The purpose of starting a business is to solve a problem.
Be it an SMB, a large-scale enterprise, or even a solopreneur (freelance worker, artist, consultant, etc.), all of them work toward one goal: provide offerings to prospects and customers that solve their issues and ensure smooth business operations.
But what is the right way to make that offer? Will a phone call do? Or an email? And what if you decide to meet the customer in person? That’ll definitely make a lasting impression, right? Not necessarily.
Recently, businesses have pivoted from the old ways and have adapted to the digital world. Customers will soon handle 85% of all business contact without ever interacting with a human.
While working remotely, businesses with their sales teams are sharing digital proposal documents that consist of all the necessary information about their offerings. What is critical to these business proposals is how you are conveying your offer? Are you convincing enough to make the prospect choose you over your competitors? Are you sharing sufficient details with them to make an informed decision?
What is a business proposal?
Business proposals are formal documents used to convert leads and prospects into customers by providing required information on the business’s or individual’s offerings. Your aim, when sharing your business proposal with a prospect is to be clear, concise, and convincing in your messaging.
Convince the prospect that you understand their business, the issues they are facing, and offer an ideal solution to them through a well-drafted business proposal.
Make sure to send the correct information and the right document. Many business personnel usually get confused between a business proposal and a business plan. This leads to the terms being used interchangeably, which is absolutely wrong!
Both of these documents are different and contain information for entirely different purposes.
A business proposal lists the details of the offering that the seller makes to a prospect, seeking to get customers and win deals whereas a business plan is used to seek investment opportunities. It outlines how the business will function, what are its financial projections and goals, etc.
Types of business proposals
There are different types of proposals used by businesses depending on how and when the proposal is being sent. Here are the details on the different types of business proposals to help you understand better.
Solicited business proposals
Solicited business proposals are usually sent to prospective clients who request a proposal from you. It can be of two types.
- Formally solicited proposals. A formally solicited proposal is sent as a response to a formal request for a proposal or an RFP made by the prospect. In specific scenarios, the prospect provides you with the necessary details like what solution they are looking for, information about their business, etc., which makes it easier for you to prepare and share an ideal proposal for them to evaluate and make a decision.
- Informally solicited proposals. An informally solicited proposal is sent as a response to an informal conversation. The prospect does not make any formal request for a proposal rather asks for basic offering details to evaluate and make a decision. The seller here needs to put in extra effort as not much information about the client is known to them, unlike in a formal proposal request.
Unsolicited business proposals
A business proposal that is sent to a prospective client without any specific request from them is called an unsolicited business proposal. This is done with an intention to grow the client base and the overall business.
How to write a business proposal
It is critical how you convey your offerings to the prospect. A well-drafted business proposal is the difference between a successful deal and a lost lead.
Then how do you draft a business proposal that stands out? Are there any specificities to keep in mind while writing your proposal? What makes an ideal business proposal?
Firstly you must decide what to include in your proposal. This can be a tricky process as you do not want to overburden and confuse the prospect with too many details, and at the same time, not leave them clueless with a lack of information to evaluate and make the right decision.
The average length of an ideal business proposal should be nine to 11 pages.
Proposal writing should be done in a more compelling and persuasive manner, considering the offering details being shared across. Be very clear on the problem statement: tell them you have understood the prospect’s issues very well, and provide reasons as to why they should accept your solution over your competitors. Make sure to repeat and defend your point throughout the document.
The proposal document is representative of you and your organization. Draft it in a way that grabs the attention of the prospect from the very first page. Be clear, concise, and compelling in your messaging to convert leads to customers.
Components of a business proposal
In order to draft a winning proposal, one must know the standard components that make up the proposal document. It is divided into five different standard sections that make it easy to read and understand the document.
Elements of a business proposal
- Title page
- Table of contents
- Executive summary
- Body content
1. Title page
The title page, also known as the cover page, is the face of your business proposal. It contains basic information about the proposal like:
- Name of the proposal
- Prepared by
- Prepared for
- The date on which it is prepared
Many document management software offers ready-to-use proposal templates with customizable title pages allowing you to update your company logo. This helps to authenticate your proposal when shared with the prospect and keeps them updated on who is the offeror.
2. Table of contents
The ability to easily navigate through critical and, at times, complex business documents is possible with the help of a table of contents. It lists all the sections of a business proposal which allows the prospect to read and switch between components that they need information from.
3. Executive summary
An executive summary is a basic introduction to your detailed proposal. It offers a sneak peek of why the prospect should choose you over the competition. If you are persuasive and able to hold the attention of the prospect here, then the chances of your offer being considered and closed successfully becomes higher.
4. Body content
Now comes the main body of the proposal. There are sub-sections that address different aspects of the proposed offering in detail.
“About” information for the company
Nobody wants to build a business relationship with a stranger. You might know about the prospect, but they don’t know anything about you (especially when you are sending a proposal to an entirely new prospect). It’s good to inform them about your company and probably share some details about the key members in the leadership roles. Add details about the people who will be working on the project. This adds a human touch to these formal documents.
This is where you address the elephant in the room – the problem statement. The prospect is here with an issue which they are not capable of solving. You must clearly state the problem as you have understood it. This establishes a sense of trust that if the seller understands the problem well, they will address it with the most optimal solution.
Outline your unique solution. Explain how your solution will help solve the problem. What methods will you be using and how will you execute them. To be more elaborate, you can explain the deliverables schedule like what service or product will be delivered and when.
Qualifications and credentials
Adding social proof strengthens your offerings. Sharing success stories from previous clients has a major impact and can be very convincing to turn the decision in your favor. This also instills confidence amongst the prospects and proves your credibility.
Pricing options and structure
Pricing is key for any deal to close successfully. Neither of the parties can afford any miscommunication in this component. It can make or break a deal. List all the information very clearly, such as the project fee, all the tax information, what discounts are applicable, etc. Prepare a pricing plan that is appropriate and fair for the offerings. It shouldn’t be too overvalued to turn the prospect away or too undervalued that it incurs your loss.
Terms and conditions
These provisions look after the legal aspect of the deal. It governs the overall agreement between both parties. Including these terms and conditions brings in a sense of certainty and continuity to the deal if it closes successfully.
Signature and CTA
Any deal closing is deemed successful only when the document is signed after mutual agreement between the parties. The digital world today has almost done away with wet signatures and now looks up to e-signing documents with one click. It is convenient and easy to use.
of companies using pen and paper report collecting physical signatures add an entire day to their work process.
Source: MSB Docs
The hassles of a wet signature might result in you losing a potential client. Opting for e-signature when sending proposals can increase your chances of closing successfully.
A concluding note in an ideal business proposal could be an effective CTA that makes the prospect curious about your offering. Add a note on the possibility of discussion which interests the prospect and makes them feel in charge when it comes to having the final say. If they feel important and valued then they will talk about your services to others.
5 tips for creating a strong business proposal
Here are a few key tips for creating a strong business proposal.
1. Focus on visual appeal
If you want to stand out, you need to include something that most businesses miss out on or don’t pay attention to. Business proposals can be text-heavy documents, and at times, can get boring to read.
Include images to make your proposal stand out and leverage it to keep the attention of the prospect for the longest time possible. Proposals with visual support are 38% more likely to be remembered by the reviewers.
2. Include client input or intake forms
Try to include the client input forms when sharing your proposal. Sometimes just getting a signature is not enough for a deal to close. There is vital information like billing address, invoice numbers, contact person details, etc., needs to be collected.
A client input form can help with that. This unblocks any unnecessary hold-ups and gets the deal underway quickly. Proposals that include client input or intake forms have a higher closing rate as it eases the onboarding process if the deal closes. It also makes a positive impact on the prospect who might take this as a forward-looking attitude.
3. Be clear and concise
Ninety percent of proposals fail to secure clients because of inefficient processes in finding up-to-date material appropriate for specific points in the sales process. Specifically, the main problem is generating targeted content that resonates with the right audience.
4.Time your proposal
There is no golden hour or a lucky day to seal the deal. But there was one specific observation that the majority of proposals that closed successfully were signed on the day they were sent or the following business day.
You can certainly keep yourself aware of patterns in the market that is working for other businesses in your industry. If you follow that, you might increase your chances of closing the deal. Mind that it doesn’t ensure but increases the probability of a win.
5. Make a device-friendly proposal
Many proposals are viewed on mobile phones, which emphasizes the use of software to create proposals that can easily be rendered on different devices.
Examples of well-executed business proposals
There are hundreds of templates available online for you to use but not all templates can completely serve the purpose. Some might have an uneditable format while the other is too extensive that it might bore the prospect instead of holding their attention.
Listed here are three examples of well-executed business proposals from the very first page to the final dotted line where your client must sign!
The winning business proposal offered by Jotform gives a kick-start to your proposal creation process. The templates offered by JotForm consist of key information about the objectives, strategies, and financials which are vital to any proposal document. It helps you to create proposals that are relevant, useful and simplifies your overall business process
If you are a creative person or work in an organization that creates and promotes creativity, using Canva’s proposal templates will definitely meet your needs. These colorful and creative templates can help you stand out from the crowd and be helpful in holding the attention of your prospective clients.
Before you get stuck in the maze of business proposal templates available with just a click, clearly define what your requirements are and find the right template that will help you close deals quickly and successfully.
Business proposal template
The business proposal document should have all the necessary components for it to be valid, informative, and successful in answering the prospect’s issues. This is a sample of an ideal business proposal that you can thoroughly go through and make edits as per your company’s guidelines and prospect’s requirements.
How to seal the deal
Converting leads to customers and closing deals on time can be a challenging task but it is definitely achievable. The right document stack and an enthusiastic sales team are a perfect mix to grow your customer base and overall business.
Sending a well-drafted proposal on time will help you achieve that too. Proposals that get to prospects faster close faster. The proposal that gets rejected is scrutinized more than the one that closes successfully.