How to Write a Business Proposal in 10 Steps

Updated December 6, 2019

Your sales pipeline is filling up, which means you have the opportunity to close a sale or two and start increasing your company's revenue.

Many prospects are now showing serious interest in your company's solution and are ready to move to the next step. You need to give them a clear business proposal, but there's just one problem: You aren't quite sure how to write a proposal that is sure to close those deals.

Check out this step-by-step guide on how to write a business proposal.

You'll learn how you can put together a compelling proposal and understand the role CRM may play in developing this important sales tool.

At a glance: How to create your own business proposal

  • Research thoroughly.
  • Know the basic business proposal structure.
  • Find a business proposal template.
  • Create a draft business proposal.
  • Solicit feedback from the team.
  • Revise and refine.
  • Hit the send button.
  • Follow-up.
  • Make any changes and send it back.
  • Use it as a model.

What is a business proposal?

A business proposal is a formal document that a company creates to convince another organization to buy their product or service.

It's one of many B2B sales techniques that are critical for winning new clients. While you may already know how to be a good salesman, you may not have the same level of confidence when it comes to writing up your plan to help each prospect.

A business proposal can be solicited, which means that the potential client has asked you to submit a proposal for a project or purchase. Or, you may submit an unsolicited business proposal, which means you are making an offer to a lead from your database where you believe there is enough interest or need to make a sale.

Whether it is solicited or unsolicited, a business proposal should be customized for each potential account or client.

A business proposal is an important tool for a B2B company's sales team to convince more businesses to use their products or services.

It's an opportunity to present a comprehensive case for how a product or service can solve specific business problems as well as share other information on what it's like to work with your company, your values, and your operating philosophy.

The business proposal can also present a range of pricing and terms to help start the negotiation or purchase process.

How to create a business proposal

Now that you know why a business proposal is so valuable, it's time to go through each of the steps necessary to create a business proposal that ramps up your conversion rate.

1. Research thoroughly

The more upfront work you do to understand your target and their individual needs, the better chance you have of winning that account.

The research you do during this step should also cover why you are the best choice for that client based on your understanding of the market, need, and what the competition has been unable to do.

In addition to understanding each client or account, you also need to know more about the specific person, or decision-maker, who will receive your business proposal.

Find out about their role, their main concerns, what resources they have, what and when they are looking to buy, and how you can specifically help them. Having this information will help you move from a generic business proposal to a tailored proposal that directly addresses their unique needs.

During this step, you should:

  • Have a discussion with the potential client, if possible, to learn more about what they need.
  • Explore your competition's attempts at winning over this prospect and why they failed or why you can win the client away from them.
  • Create a mindmap of all the information to help organize and identify the "why" and "how" for your business proposal.

2. Know the basic structure of a business proposal

Before you start organizing your research and get down to writing, it's important to familiarize yourself with the main components and layout of a business proposal. Think of the basic structure as a blueprint for the architecture of your proposal.

Here are the building blocks you'll need to include:

  • Your company background and expertise, including qualifications, history, and what you can do that the competition can't for this potential client;
  • Your knowledge of the prospect's pain points, including the research you conducted in the first step; and
  • Your solution, including how you plan to alleviate those pain points, the cost of the investment and the return on that investment for the prospect.

3. Find a business proposal template

Even before you start writing, it helps to find a business proposal template. You can use this as a starting point to drop in all your existing material and then refine it from there.

This existing format can save you a significant amount of time, not to mention raising the bar by giving a professional look and feel to what you deliver to each prospect.

Here are some sources to consider for free business proposal templates:

  • Proposify
  • PandaDoc
  • Template.net's business proposals created in Google Docs
  • MS Office Documents

You can also find premium software packages that include business proposal templates as part of their subscription, including CRM software like HubSpot CRM, Salesforce, or Insightly.

4. Create a draft business proposal

The first step in developing your draft is to put in all the information you know.

For example, you can create a title page with your company's name and logo as well as the prospect's name, title, and contact information. If your template doesn't come with a table of contents, you can make one with sections for your cover letter, executive summary, assessment, implementations, goals and outlook, team, billing and scheduling, terms and agreement, and acceptance.

At this point, you should skip over certain sections in the business proposal template, like the cover letter and executive summary. These will be the last sections you create after the rest of the proposal is signed-off by your team.

Dive straight into building the assessment, implementations, goals and outlook, team, billing and scheduling, and terms and agreement sections, using all the research and information you already have. You can also create the acceptance page because everything you draft will have them signing on that dotted line.

If you are not sure what to put in these sections, here's what you need:

  • Explain what you see as their pain points.
  • Share your insights on the market need and competitor weaknesses.
  • Describe in great detail how you can alleviate those pain points through your product or service.
  • Anticipate any questions or barriers and proactively address those in the business proposal.
  • Walk them through the process of what's involved in working with you, including communication, values, and expectations.
  • Introduce them to your talented team.
  • Discuss cost, timing, terms and conditions, and reporting.
  • Finish up with your agreement form and a call to action to set a time to go over the business proposal and get them signed up.

5. Solicit feedback from the team

You can't write these business proposals in a vacuum.

It's important to ask other sales team members for their feedback. From the content to the format and overall presentation, it helps to have other eyes look over your draft and add their recommendations.

Even better, go beyond the sales team and include others — like colleagues from marketing, product development, business development, and the strategic decision-makers. Many of them may have insights that can enrich the content in your business proposal through their quantitative data, knowledge, and previous experience.

6. Revise and refine

Once you have feedback, it's time to make those improvements. Reread it and even share it again, and then put the final touches on it. Once the content is in place, you can create a cover letter and executive summary, using brief excerpts from the main business proposal.

Focus on making it visual and easy to read. That means using:

  • Pictures of the product/service and team or even an embedded video.
  • Bulleted lists.
  • Infographics of the quantitative data.
  • Blockquotes and short paragraphs.

7. Hit the send button

Now you can be confident in the knowledge that you have put together a personalized business proposal that covers everything your prospect needs. Send the proposal via email as a PDF file for ease of use and to protect the contents.

Don't forget to include a brief note letting them know what you are sending and to contact you with any questions.

8. Follow-up

Give your prospect a day or so before sending a follow-up email. While you want to ensure they received your business proposal, it's also important to give them the time to digest it all.

When you do follow up, check to see if they have questions or concerns. Then, focus on moving them to the next stage in the pipeline, which is signing that agreement. If possible, arrange to meet them in-person to sign.

In this digital age, however, that's not always realistic. Therefore, be sure to set up digital signature capability so that you can get the agreement signed quickly.

9. Make any changes and circle back

There may be situations where you will need to negotiate and make some revisions before the prospect agrees. Get these changes made as soon as possible to show the prospect how eager you are to start helping them.

10. Use it as a model

Going forward, you can now use this first business proposal as your model for other prospects. If you have your proposal template, main value proposition, and company information in a well-structured document, you can easily customize it for each prospect that shows serious interest.

Should you use a CRM platform for your business proposals?

If you are using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, you may want to leverage this to help craft customized business proposals. Here's when a CRM platform can prove to be a valuable resource for this part of the sales process.

When to use a CRM platform for your business proposals:

Consider how these three situations benefit from using a CRM platform when writing business proposals:

  • Approaching a new prospect: Your CRM platform contains a wealth of data on customers that may be similar to these new prospects, sharing similar pain points, needs, and expectations that can help you speak to this new group.
  • Approaching an existing client: Your CRM platform offers important information about what they have bought before, when, and why. You'll be able to detect when they may be in need of a revised proposal that reflects their new scale or needs.
  • Launching a new product or service category: If you are adding a new product or service and want to reach to both new prospects and your existing client base, you'll be able to reference data from your CRM platform to show why your company has added this new product or service.

Business proposals help fuel revenue

Business proposals are a critical sales tool. Along with your personalized selling techniques, enhanced by your CRM platform full of insights on each lead and client, a business proposal is the formal description of your processes and working relationship.

It helps your prospects and existing clients to understand how your B2B product or solution can alleviate their pain points and why your offering is better than the rest. Your business proposal also lays the groundwork on how your thought leadership and expertise will help each prospect.

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