?
Where will the work be delivered?
When will it be done?
Why are you the best fit for the job the client needs to be accomplished?
How will you achieve results?
Not only are these questions at the heart of clear and concise writing, but you also won't be able to write your business proposal without answers to them. So as you're going through the different pieces of your business proposal, keep in mind the objectives of your business, while also remaining persuasive regarding why the potential client should work with you instead of someone else.
The next important thing you'll need to keep in mind before you start writing a business proposal is what kind of proposal are you writing. Essentially, there are two types of business proposals—solicited proposals where someone requested the proposal from your company—and unsolicited proposals, where you're sending the document to another business unprompted.
In the case of solicited proposals, often called RFPs (short for a request for proposal), it’s likely that this potential client already knows at least a little about your business. With these kinds 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 on making your proposal feel custom to their specific brief, project, or problem. On the whole, the less generic your business proposal is, the more likely you are to win the work.
Unsolicited proposals, on the other hand, are much harder to sell.
As you’re writing a business proposal to a company that doesn’t know they may need your services, you’ll want to focus on getting them to understand why your company is specifically unique. You want to show them that you can add significant value to their business that they don’t already have. If there is currently someone performing the function you would like to, the sell will even be more difficult.
Business proposal examples
So, now that we've gone through all of the steps to show you how to write a business proposal, let's discuss some examples. As you go through the writing process, you might find it's helpful to consult external resources to review business proposal samples or templates and see how other businesses have structured these types of documents. Specifically, it might be even more helpful to review business proposal examples that relate to your particular industry—such as marketing, advertising, or finance.
General business proposal sample
If you're looking for a general business proposal example, you might consult BPlan, which offers advice, examples, and templates for the documents that are required to plan and operate a small business. In the BPlan sample, BPlan breaks their example into three overarching parts—a problem statement, a proposed solution, and a pricing estimate. This may be a good place to start if you're writing a business proposal for the first time and need a simple, general example to follow.
For a solicited proposal or RFP, you may want to reference a business proposal example that specifically operates under the assumption that you've been asked for this proposal. In this case, you may check out one of the downloadable RFP templates from Template Lab.
Template Lab offers both Word and PDF versions of their templates—and these business proposal samples will include sections more appropriate for RFPs including terms and conditions, scheduling, and points of contact.
Business proposal template services or software
For the most advanced and plug-and-play type business proposal samples, you may decide to utilize a service like Proposify or PandaDoc. These software services allow you to choose from their library of professionally designed and outlined business proposal examples (which are also usually industry-specific) and customize the template for your business's needs.
It's important to note, however, that although you may be able to sign up for a free trial for 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 as they relate specifically to what your prospect needs. As you go through the process again and again, however, it will become easier and easier to write a succinct and effective business proposal.
This being said, there are a few best practices you can keep in mind to help you as you get started:
1. Be direct.
Although you might feel the urge to show off your language skills while trying to impress a client, when you’re writing a business proposal, tour best bet to win business is to be clear, concise, and direct. You won't want to use overly flowery language or anything that could possibly be misconstrued.
2. Don’t leave room for ambiguity.
You'll want to make sure your proposal is straightforward and easy to understand, with no room for misinterpretation around what you say you’ll do or deliver.
Therefore, you'll want to avoid overly complicated industry jargon to be sure your client can understand exactly what you're talking about and what it means within the scope of your (and their) business.
3. Write for the right audience.
If you were writing a proposal for a specialty food business, it shouldn't look or sound exactly the same as if you were writing a proposal for an asset management company. You'll always want to keep your audience in mind as your craft and develop your proposal.
Ultimately, your best bet is to be straightforward, clear, and stick to the details, but you also shouldn't be afraid to tailor your writing to your audience so that your client feels that the proposal has truly been created with their business in mind.
This being said, your proposal should show that you not only understand your potential client but that you also respect them professionally.
4. Consider a title page.
Although this may not be necessary for a shorter business proposal, a title page can help with the general organization, flow, and professional feel of your document.
Like a title page for any other type of report, this one-page cover sheet would precede the remainder of your proposal and would likely include your business's name, contact information, and logo, as well as who you're submitting the proposal to.
Depending on your business or the potential client you're submitting the proposal to, you might decide that a title page is unnecessary, however, it's worth keeping in mind that it may be something to visually draw in your reader from the start.
5. Err on the side of brevity.
Finally, within the world of business proposals, shorter is usually better. This isn't to say, of course, that you should leave out details or omit important sections—it simply means that you should try to find the most succinct way to say what you need to say and get your point across to the potential client.
The bottom line
There's no doubt about it—learning how to write a business proposal is a lot of work. Luckily, 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 as you do it again and again, it will only become easier.
This being said, as you go through the lifecycle of your business, you'll begin to accumulate a library of business proposals that you can continuously reference and use to develop your pitching strategy and writing process based on proposals that have and have not worked. And, hopefully, by taking the time to invest in this business proposal process, you'll be winning the work you need to grow your business.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.
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FREE 6+ Sample Informal Proposal Templates in PDF | MS Word
When you present something informally like you do often in the cover letters in email marketing campaigns, you can actually do a neat job. An informal presentation has its own beauty and advantages. Often it lets you present a business or scheme in a friendly tone, without getting into too much of detailing, and yet keeping the whole things compact, precise, clean and attractive. This form of presentation just keeps to the important points without stretching any point or exaggerating much. Templates help you keep up to the requirements easily. You may also like Product Proposal Templates .
Informal Proposal Template
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The informal business proposal, which you would often say in a friendly tone and in a light way, is the best way to start with when you do not want to scare off the prospective investor. The best way then is to seek help of a template which will let you express the proposal casually, while keeing it smart and to the point.
Informal Proposal Letter Template
Size: 119 KB
The informal proposal letter is just a light weight casual way to say something, which you would otherwise say in a much serious and formal tone. Often this serious tone can be avoided to make things easy, and this is what the objective of informal writing is. Templates guides better.
Informal Written Proposal Template
Size: 128 KB
When you have to give something in writing, or establish some point or logic in writing for some official purpose while keeping the tone easy and casual, you can use these templates. They are to bring an easy informal approach to a serious thing, thus making it look fun and acceptable.
Importance of Informal Proposal Template
Size: 200 KB
Often situation arise, when you feel that it’s better approaching the informal way than to say it in a formal and professional tone. Often it happens that saying something informally makes it a lot easier to materialize things than keeping it formal. Any such informal approach is yet again to be monitored as you have to keep the proposal language and attitude within a certain limit of decency and professionalism. To help it there, the templates do a great job.
Sample Informal Proposal Template
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Informal Review Proposal Template
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Simple Informal Proposal
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When do you need the Template
When you are ready to express certain things before your clients or the management in a semi formal or informal tone, and need the help of some guide or pattern, then the templates come to use. You can make great use of the templates and turn out something grave and serious into a much light weight and presentable fact. Informal presentation has several advantages and they are evident when you reach a certain goal or can persuade someone on a point through this pattern of proposal. One of the best things you can do is download a template and try the pattern on some casual event.
How to use the Informal Proposal Template
Lots of interesting and informal templates are available online and you can download them free. The templates will help you get a better understanding of the casual and informal way you can address certain problems and facts. To start with you can download and read one, and understand the structure. Then you can start by elaborating the points, and adding your own. Finally you can remove points which are insignificant. Once the templates are customized, you can keep it secure for future uses of more informal proposal makings. You may also like Price Proposal Templates .
If you are planning to propose something to a higher authority or to some other clients etc, while keeping the tone light weight and informal, then you can use this form and template, the informal proposal tinplates are to present something in a casual way without making it very heavy weight.
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What is a Formal Business Proposal and How to Write an Amazing One
With so many businesses competing for the same clients, your ability to create exciting and persuasive formal business proposals that stand out and communicate your business's expertise and value will have a huge impact on the success of your business.
Creating and presenting formal business proposals will be will be one of your main tools for acquiring new clients, especially in B2B sales. The key is to make your business proposals stand out so the client wants to buy from your company. Your company may be more experienced and provide a better solution than your competitors, but if your business proposals are boring and unable to impress potential clients and separate you from your competitors, your ability to acquire new clients is going to be very difficult.
What is a Formal Business Proposal
Simply put, a formal business proposal is strategic sales-based business document that you use to present your company and the solution you want to offer to a potential client to persuade them to buy from your company instead of buying from one of your competitors.
Sometimes a formal business proposal needs to be prepared in response to a RFP ( Request for Proposal ). A RFP is when a company, organization, or government agency sends out a document (their RFP) outlining a product or service they want to buy, and then they invite qualified businesses to send formal business proposals that detail why they are the best vendor to supply that product or service.
What is the Purpose of a Formal Business Proposal
Businesses, organizations, and government agencies request that businesses send them business proposals as part of a formal selection process for buying goods and services, be it a product (e.g. office desks) or a service (e.g. management consultation). The purpose of a business proposal is to make a logical argument for why your company is the best choice for supplying that product or service.
While some business proposals are little more than a basic price quote that is mainly focused on the proposed fee for selling a product or service, most business proposals must cover a very wide range of factors other than price. Here are the most important business proposal elements:
- Explain how your company will meet the exact needs of the company who wants to buy the product or service. You need to present a strong solution that details exactly how you will implement your solution and why it will work. To increases your chances of winning the sale, you’ll need to present a customized solution based on the company’s RFP and your own research.
- Explain why your solution is the best solution to fulfill the client's needs. This potential client probably has probably received business proposals from several of your competitors. You need to explain why your solution is the best choice and provides the most value to the client.
- Explain what are the expected costs for implementing your solution. If it is a product, explain how much it will cost and provide justification for that cost. If you are selling a service, explain your pricing methodology and why your service provides great value and ROI based on the results you will achieve for the client. A formal business proposal, unlike a price quote, is focused on the value and return on investment you will provide to your client. You may have the highest costs, but if you explain clearly how the client benefits more from buying from you than your competitors (more value, higher ROI), you will have a very good chance at winning the sales contract.
- Explain how much time it will take for you to complete the project. Companies operate under strict timelines, so it’s important that they know exactly how much time it will take for you to implement your solution or deliver your product.
- Provide proof to confirm why you are the absolute best choice for this project. Here is where you explain your experience, capabilities, past awards, and any other supporting materials you have that prove the quality of your product/service and the results you acheive for your clients. It’s not just about listing all your skills and knowledge areas. You need to align them exactly to your client’s needs. If for instance the client wants onsite technology support, you can mention your experience related to the technology systems they use and provide case studies and references to prove how you have helped other similar companies solve the exact same problem this potential client wants to solve.
- Include any other additional information requirements specified in the RFP . Business proposals may also include credentials, certifications, staffing plans, and any other important information required by the RFP.
What Makes a Winning Business Proposal?
A business proposal is essentially a very high quality and in-depth sales presentation. You are selling your business's products or services to a prospective buyer and trying to prove to that buyer why they should choose your company instead of one of your competitors.
A winning business proposal will explain why your business has the resources, expertise, and experience to meet a client's exact needs.
A winning business proposal directly addresses the decision maker within the client's company using persuasive language, well-laid out plans, and a solid understanding of the company’s measurable goals.
To make your formal business proposal stand out as being unique, visually attractive, and far superior to the proposals of your competitors, it is highly recommend that you use professional business proposal software such as ClientPoint to create an interactive multi-media business proposal.
While your competitors will be sending them boring pdf files that all look the same, with ClientPoint you can create technologically advanced multi-media business proposals that will make your company look far more advanced and professional than your competitors, and getting that extra boost that makes you stand out will most likely be the difference between you winning and losing a sales contract.
For more information on writing business proposals, here is a step by step article we wrote on how to write a business proposal .
Win more clients by creating impressive digital business proposals, price quotes, and contracts using ClientPoint Software
If you want your business proposals, price quotes, and contracts to stand out and give you the best chance at winning new clients, use ClientPoint's business proposal software . It makes creating and formatting professional business proposals, price quotes, and contracts fast and easy. Click the button below to get a FREE demo of ClientPoint.
Your business proposal is probably lackluster. here's how to make it visually breathtaking to win new clients, how to write a proposal, proposal writing tips, what is a business proposal and how to write it for b2b sales, headquarters.
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Carlisle rebuffs Kingspan Group's proposal for tie-up, Bloomberg reports
Sept 10 (Reuters) - Construction materials manufacturer Carlisle Companies (CSL.N) has rebuffed Ireland-based Kingspan Group's (KSP.I) informal approach to combine the companies, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.
Kingspan had proposed a deal in recent months, which Scottsdale, Arizona-based Carlisle rejected, but Carlisle signaled it would be open to at least reviewing a more attractive offer, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Kingspan is not working on a formal takeover bid currently, the report said, adding that it could trigger fresh interest from the Irish company as well as other building materials rivals if Carlisle did explore a sale.
Kingspan did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Carlisle could not be immediately reached for a comment.
As on Friday, the market capitalization of Kingspan Group and Carlisle was 13.4 billion euros ($14.34 billion) and $12.55 billion respectively.
($1 = 0.9347 euros)
Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler and Will Dunham
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Fc barcelona and lamine yamal agree to seven-year contract extension plan: reports.
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FC Barcelona will look to tie Lamine Yamal up for at least seven years.
FC Barcelona have an informal agreement with teenage prodigy Lamine Yamal and his agent Jorge Mendes to commit to the club for at least the next seven years according to Mundo Deportivo .
The 16-year-old has become one of the hottest prospects in world football after making his first team debut still aged 15.
Before the weekend, he represented Spain's senior national team against Georgia breaking the records for youngest appearance maker and goalscorer - both previously set by Barca teammate Gavi - when featuring and scoring in a 7-1 Euro 2024 qualifiers rout.
Once the Andalusian emerged on the scene from La Masia, eventually winning the prestigious Golden Boy award, the Catalans did all they could to successfully tie Gavi down until 2026 through fresh terms that also came with a €1 billion ($1.069 billion) release clause attached.
Barca have similar plans for Lamine Yamal, except his situation differs to Gavi's in that the midfielder was already 18 when he put pen to paper.
In Lamine Yamal's case, he can only extend for another three years as is because of his age.
Yet according to Mundo Deportivo , Barca have a gentleman's agreement with the player's camp led by super agent Jorge Mendes to then extend for another five seasons until 2030 when he turns 18 in 2025.
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This would secure Lamine Yamal until the eve of his 23rd birthday at least, and Barca will hope that fears from AS correspondent Javi Miguel don't come to fruition.
Thanks to his father's status as a flag-waving Real Madrid fan, there are concerns that the player could be pushed towards Los Blancos and break Barca hearts in 2030 like Luis Figo did at the turn of the century when switching between the eternal rivals.
On the international stage, Spain are already making huge strides to ensure that they don't lose Lamine Yamal to his father's homeland Morocco.
The winger might star for La Roja again as they host Cyprus Tuesday night, and Lamine Yamal would then be just a single competitive fixture cap off completing the required three under FIFA rules that mean one can't go on to play for another country afterwards.
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