Being able to write a business proposal is a basic skill every entrepreneur should have.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There’s a lot that goes into drafting an excellent proposal, and your boss likely won’t take the time to outline what that is for you. If you’re tired of having your business proposals rejected, there are some things you should know.
1. You must understand the client.
There’s no way you can help to outline a solution to a problem if you don’t have a clear understanding of the client’s problem and what they want from a good business proposal. It’s rare that you’ll know exactly what the client wants right away if you’ve never worked for them before, but as you continue to draft your proposal, you’ll begin to gain a clearer idea of who they are and what they want.
The best way to come to an understanding of a client and their needs is through conversation. Talk to them about their concerns, operating policies, management philosophies, and anything else that’s relevant to your project. If there have been previous attempts to reach the goal you’re working towards, you can use that information to shape your proposal into something they need before they even realize it.
2. Clearly outlining the solution is the most important part.
The purpose of writing a proposal is to outline a solution to a specific problem. It’s as simple as that, but it’s surprising how much attention is placed on other parts of the proposal, detracting from the solution.
The solution should be clearly stated. It should begin with a concise statement that says what should be done and provide an easy-to-follow plan for accomplishing it. By the end of this section, the client and the stakeholders should have no questions about how the changes will alleviate their problems.
3. Never forget the header testimonial.
This might seem like an extra, but it’s actually a very important part of making a good impression on your clients. Your header testimonial is typically comprised of a quote from a past or existing client who has worked with you and your products and services before. The quote comes near the beginning of the proposal and supports your ability to get the job done, and it functions to grab the attention of your prospects in order to entice them to continue reading.
When it comes to getting good testimonials, Alex Turnbull, CEO of Groove says, “Good testimonials aren’t fluffy; they communicate very specifically the type of person the testimonial writer is and the type of problem they’ve been able to overcome. This helps readers put themselves in the storyteller’s shoes.” This kind of testimonial is exactly what proposals need to get off the ground running.
4. Make sure the scope of work is accurate, even if it’s not impressive.
Every proposal includes a section about the scope of work, namely the time frame it will take to get your solution underway. One mistake many proposal writers make is underestimating the time frame in order to make the proposal look more impressive. They will soon realize that your time frame is off when it takes longer than the stated amount, which won’t impress your client in the least.
Always be realistic about the time frame, even if it looks unimpressive. As long as you thoroughly describe the reasons behind the extended time frame, and the reasons make sense, it will make an impact on your client.
5. Outline the investment for the sake of the stakeholders.
If investors have read through your proposal up to this point, it means you’ve gotten their attention, so it’s now time to give them the details of your business model. They want to make sure the investment they’re about to make is a wise one. Details should include a description of product sales, licensing, services, advertising, salaries, rent, inventory, maintenance, and anything else that applies to your business model. Assumptions should be listed and justifications given.
All in all, these investors want to know how much they stand to make through your proposal and when the money will start. Their biggest concern is going to be cost, so make sure you’ve detailed this section of the proposal very well.
6. It’s a competition.
You’re likely not the only company presenting a proposal. Keep in mind that it’s a competition, and you should treat it as such, particularly if you’re the underdog. “If your competition is a company that is much larger than yours, then you've got to show your strengths,” says Shervin Freed in his book Writing Winning Business Proposals. “Maybe you specialize in the client's field or can focus intensely on solving their problem.” Either way, keeping this perspective in mind is essential to outshining your competitors and securing the deal.
7. Play up the benefits.
Of course, you must outline the weaknesses of your proposal to keep it realistic, but that doesn’t mean you should state the weaknesses only. As a general rule, make the benefits look much stronger than the weaknesses. You can’t hope to win over the client if your proposal makes it sound like the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages.
8. The opening statement is like a first impression at a job interview.
Treat the opening statement as you would the first sentence spoken in a job interview. It should be courteous, intelligent, and show your enthusiasm for working with the client. Take the opportunity to thank the prospect for the opportunity and show your vast interest in providing a solution for their need. It should be concise, polished, and clearly represent what your company does.
9. You need to be qualified to write the proposal and be able to show it.
At some point, your qualifications are going to come up, and you need to be able to show that your company is the best for the job. This should be based on your competitive strengths and the past experiences you’ve had. Highlight your talents, experiences, and other qualifications throughout the proposal so the prospect has no reason to doubt your credibility.
10. Make it shine.
Once the entire report is compiled, it should be polished in order to remove any errors. It should also be attractively formatted with a professional edge for excellent presentation. For every grammar and formatting error the reader finds, you’ll lose points as far as credibility and competency go.
Contact iQuoteXpress for a Free Software Demo
There’s a lot that goes into writing a successful proposal, and it’s not always easy to handle the process on your own. If you start to feel overwhelmed with your responsibilities, it might be time to look into using software that will automate some of your processes. The software at iQuoteXpress can help you automate processes like financial estimations and data collection. Our software can help make proposals hassle-free. Contact us today if you’re interested in more information and a no-obligation, free, online demo of our specialized software.