Are you thinking about creating a business proposal template that you can use to sell more of your product or service?
And what is a business proposal, anyway? Putting a great one together can help you grow your business. Read on to find out what to include.
A business proposal is a document you send to a potential client to convince them to give you a particular job or contract.
It’s different from a business plan, which outlines your whole business idea before you start.
In some cases, a client will put out a request for proposal (RFP), asking you to state your case as to why you’re the best firm for the job. This is called a solicited business proposal.
In other cases, you might instigate the work by sending an unsolicited business proposal to a potential client. Or it may be something in between these two, where the idea comes up in a conversation and the client asks you to submit a proposal.
To help with sending future proposals, you might want to create a business proposal template. You can then edit it each time to make it specific to the business you’re pitching to.
For a business proposal to help you get the work you’re bidding for, it’ll usually need to include the following points. However, the client may have set out clear guidelines as to what proposal format they'll accept.
If the layout hasn't been set in stone, use these eleven points to create your basic business proposal template.
Include a title page to introduce your business and keep your document neat and tidy, giving a good first impression of the way you do business.
This should be well-designed, so include some imagery and text that addresses the client.
Treat this as an introduction – instead of going in cold, include a letter outlining your business and your proposal, keeping it friendly and positive in tone.
Let your potential client see at a glance what's included in your document and, if possible, make this section clickable so they can easily jump to any sections they want to re-read.
As a small business owner, you understand better than most how precious busy working people’s time can be. Keep this short, making it a high-level overview of the problem, the expected outcome, an overview of the solution, and a call to action.
Make sure that you avoid jargon throughout your executive summary (and business proposal as a whole), instead being clear and concise. If you use a term that you know you’d have to explain to your friends who aren’t in the industry, try to reword it for clarity.
This is the part where you identify the gap that you’re going to fill. What’s your client’s problem and how are you going to solve it? It’s a good place to summarise your goals.
Don’t elaborate too much on your business, keeping it specific to your business proposal itself – and how it benefits your client.
How are you going to address the specific needs of the client? This is where you go into the finer details of what products or services the client will get out of your proposal and when they'll get them.
Be clear and detailed about what you’re offering, as well as how you’re going to get the work done – and how you’ll be held accountable. Both parties should be able to refer back to the document during the work to make sure that what was agreed is being done.
Then draw up a timeline to bring your proposal to life for the client and focus on developing a realistic delivery plan. More time is always better for you. But if your client has a specific date in mind (perhaps they’re launching a new product and your proposal is going to support it), then be sure to work to that.
This is your opportunity to sell your business as the best one for the job. What sets you apart from the competition? Let the client know about your experience of working on similar jobs, by using case studies. They’ll also be reassured to read bios of the person or people they'll be working with, as well as positive testimonials from customers you’ve worked with in the past.
This self-explanatory section should let the client know how much it'll cost to put your proposal into action and what you expect the return to be. It's important to find the balance between overestimating (and scaring the client off) and underestimating (and disappointing the client) here.
Use this section to lay out what the client can expect from you and your business by agreeing to your proposal. This is a good place to set expectations as to payment and delivery dates.
Include a section where the client can formally agree to your proposal, with a gentle call to action to encourage them to sign.
You can make it as easy as possible for them to agree to your business proposal. For example, why not add a ‘Sign up today’ call to action, with a box that your client can add their signature to?
If you want to go for a less hard sell, let them know how to arrange a phone call to discuss your proposal further. Again, you can include a box that lets your client enter their availability.
Do you have any reports or other forms of evidence to back up what you’ve said in the rest of your proposal? This is the place to include them.
There are a few basic questions to ask when writing a business proposal. They may seem obvious, but it’s always worth double-checking.
Does your proposal make sense? Read it once, read it twice – and get a second pair of eyes to read it again.
Does your proposal provide value to the customer? The proposal that gives the client the greatest value will win the work, so make sure it’s yours.
Have you really understood what the customer needs? You may have a great idea, but it may not be aligned with what the customer wants – be sure to consider this.
Have you fully explained how you’ll fulfill those needs? If a client is going to give you work, they’ll need reassurance that you know what you’re doing – a detailed plan can help set their mind at ease.
Is your proposal visually appealing? If you send your proposal electronically, you can include visual content such as videos and images to bring your proposal to life for the client, and really set your document apart from the rest.
We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer
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