A business proposal is an important way of selling your company’s goods or services to a client—either a company or an individual. Sometimes you may send a business proposal to a potential client unsolicited; other times a business will send you an RFP (request for proposal) (1). Whatever the situation, knowing how to write a precise, informative, and effective business proposal is imperative. Here I lay out four steps to make your business proposals shine:
1. Make sure the job is doable: Before you start writing a business proposal, you need to make sure that your business will be able to meet the client’s needs. You need to make sure that you understand exactly what the client is asking for. Often clients don’t know exactly what the job they’re asking for entails, so make sure that you do. Writing a proposal for a job that your company can’t do will end in embarrassment and will be bad for your company’s reputation.
2. Evaluate how your business will meet the client’s needs: Once you’ve decided that your business is capable of meeting the client’s needs, figure out exactly how your business will do the job. Decide how much money you will charge to your client and decide all of the steps your business will take to complete the job. The more information you give the client, the more comfortable they will feel accepting your proposal.
3. Decide how you will outshine your competitors: You will almost always have competitors who are also proposing their services to your potential client. You need to decide what your company can do that its competitors cannot. Ask yourself why the client would choose your services over those of other companies.
4. Write a well-written proposal: Shervin Freed, coauthor of Writing Winning Business Proposals (McGraw-Hill) said: "To me, good writing is symptomatic of your basic abilities. Poor writing and poor grammar would make me ask, 'How good can these people be if they can't even express themselves intelligently?'" (1). Not only does the information in your proposal need to be adequate and precise, it needs to be presented in writing without grammatical or structural errors. Take great pains to make your business proposal fantastic. Write it meticulously and then proofread it several times over. After you’ve finished proofreading it, have at least two other people proofread it several times.
To summarize: first make sure that your business can accomplish the job the client needs done, then decide how your company will do the job, next decide how you will stand out among your competitors, then finally present all of this information in a crystal-clear, cleanly written business proposal. Follow this four-step formula and your business will attract loyal, long-term clients.