How to Write a Business Proposal: Step-by-Step

Learn how to write a business proposal that will demonstrate the value your company provides and why a potential customer should choose you.

You can have the most capable team offering the best products and services in the world; but, you won't capture customer interest if your prospects don't understand what problems you are helping them solve. A business proposal can provide everything from the initial background information to case studies to pricing and deliverables in a neat and compelling package.

Our step-by-step guide will help you develop a proposal that shows a clear understanding of a client's needs, and why you are the best to address them.

Step 1. Create a Title Page and Table of Contents

How to write a business proposal?

First impressions matter. Balance professionalism with engagement by setting the tone with a title page that draws them in. Your title page should include:

  • Your business name
  • The name of the project you are proposing
  • The client's name
  • The date
  • The name, contact information and title of the person who submitted the proposal

Once inside, the client should see a clear and concise table of contents. It can help to write this part first, but go back and edit after you have written the rest of the proposal. This way, you can be sure it is accurate and descriptive.

Step 2. Write an Executive Summary

An executive summary is like an elevator pitch. It explains quickly and succinctly why you are sending this proposal and why your proposed solution is the right one for the client. This section should be under a page; ideally, it should encompass just a couple of paragraphs.

Be sure to convey both what your company does as a whole and the specific service you are proposing. For instance, a proposal from a marketing agency that wishes to offer social media promotion to a jewelry designer may look like this:

This proposal outlines a plan to increase Clever Pins' visibility on platforms that include Pinterest and Instagram. We'll provide you with engaging photography of your items along with researched hashtags and optimized descriptions. We will also regularly interact with fans of your brand to strengthen relationships.

Quick Fox Marketing has made a name for ourselves in the social media promotion space. We have elevated brands in the fashion, lifestyle and travel niches. Our portfolio shows how our quality work sets us apart.

Keep the description of your brand and services brief and focus on benefits over features. Think about the stakeholders and decision-makers, and what is most likely to appeal to them. There is time later in your proposal to expand on the specifics of your background and experience.

If you spend too much time early on describing your company, your reader may not stay engaged through the entire proposal. By focusing on their needs and what you can do for them, you keep them interested long enough to make a decision to engage your services.

Step 3. Expand on Your Client's Problem or Need

This is a place to discuss the problem that your company's efforts addresses. A lean startup, for instance, may need outside help to deal with marketing since they do not keep someone on staff full-time to deal with the role. This, in turn, can lead to excessive or undirected expenditures.

When you are outlining the problem, be as specific as possible. Use statistics, industry-wide figures, and the results of surveys and research.

As an example, a company that offers fractional CMO services may write:

In a lean startup, every dollar counts. But, that means that you can't spare the expense for full-time C-Suite level talent. In a recent survey, 70% of CEOs of small, first-year startups said that they did not plan to hire a full-time chief marketing officer. In the same survey, 65% of respondents said that they did not have a well-articulated marketing plan.

This section is critical, as it provides a smooth way to segue into your company's abilities and how they can solve the problem your prospect is experiencing. 

Step 4. Propose How Your Business Can Provide a Solution

How to write a business proposal?

This is where you make your pitch. Again, be specific in your solutions. Let the customer know what deliverables you will provide, your methodology, the milestones your project will go through, and the timeframe for when your new client can expect them. In most cases, it makes sense to use bullet points to explain your solution clearly and succinctly.

Returning to the example of the social media marketing company above, solutions in their business proposal could include:

  • assessing the client's current social media presence.
  • updating their profiles to reflect current best practices.
  • tracking metrics for 90 days.
  • reporting on improvements.
  • making recommendations for continuation after that point.

Use active voice and describe what you will do for them. A great proposal is one that makes the reader understand the ways that your business will go to work for them. 

Step 5. Explain the Qualifications That Make Your Business the Right Choice

Now is the time to talk more about yourself. Details in this section should still be focused on client needs but can go further into your background and history. You have probably already written some of what would belong here in your business's “About Us” page on your website.

Be as specific as possible when describing your qualifications, using numbers whenever it makes sense. Detail the experience that is most relevant to your potential customer. Some details you could include in this section include:

  • the number of years you have been in business.
  • the number of clients who you have served.
  • awards or accolades your team members or company have received.

Step 6. Demonstrate Through Case Studies How You Have Helped Businesses Like Theirs

Your case studies should be stories that tell the tale of a problem your client was experiencing, and how your services solved it. For example, if you are offering business automation services, you can include a short case study from a client in a similar industry who needed similar services. Case studies should be brief and engaging. An example opening paragraph could go:

Pickle Industries was doubling their customer base every six months. The problem was, their workload was doubling with it. We identified five processes that could be automated, freeing their valuable personnel to dedicate themselves to the work that would continue to propel their company forward. 

Step 7. Provide Pricing Options

This step is delicate. While you do not want to price yourself out of the market, you also do not want to waste your or your client's time if your offerings are outside their budget. One way to navigate this is to offer a few different packages at different price points. 

As an example, the social media company above could offer a basic package that includes daily tweets and 50 product photos, a midsize one that has an additional channel and more options, and a deluxe package that includes five hours a week of interaction with fans of the brand. 

Step 8. Explain Your Terms and Conditions

This is the place to go deeper into projected timelines, payment schedules, and other details. Be sure to clear the terms and conditions in your proposal with your legal team before you send them to the client. Be as clear as possible when explaining terms. This way, no one is surprised later on by any misunderstandings about deadlines or payment terms. 

Step 9. Create a Place for Them to Sign and Agree to Work Together

At this stage, it is time to include a signature box and what the client is agreeing to if they decide to sign on with you.

Think of this as a final call to action. You know what you want them to do (hire you for the project) and this is where they take the final step to make that happen.

Including some wording along these lines can help:

If you agree to the terms in our proposal, please sign and date below.

The Final Word About How To Write A Business Proposal

Every time you approach a new potential client, you should write a new business proposal for them. This is because each proposal should be tailored to fit the exact needs of the client and the exact services that will solve their dilemma. A successful proposal will use the sorts of language that will most appeal to the target audience. It will be written specifically to address what they need and how you can provide it. You might also find our guide on how to make an online writing portfolio helpful.

FAQs About How to Write a Business Proposal

What is an RFP?

RFP stands for “request for proposal.” If you receive one of these, study it carefully before creating your business proposal. Make sure your proposal includes all of their requested elements.

How is a business proposal different from a business plan?

A business plan is constructed before you go into business. It describes how you will fund and run your entire business. Business plans are often created for potential investors. A business proposal, by contrast, is a proposal written to a specific potential customer about services or products you want to supply.

What is the format of a project proposal?

There is no one accepted format. We've provided a guide to elements that should be included. When writing a proposal, it is a good idea to research proposal examples online. By looking at what has worked for others, you can increase your own chances of success. 

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