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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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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