Picture this: You’ve just sent out an email that briefly pitches your product or service to a potential client, only to get a response that goes something along the lines of:
Yeah that sounds like something I would be interested in. Do me a favor and send me a business proposal and we can talk further. Thanks.
Mark’s response is standard—if not commonplace—for anyone that has just been pitched regarding a possible business solution for his or her business. As a business professional, it’s up to you to not only draft a proper proposal, but also create something that smart, unique, and convincing; so people just like our buddy Mark can feel confident associating with yourself and your brand.
But perhaps you’re a bit stuck; you’ve written business proposals in the past, with a very low success rate. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your product’s a bad fit for your client or that your writing abilities are not up to par, but it’s more than likely an indicator that the execution of your proposals are ineffective. It all boils down to the art of the sale: finding the proper way to present your product and showcase it’s value to a client makes all the difference between losing and closing a prospective deal.
So how should you structure a business proposal? Forbes has an extremely comprehensive list of talking points you should be sure to feature in your proposal, while Proposable.com features a complete collection of over dozens of customizable templates that serve as an excellent source for nailing the structure of your piece. Once you follow the guidelines and draft your proposal, you may be feeling a bit anxious—maybe even a bit exhausted—but you’ll definitely be ready to hit the send button.
Before you send that document off to Mr. Mark, take look through our list of 5 expert tips that can help give your business proposal a competitive edge above the competition.
“Do Your Research”
“It’s crucial that you show potential investors and clients that you will not be deterred [from your vision]. This MUST be reflected in your business proposal to show that you have thought of all possible contingencies.” Sebastien Dupéré, Dupray Inc.
The first thing you should always do—even before you begin drafting an outline—is to do some investigative work on your client and their company. Nothing shows a client that you’re more prepared and professional than showing you have done your research. An easy way to conduct some research is to talk to your client and ask questions. The goal here is to understand how they think: What say do they have in the decision process? How do they size up against their competitors? Where do they stand financially?
Write Purposefully And Concisely
“In writing a proposal, the most important thing is to answer the requirements in plain and simple terms without all the jargon and special words and phrases that only you, your company and your industry understand.”- Walter Wise, BPI Strategy Group
Besides the fact that your proposal is intended to act as an introductory to your brand, it is important to note that your business does not exist inside a vacuum. The actuality of a business proposal is that there are real people, completely oblivious to the insider knowledge of your industry that will be taking a look at your presentation to see what you can bring to the table for their business. The last thing you want to do with your proposal is to obscure your objective and lose potential business. It’s best to keep proposals straight to the point, while elaborating when necessary.
Lay Out A Detailed Business Plan To Show How You Can Help
“A business plan is a story about your business: Where are you now? Where do you want to be? And, most importantly – How are you going to get there, and by when?” Todd Rhode, Peachtree Recovery Services Inc.
When creating a business proposal, you want to be sure that your product or service can be seamlessly incorporated into your client’s current business structure. So plan it out for them just as Rhode suggests: identify where their company currently stands in the marketplace, where you would like to get them, and how you’re going to get there. While this may seem like a simple instruction, many proposals allocate too much focus to their product or service, without spending an adequate amount of time showing off its practicality, thereby burying the lead in the process.
Your Proposal Should Be Client Focused Above All Else
“Be very clear on what they [clients] want to see versus what you want to tell them
about in the proposal. You can focus too much on yourself and not enough on
what their goals are.” Rachel Sentes, Gal-Friday Publicity
While your business may have an exceptional pedigree, that’s not the purpose of your proposal. A journalist once told me, “I could write about companies that do business with enormous, global brands for the rest of my life, but truthfully, no one would care.” The same principal applies here: clients don’t care about who you’ve worked with or the awards your company has won; what a business wants to see is results. If you spend more time talking about what your brand can do for a client—as opposed to what a client can do for you—your proposal will be sure to stand out.
Be Sure To Include Testimonials
“My proposals now contain a single proposal from a past or current client in the header of each page, and the final page or two is 100% testimonials.”-Joe DeMaria, JAD Marketing
Including testimonials in your proposal is a great way to show that your product works. This gives you a chance to draw a picture for your client, leaving them wondering how they can obtain a similar result. A good way to think about testimonial coverage is by comparing it to customer reviews you find regarding a product on Amazon: before you purchase a product, you go to the reviews to ensure that everything works as intended. Assuming the product has a large amount of praise, you go ahead and make the purchase. The same principal works here, as your proposal should make your client feel as comfortable as possible.