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Proposal writing is an important part of doing business in the modern world, Whether you’re selling enterprise-level services, doing business with the government, or work for a nonprofit that’s seeking a grant from a foundation, the right kind of letter paired with a well-written, properly formatted business proposal is essential.
There are many types of businesses and nonprofits that are required to write out business proposals in order to acquire a contract or funding.
We have a downloadable template for you later on in this page, however, first we’ll take you through the in’s and out’s of polishing your final proposal so it’s fit to send. It’s important that your business proposal is written in a persuasive manner, and that you pair it with a professional cover letter. This article will take you through some of the easiest ways to come off looking like the consummate professional when it comes to your proposals.
What You Need to Know About Writing a Business Proposal
A business proposal is perhaps one of the most important documents a small business owner learns how to write, whether you own a business complete with sales staff or work as a freelancer on your own. The nature of today’s business-to-business climate is highly competitive, and a well-written proposal is much more than a template that you’ve filled in. When you’re not familiar with the world of business proposals, you may find that you’ve spent hours submitting and tailoring the same business proposal template and not gotten any responses. This can easily be the case if you’re rushing through the content of the proposal itself. Don’t rush ahead; learn the basics on what will make your proposal truly shine.
What Qualifies as a Business Proposal, Anyway?
A business proposal is typically defined as a persuasive document that is written to provide goods or services to a specific client. Proposals are either solicited or unsolicited. Unsolicited proposals are usually meant to fish for new business, while solicited proposals are direct responses to a request, either through a Request for Proposal notice, a letter or phone call. Most businesses that sell to other businesses have a business proposal template that they modify depending on the recipient. Sometimes a business will keep a template on hand for different niche industries as well. For example, you may use one template to pitch your graphic design services to a small retailer, and another to sell your graphic design service to the government in response to an RFP announcement.
How To Write A Winning Business Proposal
A winning business proposal is focused and persuasive, answering basic questions about the product or service you plan to provide, setting a price, and explaining why your proposal is the only solution that the recipient needs to consider. The business proposal template will be correctly formatted and easy to read. It should also be easy for you to edit and amend.
The focus of a successful business proposal must be one that lets your reader understand how you will provide a solution to their problem, in the easiest and clearest way possible. If you’re answering an RFP, this means that you’ll be providing a solution and a quote for the specification they require. You should be able to state the cost of goods, labor, and any other overhead that will be attributed to the pricing you’re setting out.
Make Sure to Include the Following in Your Business Proposal:
- A Clear Solution: A proposal is meant to solve a problem. For businesses, this is usually a tangible problem, such as need for new, mobile technology on the go or a new set of marketing materials designed. Nonprofits, however, answer to a higher calling when they submit a proposal; they need to convince their readers of the social/societal problems they solve, and that they are an organization with a proven track record of this.
- Accurate Pricing Information: If your proposal is accepted, it will be a binding contract; so don’t undercut the competition with a plan to “add hours in” later. Make sure to account for all expenses the project will incur and annotate these expenses on the price page.
- View Sample Business Proposals: Get a feel for what kind of proposals your industry expects. If you are applying for funding, or for a contact for the government, there will likely be online records of past winners, complete with their winning proposals. If not, don’t fear; usually companies or government organizations that puts out requests for proposals will offer a sample proposal. If you can’t find an example readily available on the website, call and ask politely if they have a preferred layout for their business proposal. The government will often offer you a business proposal sample template to help you meet their specifications.
- Become Familiar with Your Competitors: Research your potential client, but also research your competition. There may be other companies vying for the contract you’re trying to get, so it’s important that you compare your services and be able to explain, in simple terms, why your service or products are unique.
- Explain Features and Benefits: Make sure you spell out the features as well as the benefits clearly for your proposal. Features are specifications. For example, if you will be pitching a gluten-free catering service for a special event, “gluten free” would be considered one of the most important features of the food. However, the benefits of a gluten-free catering would be simple: If you are hosting a party and have food sensitivities, you can still plan a delicious and exciting menu.
Writing that Business Proposal Letter
Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to dig in and write your proposal. Most business proposals, when you look at the business proposal samples, present the same information and have the same layout. It’s fine if you use a template to craft your proposal, but the details and persuasive elements should be chosen from scratch for each potential client. Take the time to understand their unique needs, their industry, and their requirements for the project.
How to Write a Proposal Letter
It’s easy to overlook the importance of a good cover letter when you’re focusing on your proposal, but don’t take the easy way out. When you spend just a few minutes on your cover letter, it often shows. A cover letter is something that introduces you and your business to the reader, and a properly written proposal letter helps make your first impression a good one.
Make Sure Your Proposal Letter Looks Polished
Your letter is a first impression for your letter and proposal recipient, so don’t skimp on the fine details. When writing the letter, use your organization’s professionally printed letterhead. In order to keep your paperwork consistent, the letter should be dated the same as your proposal. Make sure you are addressing your proposal letter to the proper person and department – this will help your recipient know that you took the time to get the details right. (It’s also good to do this because contact information and names can change.) Call the company if you’re unsure of a person’s title or department; when it comes to professionalism, the details count.
What to Put In Your Proposal Cover Letter
Your letter serves as an introduction to the organization, and as such, should fit on one page easily. Your first paragraph should introduce your organization by name, tell the recipients what your business or nonprofit does, and what your proposal is about.
The middle of the letter should focus on the purpose of your proposal. For example, if you are asking for funding, you should explain the project and how it benefits the world. If you’re sending a proposal in response to a request, explain what the proposal is in response to and what problem it solves. Sometimes it’s easiest if you sum up your purpose in one sentence, similar to an elevator pitch. If you had only 30 seconds to pitch this potential client or donor, what would you want them to know most? With this in mind, you’ll be able to focus on the purpose of your proposal, as well as your passion for the project or solution you have in mind.
Make sure to close your letter strongly, using the last paragraph to drive your purpose home to the reader. A good way to do this is to point to past work and accomplishments or case studies to illustrate why you are the best organization/business to get the job done. You can also mention specific expertise of staff members who will participate in the proposed work, award your business or organization has received, or impressive credentials from your board of directors.
Make sure you thank the reader for their time, and sign your letter with “Sincerely.” Have an Executive Director, CEO or the President of the Board sign the cover letter personally.
At the bottom of the letter, make sure that you type the word “ENCLOSURE” to indicate that a proposal is attached.
How to Make Your Business Proposal Letter Persuasive
Without persuasion, or passion, a business proposal cover letter can fall flat. Once you’ve written a first draft, it’s time to make your letter sound more urgent and persuasive. Here’s how to achieve this:
- Make the letter “you centered”. Focus on what your business can do for the reader, and what problems could be solved for them.
- Use action words. Instead of saying that your company has created databases, explain that you “build database solutions”. Keep your words focused on the present tense.
- Use questions to draw intrigue. Instead of simply stating that you provide a solution, ask your reader a question about their problem. Here’s an example of how to do that: “Have you ever wished you could send signature files real-time to your clients? Well, now you can,” a document signing company may ask a client in a proposal. Or, if you provide customer service software, you might ask, “Are you looking for a streamline customer service solution that incorporates social media as well as traditional channels? ”
- Back up your claims with data or statistics. Did your company increase a client’s sales by 60% over three months? Is there a new study out in your industry that supports your business solutions? Back your letter with facts and figures, and you’ll find it’s relatively easy to pique interest.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the business proposal template and writing proposal cover letters, it’s time to create a final draft. Make sure you read your letter out loud and ask a colleague to help with proofreading. A second set of eyes can always help catch mistakes that your typical grammar and spelling check will ignore.
When mailing your proposal letter and cover sheet, make sure to use an appropriately sized envelope and proper postage. Don’t try to put a 20-page letter into a legal sized envelope. Buy yourself a catalog mailer, make sure everything is in the correct letter, and use a typed mailing label on the front.
Writing a business proposal isn’t necessarily always fund, but the end result will be a contract or business partnership, which will make it all worth it in the end.
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