How to Write a Business Proposal in 9 Steps
Your business proposal is one of the key ways to win new clients. Learn about layout, information, and more right here.
While we could start this article with a famous quote about hard work and perseverance, if you’re a small business owner, we bet you already know. Part of that hard work includes pitching prospective clients and educating them about your services or goods. Pursuing new business can be a grind, but we’d like to make it a little bit easier by teaching you how to write a business proposal—the all-important document you will use to grow your company.
First, let’s understand the two main types of business proposals: solicited and unsolicited.
- A solicited business proposal is typically a response to a request for proposal (RFP). A company could send an RFP — either to several businesses or yours — to get help addressing a specific problem it has identified.
- Providing an unsolicited business proposal is like cold calling. You reach out to prospective clients, offering them your services based on a need you have identified.
Now time for the fun part. We’ll cover how to write a business proposal step by step, and include some examples along the way. Put on your party (er, business pants) and let’s win some clients.
Nothing complex here—just make sure you have a title page that includes your company name, your name (or proposers’ names), and the date. The title should be front and center, clearly describing what you’re offering.
Table of Contents
Make it easy on the reader, who is most likely a very busy business owner or executive. List the sections of the proposal and their corresponding page numbers so the reader can flip or click to specific pages easily.
The executive summary is your time to shine. Tell the reader about your company and highlight its purpose, goals, and how you help clients in their business vertical. In short, your executive summary should answer the “why”: Why should the reader choose your services over another company?
Here is an example of a business proposal executive summary page for an accounting service:
Flex your research muscles and prove to the prospective client that you’ve done your homework on their business’s pain points. Clearly state the problem that needs solving and include specifics. Show them that you have taken the time to customize this proposal to their business needs.
The Solution & Timeline
Don’t leave them hanging. After stating the problem, end positively by explaining the solution(s). How can your services help? What expertise will you bring to the table to help solve the issue? Provide a detailed plan that answers any questions the prospective client may have.
If the solution is lengthy, like a full-service marketing campaign or business consulting services, you can separate the Problem and Solution sections.
Any personal goal you set for yourself should include a timeline, and the same goes when you’re learning how to write a business proposal. Prospective clients need to see how your solution will be implemented and in what time frame.
Each part of the solution should have a deliverable date, preferably in an easy-to-read chart.
No one likes to talk about money, but it’s crucial in a business proposal so the prospective client can quickly determine if your services fall within their budget. You’ll need to provide a price for every service you’re offering as well as a payment schedule that aligns with the timeline you’ve already laid out.
If you’re concerned that your prices may be seen as too steep, consider providing different service tiers or a menu of services — where the prospective client may pick and choose according to their budget.
Here’s what the Payment Details section may look like for a digital marketing services business proposal:
This section further solidifies that you’re a top contender. It’s your opportunity to toot your own horn, pat yourself on the back, not-so-humble brag — you get the idea. List your team’s qualifications and include any awards; magazine, blog, or newspaper features; stellar client reviews and case studies; and other relevant information that helps set your business above competitors.
If multiple team members assist with the service, consider featuring each person on this page, highlighting their skills, certifications, and past professional experiences.
Finally, add your contact information just in case the reader has any follow-up questions.
Terms & Acceptance
This section could be wrapped up into the Payment Details or kept separate, depending on the nature of the proposal. You’ll want to clarify how and when you want to receive payments as well as any disclaimers. We recommend consulting a lawyer for this section if your proposal is legally binding.
If the proposal is not acting as a contract, listing out Terms & Acceptance may not be necessary.
If the proposal acts as a legally binding document, and a Terms & Acceptance section is not applicable to your specific business proposal, make some room for the client’s John Hancock to solidify the agreement. Be sure to include a write on line for signatures with an accompanying date line.
Now that you have a good idea of the general format for how to write a business proposal, where do you go from here? When you’re putting your proposal together, keep your industry and the prospective client in mind—because the layout will most likely differ depending on the types of services you offer and what the client needs. Don’t forget to sing your company’s praises and keep the client at the forefront. Now, go win that business.