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How to Write a Business Proposal [Examples + Template]
Published: December 12, 2022
It's finally happened. You've started a new business, and your customer base is starting to expand. But even though you're making progress, you still feel like you could be doing better.
There's a whole world of untapped potential around you — prospects you know would benefit from your product or service. And the issues you're running into are less about your solution's soundness and more about how you can reach your potential base.
That's where business proposals come in. They can bridge the gap between you and potential clients. A solid proposal can outline your value proposition and persuade a company or organization to do business with you.
Here, we'll take a look at the various kinds of business proposals and go over how to write one. We’ll also see some ideas and examples to help guide yours.
Know exactly what you need? Jump to one of the following sections:
What is a business proposal?
Types of business proposals, how to write a business proposal, business proposal ideas, business proposal templates, business proposal example.
A business proposal is a formal document that’s created by a company and provided to a prospect to secure a business agreement.
It's a common misconception that business proposals and business plans are the same. The proposal aims to sell your product or service rather than your business itself. Instead of assisting your search for investors to fund your business, a proposal helps you seek new customers.
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There are two types of business proposals: unsolicited and solicited.
- Unsolicited Business Proposals - With unsolicited business proposals, you approach a potential customer with a proposal, even if they don't request one, to gain their business.
- Solicited Business Proposal s - Solicited business proposals are requested by a prospective client so that they can decide whether or not to do business with your company.
In a solicited business proposal, the other organization asks for a request for proposal (RFP). When a company needs a problem solved, they invite other businesses to submit a proposal that details how they'd solve it.
Whether the proposal is solicited or unsolicited, the steps to create your proposal are similar. Ensure it includes three main points: a statement of the organization's problem, proposed solution, and pricing information.
- Begin with a title page.
- Create a table of contents.
- Explain your “why” with an executive summary.
- State the problem or need.
- Propose a solution.
- Share your qualifications.
- Include pricing options.
- Summarize with a conclusion.
- Clarify your terms and conditions.
- Include a space for signatures to document agreement.
Before writing your business proposal, it's crucial you understand the company. If they've sent you an RFP, make sure you read it carefully, so you know exactly what they want. It can also be helpful to have an initial call or meeting with the new client to ensure you fully understand the problem they're trying to solve and their objectives.
Once you've done your research, it's time to begin writing your business proposal. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a business proposal, but let's take a look at some elements proposals often include. (I designed this example business proposal using Canva .)
Free Business Proposal Template
Fill out the form to get your template., 1. begin with a title page..
You have to convey some basic information here. Introduce yourself and your business. Be sure to include your name, your company's name, the date you submitted the proposal, and the name of the client or individual you're submitting the proposal to.
Your title page should reconcile engagement with professionalism. It's a tone-setter, so you need to make sure yours is sleek, aesthetically appealing, and not too "out there."
Here's an example of what a business proposal template looks like when done right:
The executive summary details exactly why you're sending the proposal and why your solution is the best for the prospective client. Specificity is key here. Why are you the best option for them?
Similar to a value proposition, your executive summary outlines the benefits of your company's products or services and how they can solve your potential client's problem. After reading your executive summary, the prospect should have a clear idea of how you can help them, even if they don't read the entire proposal. Here's what one should look like:
4. State the problem or need.
This is where you provide a summary of the issue impacting the potential client. It provides you with the opportunity to show them you clearly understand their needs and the problem they need help solving.
Research, critical thinking, and extra thought are key here. You have to do your homework. Take a holistic look at the specific issues your client faces that you can help solve. Then, compellingly frame them in a way that sets you up for the next step.
7. Include pricing options.
Pricing is where things can get a bit tricky, as you don't want to under or over-price your product. If you'd like to provide the prospect with a few pricing options for their budget, include an optional fee table . Some proposal software offer responsive pricing tables which allow clients to check the products or services they're interested in, and the price will automatically adjust.
8. Summarize with a conclusion.
After providing the above information, it’s necessary to simplify it into one final section. Briefly summarize the proposal. Touch on your qualifications and why you’d serve as the best choice. To prompt further conversation, confirm your availability. At the end of the proposal, the goal is to have the client ready to work with you. Provide your contact information to allow them to follow up easily.
9. Clarify your terms and conditions.
This is where you go into detail about the project timeline, pricing, and payment schedules. It's essentially a summary of what you and the client agree to if they accept your proposal. Make sure you clear the terms and conditions with your own legal team before sending the proposal to the client.
We know how crucial a great business proposal is to your and your clients' success. That's why we've compiled 2 Free Business Proposal Templates for you to use and customize for any of your projects. You'll gain access to a concise, one-page template (pictured above), as well as a longer template for you to embellish on your plan and proposal. Download the templates now to get started on building your proposal.
2. Web Design Proposal
Companies, big and small, dedicate resources to establishing a noticeable social media presence. With advertising on social networks projected to reach $56.85 billion dollars in 2022 , it's in your business's best interest to have a plan for growing your client's social media presence.
To help you in that effort, the information in this social media marketing proposal includes an executive summary to help introduce your high-level ideas, an assessment of the client’s company to demonstrate your diligence, and a breakdown of billing to show how your company charges for posting, content creation, and analytics.
8. Content Marketing Proposal
When pitching your content marketing services to clients, this template can help you organize your ideas. While it walks you through initial objectives and how to communicate your prospected results, one of the most helpful parts of this template is the pricing ideas it gives you when charging for your services.
Business proposal templates are helpful places to get started, but what should your business proposal look like when it's complete? Below, we share an example of a business proposal template that will inspire you.
In the business template example above, Social Portal Consulting (SPC) pitches a marketing proposal to Graphic Bean. At first sight, this proposal appeals to the creative. A nice touch would include designing the layout in your or your client’s brand colors. In addition to the design, the use of social media icons quickly tells the prospect what platforms Social Portal is pitching. Because we see Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest icons, the client instantly knows that this proposal does not include LinkedIn, YouTube, or other platforms.
While maintaining its design, this example outlines Social Portal Consulting’s plans efficiently. It begins by providing insight into Graphic Bean and its goals before elaborating on how SPC can leverage its expertise to help them achieve it. This business proposal template includes an easy-to-follow timeframe for goals and objectives while keeping the client abreast of how payment will happen across the project.
Overall, this is an excellent example of how to combine the elements of social media marketing into a creative and concise business proposal. Finally, we'll leave you with some business proposal ideas to get you started on your own.
- Start with an outline.
- Include data and visuals.
- Add social proof.
- Incorporate video into your proposal.
- Use a call-to-action.
- Include up-sell and add-on opportunities.
- Create a sense of urgency.
- Keep it simple.
- Make the decision for them.
- Stay on brand.
- Quality control.
There's a lot to keep in mind when writing a business proposal. Here are a few tips to help you out:
1. Start with an outline.
If you want to produce a thoughtful, effective business proposal, you need to have some idea of what you're hoping to achieve with it. So before you dive into writing, outline the major sections of your business proposal and the pertinent information you want to include. This will ensure you stay focused and your message stays intact as you write.
2. Include data and visuals.
You want your business proposal to capture your prospect's attention and help set you apart from any other ones they might have received. One of the best ways to do that is to include hard, quantitative data that helps stress the value of your business.
If you can find some relevant, compelling figures that highlight what you have to offer, you can establish authority and make yourself that much more convincing. It also helps to include visuals such as charts and graphs to enhance your proposal.
3. Add social proof.
Like the previous point, adding social proof lends your proposal another degree of credibility. You can only be so convincing when you're personally talking up how great your business is.
Prospects are skeptical. In many — if not most — cases, they probably won't take you at your word. They'll likely trust peers and fellow customers more than someone trying to win their business. That's why including elements like customer quotes and testimonials can go a long way.
4. Incorporate video into your proposal.
If you're creating an online proposal using document file formats like PDF, you can include multimedia elements to enhance the proposal experience. They can make your document richer and more engaging.
Whether you add video at the beginning as an intro to your proposal or in the project breakdown to verbally discuss some of the more confusing parts, extras like this can make an impression. This works especially on prospects who are visual or auditory communicators.
5. Use a call-to-action.
Prospects need direction. The best proposal in the world can only take you so far if you don't clearly define the next steps. That's why you have to make sure the reader knows what to do next after reading your proposal.
A clear-cut call-to-action is the best way to get there. Define and highlight exactly what they should do to act on the interest your proposal has generated. Without that guidance, you might leave your reader in limbo.
6. Include up-sell and add-on opportunities.
They say you won't receive unless you ask. Readers won't explore the upper tiers of your solutions if you don't give them the opportunity. If you want to use your business proposal as a chance to get the most out of a reader's interest, you need to include some additional information about your business for them to act on. They need to know what else you have to offer.
7. Create a sense of urgency.
No one wants to feel as if they missed out on a great opportunity. A lack of urgency tends to cause people to drag their feet and take time when making a decision. As you create your business proposal, your goal should be to create a sense of urgency.
Prospective clients should read your business proposal and feel that now is the best time to sign up for your service. A way you can accomplish this is by stating your short and long-term goals for their business. While they will have to wait for the long-term goals, make the short-term goals so enticing that they are instantly ready to begin a collaboration.
8. Keep it simple.
There's no definitive blueprint for how long a business proposal has to be. Yours should be however long it takes to convey the information you want to get across.
That said, you're best off focusing on quality over quantity. Keep your sentences short and simple, and avoid including too much business jargon. You want your proposal to be straightforward enough for anyone who picks it up to make sense of it. So don't get carried away with being too fancy.
9. Make the decision for them.
Craft your copy in a way that seems like saying "no" to the proposal would be stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Your offer should go above and beyond their expectations, and you should do everything in your power to eliminate friction and objections along the way.
10. Stay on brand.
Don't be afraid to let your company's personality shine through in your proposal. Stay true to your brand and show the client what sets you apart from your competitors.
11. Quality control.
Your proposal needs to be clean and airtight. You don't want to undermine your messaging by coming off as sloppy and unprofessional. Before you send the proposal out, make sure to read and reread it for any typos or grammatical errors.
Let your business proposal do the talking.
Depending on the type of business you're in, your business proposal elements will vary based on the prospect's needs. After reading through your plan, prospective clients should have very few questions about your company and what it can do for them. With the tips and examples in this article, you have all the tools to guide you through the process. With a professional, customized business proposal, you're sure to delight your client and potentially gain their business.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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How to Write a Business Proposal (Examples & Templates)
By Aditya Sheth , Nov 21, 2022
The great Mark Cuban once said, “Sales cure all.” If a business doesn’t sell, it doesn’t make money and by extension the business fails. That’s why you need to write business proposals.
A well-written business proposal can often mean the difference between winning or losing a prospective client.
In this in-depth guide to creating business proposals, we show you how to close more deals, make more sales and crush your business goals — all by using easy-to-edit professional business proposal templates.
Here’s what this guide will cover (click to jump ahead):
What is a business proposal, what should you include in a business proposal, business proposal format, what are the types of business proposals.
- How do you write a business proposal? Business proposal templates
More business proposal examples + writing and design tips
- FAQs about business proposals
Looking for a shortcut? Watch this quick video for an overview of everything to include in your business proposal:
An effective business proposal is a document used by a B2B or business-facing company (this may not always be the case) where a seller aims to persuade a prospective buyer into buying their goods or services.
A business proposal outlines what your business does and what you can do for your client. It can be general like this business proposal example:
Or it can be more specific, like this business proposal template which focuses on proposing a project for the Newton Center Rail:
Or this business proposal sample, which presents a plan for a social media strategy and campaign:
To design a business proposal that holds the client’s attention, identify their pain points . Then provide your buyer with the right solution to alleviate those frustrations.
Return to Table of Contents
A business proposal usually aims to answer the following questions:
- Who you are and what your company does
- The problem your buyer is facing
- The solution your company offers to alleviate the problem
- How your company will implement this solution effectively
- An estimate of resources (time, money, etc) required to implement the solution
You can see how this sample business proposal template covers the above points.
Notice how this proposal template addresses the same project like in one of the previous templates, but uses a completely different design style (more retro, while the previous business proposal template is more modern and minimalistic).
You can remove or add more sections depending on the goal of your business proposal. Essential, your business proposal can follow this format:
Table of contents
Executive summary, the problem statement, the proposed solution, qualifications, the timeline, pricing, billing and legal, terms and conditions, the acceptance.
We go into detail on how you can write a business proposal (plus different business proposal templates you can apply the tips to) in the next section . But you can also click on the format items above to learn how you can best write them!
If you aim to create a holistic business proposal, feel free to just edit from the two templates right above. You can also add your brand colors and logo to your design, using My Brand Kit :
Here’s another example of a business proposal template that you can edit:
Generally, there are three types of business proposals:
1. Formally solicited
A formally solicited business proposal is made when you respond to an official request to write a business proposal.
In this scenario, you know all the requirements and have more (if not all) information about a prospective buyer. You simply need to write the business proposal for your buyer to evaluate so you can begin the sales process.
2. Informally solicited
Informally solicited business proposals are written when there isn’t an official request for a proposal. A prospective buyer is interested in your services and asks for a proposal so they can evaluate it.
An informally solicited proposal requires a lot more research from your end. These types of proposals are usually created out of informal conversations. They are not based on official requests which often contain more detail.
Think of this as a marketing brochure or a cold email . Unsolicited business proposals will often take a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to business proposals. Unsolicited proposals lack any understanding of the buyer or their requirements.
But with additional market research , personalization and identifying customer pain points , you can propose a customized solution based on your buyer’s needs. This can be a very persuasive approach, such as in this business proposal example:
How do you write a business proposal? Business proposal templates
Before you start creating your business proposal template, you need to know what it comprises. At a high level your effective business proposal should include the following:
Below, you can see business proposal examples that demonstrate how to include these 10 sections.
Business proposal title
A compelling title could mean the difference between someone reading your proposal or ignoring it in favor of a competitor’s.
What makes a good title page? Here are the essential elements to include:
- Your name along with your company’s name
- The name of the prospect (or their business)
- The date you’re submitting the proposal
The gray business consulting proposal template above contains all the details a prospect would want to know. The title also offers a strong tangible benefit to the prospective buyer. Honestly, “Who doesn’t want to grow their business?”
Return to business proposal content sections
The table of contents is a fundamental part of every winning business proposal template. It makes your proposal scannable and easy to read.
The people you will be pitching to are usually C-level executives. These are busy people who don’t have time to read your entire proposal in one go.
That’s why most of the business proposal examples in this list include a table of contents.
Adding a table of contents to your document makes it easy for them to go through it at their own pace. They can also skim through parts of the proposal that they deem more important. You can see how this abstract business proposal template uses the table of contents:
You can also make your business proposal template easier to navigate by adding hyperlinks to the document, particularly in the table of contents. This way your clients can jump to specific sections without having to scroll through the entire document.
It’s easy to add hyperlinks in the Venngage editor. Select the text you’d like to turn into a link, then click the link icon in the top bar. From there, select the page you want to link to! Then download your completed design as an Interactive PDF .
The executive summary is a staple in all kinds of annual reports , project plans and even marketing plans . It is a concise summary of the entire contents of your document. In other words, write a business proposal outline that is easy to glance over and that highlights your value proposition.
The goals of your executive summary are:
- Introduce your company to your buyer
- Provide an overview of your company goals
- Showcase your company’s milestones, overall vision and future plans
- Include any other relevant details
This gray business proposal example has a detailed yet short executive summary including some social proof in the form of clients they’ve worked with:
Take note of how precise this business proposal example is. You want to keep your executive summary concise and clear from the get-go. This sets the right tone for the rest of your proposal. It also gives your buyer a reason to continue reading your proposal.
Pro Tip: Try to write an executive summary such that, even if your prospective client doesn’t read the entire proposal (with a good executive summary, they most likely will), they should have a clear idea about what your company does and how you can help them.
The point of writing a business proposal is to solve a buyer’s problem. Your goal is to outline the problem statement as clearly as possible. This develops a sense of urgency in your prospect. They will want to find a solution to the problem. And you have that solution.
A well-defined problem statement does two things:
- It shows the prospect you have done your homework instead of sending a generic pitch
- It creates an opportunity for you to point out a problem your prospect might not be aware they had in the first place.
This bold business proposal template above clearly outlines the problem at hand and also offers a ray of hope i.e. how you can solve your prospect’s problem. This brings me to…
The good stuff. In the proposed solution section, you show how you can alleviate your prospective buyer’s pain points. This can fit onto the problem statement section but if you have a comprehensive solution or prefer to elaborate on the details, a separate section is a good idea.
Spare no details regarding the solution you will provide. When you write a business proposal, explain how you plan to deliver the solution. Include an estimated timeline of when they can expect your solution and other relevant details.
For inspiration, look at how this business proposal template quickly and succinctly outlines the project plan, deliverables and metrics :
At this point, the prospect you’re pitching your solution to likes what they’re reading. But they may not trust you to deliver on your promises. Why is this?
It’s because they don’t know you. Your job is to convince them that you can fix their problem. This section is important because it acts as social proof. You can highlight what your company does best and how qualified your team is when you write a business proposal for a potential client.
This free business proposal template showcases the company’s accolades, client testimonials, relevant case studies, and industry awards. You can also include other forms of social proof to establish yourself as a credible business. This makes it that much more likely that they will say yes!
Pro Tip: Attaching in-depth case studies of your work is a great way to build trust with a potential client by showcasing how you’ve solved similar problems for other clients in the past. Our case study examples post can show you how to do just that.
To further demonstrate just how prepared you are, it’s important to outline the next steps you will take should your buyer decide to work with you.
Provide a timeline of how and when you will complete all your deliverables. You can do this by designing a flow chart . Or add a roadmap with deadlines. Pitching a long-term project? A timeline infographic would be a better fit.
If you look at this abstract business proposal template below, even something as simple as a table can do the trick.
The timeline is not always set in stone, rather it’s an estimation. The goal is to clarify any questions your potential client might have about how you will deliver for the underlying B2B sales process.
On this page, you can outline your fees, payment schedule, invoice payment terms , as well as legal aspects involved in this deal.
The key to good pricing is to provide your buyer with options. A pricing comparison table can help with this. You want to give your client some room to work with. Make sure you’re not scaring off your client with a high price, nor undervaluing yourself.
Breaking up your pricing in stages is another great way to make sure your potential client knows what he’s paying for. Look at how this simple business proposal template does this:
The legal aspects can slot right into the terms and conditions section. Alternatively, you can add them in the signature section of the proposal to keep things simple.
Summarize everything you have promised to deliver so far. Include what you expect from your prospective buyer in return. Add the overall project timeline from start to end, as well as payment methods and payment schedule. This way, both of you will be clear on what is being agreed on.
This step is very important as it outlines all the legal aspects of the deal. That is why the terms and conditions section of your proposal needs to be as clear as possible.
I recommend consulting a lawyer or your legal team when working on this section of the business proposal. If you’re a business veteran and understand the legalities of your business, you can use the same terms and conditions across all your proposals.
The final step of this whole process. Your client has read your business proposal and they want to buy what you have to offer.
Add a small section at the end of your proposal to get the necessary signatures. This way, you and your client can sign the proposal and the partnership becomes official.
Be sure to also include your contact information in your business proposal template. It acts as a gentle prompt to your client to contact you in case they have any questions.
Now that you know how to write a business proposal, let’s look at how you can optimize your proposal to deliver results!
Below you’ll find some winning business proposal templates and examples to get you started. I’ve also included some design tips to keep in mind when you’re creating your next business proposal:
1. Know your audience
If you have some clarity on who your ideal buyer is — their pain points, their budget, deadlines, among other things — you’ve already won half the battle.
If you are a business that helps clients with everything from running giveaways or helping grow their blog , identify which customers to pitch. This is a sure-shot way to close the deal.
Mapping user personas for your ideal buyer can help bring some clarity. It will also help you position your business proposal correctly. This improves the chance of your buyer moving your business proposal to the “Yes!” pile.
2. Put your brand front and center
If your company follows certain brand guidelines, incorporate them in your business proposal templates. Consider how business proposal examples like the one below highlight brand identity:
From the color palettes to the company logos , everything follows their brand guidelines. The result: a business proposal that’s consistent across the board.
Pro Tip: Switching this template to match your brand assets is actually pretty easy. Venngage’s My Brand Kit feature allows you to import your color palettes, logos as well as font choices. Any Venngage template can now be your template.
You can also consider this sample business proposal template:
Design companies sure do know their design. They did a phenomenal job keeping their brand colors consistent while opting for a black design. This unique color scheme also makes their white logo prominent throughout the proposal.
3. Try less text, more visuals
Have you ever read a proposal and thought to yourself, “Wow, this is all text and has no images, I love it!”? Yeah, me neither.
The free business proposal template below is a perfect example of the “less is more” principle. It does a phenomenal job of communicating what it needs to. By substituting some of the text with icons and visuals, you get a clean business proposal that’s much more scannable.
Want to keep things strictly professional? Instead of icons, you can always add your team’s headshots. This shows your buyer exactly who they’ll be working with.
Check out this formal business proposal format for some inspiration:
4. Switch up your business proposal designs
It doesn’t hurt to go above and beyond once in a while. Jazz up your business proposal template with some extra colors. This helps make your business proposal more engaging. It also helps your buyers retain information faster.
The business proposal example alternates between black, white and grey backgrounds. It still manages to maintain consistency in its branding . Just switching up your backgrounds once in a while can also bring in some variety to an otherwise standard business proposal.
This SEO business proposal sample proves that it’s possible to switch up the colors in every other page. But it still maintains the same color scheme across the entire proposal just like a professionally designed website :
Pro Tip: Not a color expert? Our guide on picking colors can help you pick the right color scheme for your proposals.
FAQ about business proposals
What is the purpose of a business proposal.
Essentially, a business proposal aims to streamline the B2B sales process (which is often complex) between you as a seller and a buyer.
It does this by serving the dual purpose of acting as a source of information. The proposal also acts as a sales pitch aimed at convincing your buyer why they should buy what you have to offer.
What are the best practices for business proposal design?
- Do a thorough spell-check. The goal of your business proposal is to convince your buyer why you’re the perfect person for the job. A proposal with typos or grammatical errors communicates the opposite. A thorough spell-check before you send your proposal is a must.
- Let your brand shine. As discussed before, writing a business proposal is all about knowing your ideal buyer and focusing on their pain points. But that doesn’t mean your business proposal template has to be boring. Demonstrate how different you are compared to other companies. You can do this through your brand guidelines, by using more visuals, switching up your proposal design or showing off your personality in your writing.
- Download your business proposal as a PDF. This allows you to attach other collaterals with your business proposal. These can include a company explainer video or case studies showcasing the work done with past clients. Also, who doesn’t love saving paper?
How long should your business proposal be?
The length depends on the scope of the work as well as the complexity of the project. Here is a one-page business proposal template:
Can your business proposal template really be one page? Yes, as long as you understand who your buyer is and their pain points. You should also have the ability to communicate everything your ideal buyer needs to know about your business in a succinct manner.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous how about just two pages? Often, clients prefer if you go straight to the point and avoid all the fluff.
For example, this green modern marketing proposal template wastes no time in getting down to brass tacks:
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to deciding how many pages you should include in your business proposal template. And at the end of the day, “the only rules are the ones you set for yourself”.
At the end of the day, writing winning business proposals that sell is all about you understanding your buyer, their potential pain points and positioning yourself as someone who can alleviate those pain points.
Now that you know how to write compelling business proposals, what are you waiting for?
Take action and start creating your own business proposals to close more deals and grow your business today!
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How To Write A Business Plan (2023 Guide)
Updated: Aug 20, 2022, 2:21am
Table of Contents
Brainstorm an executive summary, create a company description, brainstorm your business goals, describe your services or products, conduct market research, create financial plans, bottom line, frequently asked questions.
Every business starts with a vision, which is distilled and communicated through a business plan. In addition to your high-level hopes and dreams, a strong business plan outlines short-term and long-term goals, budget and whatever else you might need to get started. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to write a business plan that you can stick to and help guide your operations as you get started.
Drafting the Summary
An executive summary is an extremely important first step in your business. You have to be able to put the basic facts of your business in an elevator pitch-style sentence to grab investors’ attention and keep their interest. This should communicate your business’s name, what the products or services you’re selling are and what marketplace you’re entering.
Ask for Help
When drafting the executive summary, you should have a few different options. Enlist a few thought partners to review your executive summary possibilities to determine which one is best.
After you have the executive summary in place, you can work on the company description, which contains more specific information. In the description, you’ll need to include your business’s registered name , your business address and any key employees involved in the business.
The business description should also include the structure of your business, such as sole proprietorship , limited liability company (LLC) , partnership or corporation. This is the time to specify how much of an ownership stake everyone has in the company. Finally, include a section that outlines the history of the company and how it has evolved over time.
Wherever you are on the business journey, you return to your goals and assess where you are in meeting your in-progress targets and setting new goals to work toward.
Goals can cover a variety of sections of your business. Financial and profit goals are a given for when you’re establishing your business, but there are other goals to take into account as well with regard to brand awareness and growth. For example, you might want to hit a certain number of followers across social channels or raise your engagement rates.
Another goal could be to attract new investors or find grants if you’re a nonprofit business. If you’re looking to grow, you’ll want to set revenue targets to make that happen as well.
Goals unrelated to traceable numbers are important as well. These can include seeing your business’s advertisement reach the general public or receiving a terrific client review. These goals are important for the direction you take your business and the direction you want it to go in the future.
The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you’re offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit in the current market or are providing something necessary or entirely new. If you have any patents or trademarks, this is where you can include those too.
If you have any visual aids, they should be included here as well. This would also be a good place to include pricing strategy and explain your materials.
This is the part of the business plan where you can explain your expertise and different approach in greater depth. Show how what you’re offering is vital to the market and fills an important gap.
You can also situate your business in your industry and compare it to other ones and how you have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Other than financial goals, you want to have a budget and set your planned weekly, monthly and annual spending. There are several different costs to consider, such as operational costs.
Business Operations Costs
Rent for your business is the first big cost to factor into your budget. If your business is remote, the cost that replaces rent will be the software that maintains your virtual operations.
Marketing and sales costs should be next on your list. Devoting money to making sure people know about your business is as important as making sure it functions.
Although you can’t anticipate disasters, there are likely to be unanticipated costs that come up at some point in your business’s existence. It’s important to factor these possible costs into your financial plans so you’re not caught totally unaware.
Business plans are important for businesses of all sizes so that you can define where your business is and where you want it to go. Growing your business requires a vision, and giving yourself a roadmap in the form of a business plan will set you up for success.
How do I write a simple business plan?
When you’re working on a business plan, make sure you have as much information as possible so that you can simplify it to the most relevant information. A simple business plan still needs all of the parts included in this article, but you can be very clear and direct.
What are some common mistakes in a business plan?
The most common mistakes in a business plan are common writing issues like grammar errors or misspellings. It’s important to be clear in your sentence structure and proofread your business plan before sending it to any investors or partners.
What basic items should be included in a business plan?
When writing out a business plan, you want to make sure that you cover everything related to your concept for the business, an analysis of the industry―including potential customers and an overview of the market for your goods or services―how you plan to execute your vision for the business, how you plan to grow the business if it becomes successful and all financial data around the business, including current cash on hand, potential investors and budget plans for the next few years.
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Julia is a writer in New York and started covering tech and business during the pandemic. She also covers books and the publishing industry.
Kelly is an SMB Editor specializing in starting and marketing new ventures. Before joining the team, she was a Content Producer at Fit Small Business where she served as an editor and strategist covering small business marketing content. She is a former Google Tech Entrepreneur and she holds an MSc in International Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University. Additionally, she manages a column at Inc. Magazine.
Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan
Smartsheet Contributor Joe Weller
October 11, 2021
A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice.
Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.
A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:
- Product goals and deadlines for each month
- Monthly financials for the first two years
- Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
- Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years
Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.
While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.
For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .
Business Plan Steps
The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:
- Executive summary
- Description of business
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Description of organizational management
- Description of product or services
- Marketing plan
- Sales strategy
- Funding details (or request for funding)
- Financial projections
If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.
Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.
Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?
Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.
How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business
In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.
Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:
Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?
There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.
The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans
A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.
In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.
How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step
Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.
Step 1: Executive Summary
The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:
- What is the vision and mission of the company?
- What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?
See our roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.
Step 2: Description of Business
The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:
- What business are we in?
- What does our business do?
Step 3: Market Analysis
In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:
- Who is our customer?
- What does that customer value?
Step 4: Competitive Analysis
In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:
- Who is the competition?
- What do they do best?
- What is our unique value proposition?
Step 5: Description of Organizational Management
In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.
Step 6: Description of Products or Services
In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.
Questions to answer in this section are as follows:
- What is the product or service?
- How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?
Step 7: Marketing Plan
In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:
- Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
- What channels will you use to reach your target market?
- What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
- If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
- How will you measure success?
Step 8: Sales Plan
Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts.
Start by answering the following questions:
- What is the sales strategy?
- What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
- What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
- What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
- What are the metrics of success?
Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)
This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:
- How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
- How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
- What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?
Step 10: Financial Projections
Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years.
While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:
- How and when will the company first generate a profit?
- How will the company maintain profit thereafter?
Business Plan Template
Download Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet
This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.
For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy.
If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.
How to Write a Simple Business Plan
A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.
Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .
- Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company.
- Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision.
- Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
- Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
- Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
- Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
- Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
- Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
- Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting.
- Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.
Simple Business Plan Template
Download Simple Business Plan Template
Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Smartsheet
Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.
Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates .
How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup
A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.
While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:
- Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
- List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
- Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
- Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
- Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.).
- Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
- Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
- Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.
Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups
Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF
Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.
See our wide variety of startup business plan templates for more options.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan
A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.
In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.
Download free financial templates to support your business plan.
Tips for Writing a Business Plan
Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.
- Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
- Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
- Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
- Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
- Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”
Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.
Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.
“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”
Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”
Resources for Writing a Business Plan
While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.
Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.
How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business
A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships.
Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.
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How to Write a Business Proposal — 2022 Guide and Template
A business proposal can make or break your chances of securing a new client. Write a great one, and you’ll likely snag their business.
Write a poor one, and you might lose out—even if you’re offering the best service out there. So, how do you write a business proposal? What is the proper format? What do you need to include?
While it all depends on your industry, and whether or not you’re offering a product or service, writing a business proposal is pretty straightforward. We’ll answer all those questions and more throughout the course of this guide.
What to expect with this business proposal guide
Whether you’re starting fresh or need to look at a specific section, here’s what we’ll be covering in this guide.
- What a business proposal is
- The differences between a business proposal and a business plan
- The format of a business proposal
- How long to make your business proposal
How to write a business proposal
You can download a free business proposal template here to start writing up your own proposal as you work through this article. By the end, you’ll be prepared to develop a well-written business proposal that can explain your business clearly and win more clients. Let’s get started.
What is a business proposal ?
A business proposal is a document you’d send to a prospective client, outlining the service you’re offering, and explaining why you’re the best person for the job.
It’s a pitch by a business or individual to complete a specific job or project, to supply a service, or, in some instances, to be the vendor of a certain product.
What are the different types of business proposals?
A business proposal can be either solicited or unsolicited. With a solicited proposal, the prospective client will put out a request for proposals; with an unsolicited business proposal, you are approaching a client in hopes of attracting their business, even though they did not explicitly request a proposal.
While both are commonplace, a solicited proposal is an easier sell, as your prospective client has already decided that they want to make a purchase or use a service, and they’re evaluating possible vendors or businesses.
With a solicited proposal, your prospective client might have issued an RFP, or “request for proposal.” This is exactly what it sounds like—they want you to send over a business proposal so they can take a look at it.
Differences between a business proposal and a business plan
A business proposal is not the same as a business plan . This is the most common misconception, but while there are areas of overlap (like your executive summary ) the two are different.
That being said, you can certainly pull information from your business plan while writing your business proposal—in fact, that’s a great way to start.
But don’t confuse the two; they are distinct and separate. In short, a business plan represents the cohesive strategy of how your business operates and makes money. A business proposal is an official pitch to clients selling your products or services.
A business proposal outlines a particular product or service offered by an established business to a prospective client.
You’re trying to sell your prospective client on your product or service, not on your business itself. You’re not after funding, as you are with a business plan, you’re trying to make a sale.
A business proposal is also not an estimate; although you’ll likely touch on costs and pricing in your business proposal, an estimate is much more informal and just a quick look at the costs, not the whole picture.
What goes into a business proposal?
Your business proposal should address the three Ps:
- Problem statement: What your customer’s current problem is
- Proposed solution: How your business solves that problem better than other solutions
- Pricing: How much that solution costs compared to alternatives
If you’re stuck on how to start, maybe try brainstorming first; start with these three points, and you’ll have a rough, bare-bones version of your business proposal.
Once you’ve done that if you’re ready to go more in-depth, here is a step-by-step look at how to format your business proposal.
Your business proposal should start with a title page, which should include your name, the name of your company, the name of the person to whom you’re submitting your proposal, and the date submitted.
Table of contents
Depending on how long your business proposal is, a table of contents is a nice touch. Include it after your title page, and before you launch into any details. If you’re delivering it as a PDF, including anchor links down to each section, so it’s easy to get to specific areas.
Introduce your proposal with a great executive summary, one that really sells your business and the products or services you provide—it’s about why you’re the right company for the job. You can draw from your business plan’s executive summary here, too.
Statement of problem, issue, or job at hand
Following your executive summary, go on to discuss the problem that the client is currently facing. Think of “problem” or “issue” loosely; after all, their main problem may just be finding the right person to complete their project. But be sure you understand why they want the product or service they’re seeking. If the proposal is for developing a brand new website, make sure you understand what they want to get out of the site—better sales, more content management flexibility.
This is the place to show your new client that you understand their needs , and fully grasp the issue they are trying to solve. Take this opportunity to restate the issue they are facing in your own words so that they know you understand what they are looking for.
Approach and methodology
This section shows how you plan to tackle your potential client’s problem, and the steps you’ll take to carry out your plan.
This is where you’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how you actually plan to fulfill your client’s needs. While earlier sections might have been a bit surface-level, this section of the business proposal is where you’ll go into detail about what steps you’ll take to solve their problem.
Be careful of going into too much detail, though—keep the jargon to a minimum. Your client should be able to follow along and get a clear sense of your plan, but you don’t want to drown them in minutiae.
Go ahead, brag a little—this is the section of your business proposal where you get to convince your potential client why you are the most qualified person to take on the job.
You can mention any relevant education, industry-specific training, or certifications you have, your past successful projects of a similar nature, years of experience, and so on.
Schedule and benchmarks
Be clear with your potential client: How long will your proposed project take?
Making sure you and your prospective client are on the same page from the outset will help make sure that the relationship stays positive for both of you, and that you don’t set your client up with unrealistic expectations.
While you might be tempted to underestimate how long it will take you to complete the project, don’t. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver!
If you’re offering a product, this section might not be applicable to you, so feel free to omit it. The business proposal format is flexible, so tailor it to suit your business and industry.
Cost, payment, and any legal matters
Here is where you get down to brass tacks and state the cost, and payment schedule if necessary.
How you structure this section will largely depend on the particular project or service you are offering. A section entitled “Fee Summary” may be sufficient if one-time payment is required; otherwise, a “Fee Schedule” list or pricing table might be more appropriate. Always refer back to the client’s RFP whenever possible, to make sure you’re supplying them with all the information they need to help make their decision.
If there are any legal issues to attend to, such as permits or licensing, include this information here. Feel free to add a section entirely devoted to handling the legal side of the project if need be.
This is your final sell—don’t be afraid to detail for your prospective client all they have to gain by choosing you to complete the project.
Impress upon your clients why you are the best choice, and all the ways in which their business will benefit from choosing you and your business as their solution.
How long should a business proposal be?
When it comes to the format of a business proposal, this is the million-dollar question without an answer. Remember in school, when you’d ask your teacher how long an essay should be, and they’d reply, “as long as it takes to answer the question.”
The same applies to your business proposal. It ultimately depends on your industry, the scope of the project, and the client’s specifications in terms of detail and elements included.
That being said, the tighter your initial proposal can be and the more directly you can make your point, the easier it will be to pitch it to clients. Start by following the business proposal format above as a guide, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a winning business proposal—and securing new clients.
Editor’s note: This article was originally written in 2018 and updated for 2021.
Briana is a content and digital marketing specialist, editor, and writer. She enjoys discussing business, marketing, and social media, and is a big fan of the Oxford comma. Bri is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and she can be found, infrequently, on Twitter.
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How to Write a Business Proposal in 2023 (the A-Z Guide)
- April 6, 2020
- 19 min read
- Feb 9, 2023
You just finished an amazing meeting with a potential client, they seem ready to pull the trigger and excited to work with you. Then they utter the following sentence:
“Please send me a business proposal”
As a business owner or salesperson, that’s the best thing you’ll hear all day. Until you get back to the office and realize you actually have to write it. This guide will give you a system and guidelines on how to write a successful business proposal and make that process super easy. Whether you’re forming an LLC and need consultation or are looking for new business partners, your pitch should be professional and engaging.
You can seek the assistance of a skilled writer who can offer the best custom writing service for a better and more captivating proposal.
Writing a business proposal is actually not that fun. In fact, most business owners absolutely hate this task. However, if you have amazing business proposal templates to rely on, you can speed up this process and quickly start working on the client’s problem.
If you want to learn how to write a business proposal like a professional, read on to find out:
- The key elements of a winning business proposal
- Which sections you NEED to include in every proposal
- What to do before you even begin writing
- Examples of successful business proposal ideas from different industries
- Quotes from industry experts on the proposals they’ve written and sent
Things to know before you start writing business proposals
At the most basic level, your proposal writing system is two things:
- Having a great business proposal template written with everything in it
- Knowing what needs editing each time
The importance of a good business proposal template
The first thing, getting your business proposal template in order is vital. The best tip we have is to choose your next proposal and allocate a good day to getting it as good as it can be.
This means editing the copy like it’s a headline on your website. Consider the wording, your client and the emotions you want to evoke and really make each section as good as it can be. Putting in effort in business proposal writing makes all the difference.
Later in this article, we’ll look at what is included in a business proposal , and that goes for your template too. We’ll also provide business proposal examples as well.
When you’re having that meeting with your potential client and they ask you to write them a business proposal for your proposed solution, you can confidently walk away, knowing exactly what to do.
What is a Business Proposal?
An effective business proposal is a formal document created with the purpose of persuading your potential customers to work with you.
Whether you’re starting a new business or growing an existing one, a business proposal is used in a variety of industries to help sell a wide range of products or services. From selling carpets to offering enterprise software solutions, and social media marketing , all of it starts with a business proposal.
Two types of business proposals
Besides the difference in the industry, the main division is between solicited and unsolicited business proposals. A solicited business proposal is sent when you already have a connection with the potential customer and they’re interested in what you’re selling.
Usually, the buyer themselves will ask for a proposal outlining your problem statement. Whether they’re a small business or government agencies, your proposal should follow the project details they’ve outlined.
On the other hand, unsolicited proposals are sent without the explicit request of someone who may be interested in what you’re selling. Whether you’re writing formally solicited proposals or unsolicited ones, you’ll need to know how to structure them.
Although it’s easier to create a solicited proposal, don’t stress out about writing unsolicited ones. Our guide can help you in both situations.
How to write a business proposal
Most people think that writing a business proposal is boring and time-consuming. And for the most part, they’re right. There really is no creative flare in writing them and it’s all about pitching your product or service so that the new client says yes and gives you money.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way to make proposal writing easier and more efficient and get your prospective client on board more quickly.
In the following sections, we’ll show you that writing a business proposal is more about preparation and using the right tools to make writing easier. In other words, we’ll teach you how to write a business proposal with minimal effort and maximum sales performance.
Once you pick the right proposal software tools, you’ll see how easy it is to create a winning proposal.
But first, let’s tackle a very important term – business proposal templates .
What is a business proposal template?
Put simply, a proposal template is a proposal that is about 90% finished. As mentioned above, a template includes everything that you want to send in a single proposal.
Your best introduction describing the problem statement, your best pricing strategy , your best type of proof, the best title page, etc. A template combines all the best elements of the proposals you’ve sent which resulted in sales for your product or service.
If you want to create a template of your own, simply think of the best sales proposals you’ve ever written and grab the most effective piece of content. If you’re using proposal software like Better Proposals, this shouldn’t be difficult, because you will know which proposals work for your target audience.
What if you’ve never sent proposals before so you don’t have a basis for templates? What if you don’t have the time or you just don’t know a thing about proposals? The good news is, you have no reason to worry – our proposal library has more than 100 different proposal templates for a variety of industries and different applications.
Once you have your template, you can fill out the major details, such as:
- The client and their personal information
- Details about the specific offer
- Pricing, timelines, detailed specification
- A proof section with an example similar to the offer you’re sending
Once you add these, your business proposal is ready to go. The main idea is that templates help you write proposals in 15 minutes instead of 5 hours.
What questions are your customers asking?
When writing a business proposal , there’s a situation going on that only the best salespeople understand.
Your potential client has a list of questions. They’ll rarely tell you what those questions are. Mostly because they’re pretty awkward. For example, we had a situation when I quoted someone £40,000 for some software once. The proposal was about 17 pages long and the client replied with one sentence.
“Sounds good. What happens if you die? How do I get my data back?”
I didn’t think it was an appropriate time to go back to him and explain I probably wouldn’t care about his data if I was dead . I did explain to him a contingency plan that we had in place for nearly a decade now for this exact situation. I told him, and he signed up.
This got me thinking. This guy was bold enough to ask that question but he can’t have been the first guy to think it . From that moment on, we included that in every business proposal we sent under a section called How we protect your data.
What other questions might your potential customers have that they won’t ask you:
- What happens if he dies?
- What will I do if they screw up my search engine rankings?
- What happens if they take over my website and vanish?
- What happens if they redesign my website and I get fewer conversions than I got before?
You can’t assume that potential clients will ask these questions. Think about it. How many questions do people actually ask on the back of proposals? Answer these questions in your proposal before the client gets a chance to ask them.
How do you want your potential clients to feel?
Don’t think of business proposals as just sales documents. Think of them as taking someone on an experience.
Think about movies. The emotions override the content. It’s less important how you get them to feel sadness at the end, so long as you do and they’ll use every trick in the book to do it.
When you write a business proposal, think about the emotion you want your potential client to feel at the end of reading your proposal .
- Excitement – Describing possibilities, using uplifting pictures, and success stories will be good here. Don’t bore them with a document resembling a long business plan.
- Confidence – Include lots of proof and trust-building elements into this. You wouldn’t be making suggestions; you’d be certain in your wording.
- Action taking – Lots of commanding words, talking about the next step, don’t bog them down with a list of 42 things to decide. Just get them to do the “next” thing.
Only you know what’s most appropriate. What you don’t want to be doing is talking in “maybes”, and “ifs” and using suggestive wording when you want someone to trust you. It sounds like you’re not sure.
Here’s a good example
As a good friend Mitch Miller says:
“The doctor doesn’t ask the patient if it’s the right prescription. He just prescribes the right thing and tells them to get out of the office”.
Take an appropriate stance when thinking about the language of your proposals in relation to how you want them to feel at the end.
Consider using proposal software instead of writing manually
The truth is, rarely anyone writes proposals these days – most people use proposal software. Here’s why it’s a good idea.
- Proposal software is web-based. You can send your clients links instead of PDF files.
- Proposals are optimized for different devices. They look and feel the same on a phone, laptop or tablet.
- You get to use proposal templates. (We have more than 100 of them.)
- You can track what the client does with the proposal. You get notifications when they read, forward and sign.
- Clients can instantly sign proposals electronically. This means your proposals are considered legally binding contracts. No need for third-party tools like DocuSign or DocuSign alternatives – good proposal software has that already built in.
- Clients can pay from the proposal. Paypal, Stripe, GoCardless, you name it.
- You can use a variety of integrations. MailChimp, Zapier, Salesforce, HubSpot or whatever you are using in your sales workflow.
- Detailed reporting. Find out what works and what doesn’t, no guessing.
- The ability to use live chat. You can chat with the client as they’re reading the proposal, increasing your conversions.
- You get to write your proposals in 15 minutes, not 5 hours.
These are just some of the many reasons why you should consider using proposal software rather than opening Word the next time you want to write an effective business proposal.
The 8 key elements of every winning business proposal
There are 8 elements most business proposals should include. Some are absolutely essential; some are not – that depends on your specific situation. Here they are:
1. Introduction or Executive summary
2. Detailed specification
7. Next steps
8. Terms and conditions
Does your proposal need to have all of these sections? Maybe yes, maybe not – it depends. However, all of our proposal templates have these sections out of the box.
There is one thing that we didn’t mention on purpose – the title page.
All proposals should have a well-designed title page, with an image and some text to address the specific client. We’re leaving it out because all of our business proposal templates come with a beautiful title page out of the box.
A beautifully designed title page can help your small business stand out because it gives your entire document a level of professionalism.
The introduction – also known as executive summary
Good business proposals always start with a great introduction . This is the most read part of your proposal so it needs to get across that you understand their situation and you’re clear on their goal. Your meetings and discovery sessions should be heavily predicated on getting the information for this section of the proposal.
The reason you don’t win new business is that you didn’t get a chance to do a meeting or initial call about the job. As a result, you never discovered what the client wants to achieve, what’s important to them and what makes them tick. This is one of the most important things to include when you learn how to write a business proposal.
As a result, because you don’t know that information, you lead with the things that don’t matter as much. For example the price or the technicalities of what you’re trying to do when writing a business proposal for them.
The importance of a good proposal introduction
Your introduction should show the client that you’ve listened to their problem and that you have the cure, which you will show them in the next section. If you want to create an ongoing relationship, you need to show that you’ve researched your client’s company.
If you want to present your clients with a custom service, this is the place to stress that. Show them how you customize your usual offer to match their exact pain point.
According to our own research, this is the most-read section of all business proposals besides the pricing. Most clients read just these two sections, so make sure that you invest extra time and care in this one.
What about the executive summary?
This section is also known as a summary or an executive summary, depending on your resources. Even though the title is different, everything else is the same – it’s a section where you discuss how you’re going to solve the client’s problem and present your value proposition.
Make sure to keep it short and to the point. You want to keep your entire proposal easy to read and as enjoyable of an experience for your potential client as possible.
Since the executive summary is such an important part of any standard business proposal, don’t be afraid of asking your team members to read it and give you feedback.
Business Proposal Cover Letter
You may have heard about the term business proposal cover letter . A cover letter is essentially the same as an introduction. It’s an addition that should be read before the “meat” of the proposal document.
Its purpose is to convince the potential client that you know their business and their needs and it should get them hooked to read the actual body of the proposal, which describes your proposed solution.
To keep things simple, we use the executive summary of the proposal for the purpose of a cover letter.
The detailed specification
This part varies depending on what you’re selling. If it’s a website, this could be a list of pages and features. If you’re writing a social media marketing proposal, then this could be the strategy or the talent and credentials of your team. It’ll vary.
The basic idea is to be as detailed as possible in your offer. That way, the prospective client understands exactly how your proposed solutions work.
The reason it’s important is that if the deal goes bad, you both have this section to refer back to. Your business proposal outlines accountability and what the client should hope for. Moreover, it also serves as a good exercise for you when writing a good business proposal as this is all the information you’re going to gather in any discovery phase of the deal.
It’s important here to keep this in plain English. Stay far away from jargon as it will only confuse the potential client. The less the reader understands, the less they trust you.
Also, if you absolutely must write about your company, this might be the place to do it. Who you are, what you do, how long you’ve been doing it and what makes you stand out. However, don’t spend too much time or space on this because the focus is on the client, not you.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a wide bracket like 2-4 weeks – you have to give the client some clue about your project timeline. Otherwise, it’s a massive unknown.
It can be really useful to find out if they have a special event, or reason for a project timeline to be important to them. If there is, tie that in. You can even tie that into scarcity to give them the incentive to sign the proposal off by a certain date.
If you’re writing unsolicited proposals, you need to be especially convincing and present your project timeline in a way that will be hard to say no to.
Be as specific as possible, but also use this section to your advantage. More time to deliver means two things:
1. You can finish earlier than promised and impress your client
2. You have more time to spare if something goes unexpectedly wrong
More time is always better, but make sure that you consider the need for urgency as well.
You must prove to your client that you can actually deliver your proposed solution. Now, you might say “we have examples on our website”. That’s nice – but the client is not looking at your website, they’re reading your proposal – your one big “ask” for the business. They want solid proof and a few good case studies will do.
You need to have sufficient proof in a good business proposal . This could be examples, testimonials, video case studies, screenshots from a client proving you helped them with something, a recording of a voicemail – anything.
To help them feel like they’ll be in good hands, indicate relevant credentials and certifications your team managers and members have. After all, product managers and team leaders will play a massive role in ensuring that your product or service will be of top quality.
Take some time to check out Foundr’s guide for freelancers with useful tips on self-branding, like when to include a company logo .
As you can see in our business proposal example, it doesn’t have to be complex and have the production value of a Spielberg classic. It just needs to get the point across.
The good news is, there is more than one type of proof that you can choose. Case studies, testimonials, portfolio pieces, explainer videos – there are lots of ways to convince your clients that you’re the real deal.
Based on some of our own data, this is the second most read section of any business proposal – people usually jump straight from the executive summary to the pricing table. Needless to say, spend some extra time here to make it look right.
When using our business proposal templates, you can choose how to format your price based on project details.
That said, there are a few things you want to make sure of. The first is that the pricing is super clear. If you have somewhat of a confusing pricing structure then this might be time to think about simplifying it.
Speaking of which, we’ve done some research on pricing in business proposals and you can see our results in the latest Proposal Report . As it turns out, it’s a better idea to have a single offer and price instead of trying to get more money with upsells. Proposals with a single offer sold significantly more – 20.6% for offers with upfront costs and 33% higher for offers with monthly retainer costs.
The reason is that a business proposal is a matter of getting a simple answer – yes or no. The more options you add, the more difficult it gets for them to decide whether to sign or not. Keep your responsive pricing tables super simple.
Along with your price, try and include a testimonial from a past client suggesting that your price is a good value for their money. Another thing is how you charge. Ideally, you want to focus on value rather than a day or hourly rate.
The way you format your price can help avoid further negotiations.
How to name your pricing section
Finally, there is one more thing that you should know about the pricing section – don’t call it that way . We’ve discovered that these names work better:
- Return on investment
- And others following this pattern
Basically, you want your clients to see your services as an investment in their business, rather than a simple cost and money down the drain. Small businesses or enterprise clients, no one wants to spend money, they want to invest it.
Some people love the idea of a guarantee. Others don’t like giving guarantees for fear of abuse. However, a guarantee is a great way to push new clients further towards conversion.
Instead of a typical money-back guarantee, consider guaranteeing a part of your service or a timescale.
Good business proposal example
Cheryl Laidlaw has her service “Website in a day”. She (at the time of writing) charges £1,995 for the day and delivers the website THAT NIGHT. The client doesn’t go home and neither does Cheryl until it’s done – which is an amazing offer .
The next steps
A lot of times, people seem to forget the very basics – to show the client what to do next. Sure, some people might read your business proposal and say “Great, okay let’s go ahead”. But why would you leave it up to them to figure it out?
It’s not their job to figure out how to buy from you, especially if you’re sending informally solicited proposals. Just make sure to tell them what the next steps are.
Usually, this will be something like:
Step 1: Sign the proposal by typing your name in the box below and hitting ‘Accept’. This makes the proposal a legally binding contract.
Step 2: We’ll invoice you for 50%. Please, pay for this immediately.
Step 3: We’ll arrange our initial consultation call with you.
Anyone can do these tasks on their own – they’re not all that complex. The problem is that if you leave all of this unsaid, you’re leaving your clients wondering.
Explain all the details of what’s going to happen next.
Terms & conditions
You absolutely should be including your contract or terms and conditions. Just put it on a separate page called Terms & Conditions or Terms of Business .
There’s a great contract written for freelancers which covers 98% of the basics. If you’re not using a contract in your business right now, use this until your legal team demands something better.
You should always include your terms in your business proposals because when someone signs the proposal, they automatically sign the contract . It covers you and it covers the client, so it’s only natural to include it.
Just reading the words “terms and conditions” may make you feel dizzy because of the work ahead, but it’s actually something that you can do once and never fret about it later.
After all, once clients sign your proposals, they become legally binding contracts, so you need to make sure you’ve covered all legal aspects.
If you follow our guide, you’ll dramatically increase the number of people who say yes to your proposals. In summary, here are the exact steps that you need to take to write an amazing business proposal:
1. Start off with a proposal template
2. Find out the questions that your clients are asking
3. Think of how you want the clients to feel as they read the proposal
4. Include the 8 elements of a winning business proposal, as listed above
5. Use proposal software to automate the writing process
One of the biggest reasons people take forever to write business proposals and ultimately do a bad job is because they are using software that simply isn’t geared up to doing the job in an effective way. It might sound like a self-serving suggestion , but you should take a look at using Better Proposals for writing your next business proposal.
The business proposal templates in the Proposal Marketplace alone will save you a ton of time with many business proposal examples to browse, and our proposal software has everything you need for writing proposals in one place.
Now that you know how to write a business proposal , it’s time to use the right tool for the job. Sign up for Better Proposals today and find out how to win more business with less work!
Start sending high conversion proposals today
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01.03.2023 in Essay
How To Write A Business Proposal Easily – Guide With Free Templates
Transform your format of a business proposal with this professional proposal writing guide. To learn how to bring the concepts in a business proposal to life, check out all the sections of a business proposal in this article.
How to Write Up A Business Proposal
How do I write a proposal? Writing a business proposal can be difficult. With our comprehensive guide and business proposal templates, you can streamline your process and close more deals. Learn how to write a business proposal with our step-by-step guides and creative business proposal ideas.
Business proposal meaning
To write a business proposal, we need to define what a professional business proposal is. It is a document that is used to close a deal with potential clients. The main goal of writing a business proposal is to provide a complete overview of how your service meets a client’s needs. The content may vary depending on the type of need and the industry.
Types of business proposal
There are two categories of professional business proposals:
1) Solicited Offers initiated by the prospective client and are a response to a request for proposal for business (RFP) . The customer has approached your business and asked for help, which can fall into two categories:
- Formal RFPs / Solicitations are competitive and follow a structured process. The customer sends an RFP describing the work required and invites your company to submit a formal bid.
- Informal RFPs / Solicitations arise from conversations between a customer and the vendor with whom he or she wishes to work. They are not formally documented and may result in a non-competitive sole source agreement.
2) Unsolicited Offers – are documents sent to a potential customer without a request. The documents are usually created to take advantage of a market opportunity that the customer does not know about or has not yet taken advantage of.
Business Proposal Plan
How do you successfully write a proposal for a business? Building a proposal is like building a house – it requires a strong foundation and key elements to be successful.
The format for writing a proposal can vary depending on the company type, size of a business, the industry, and more. Read the RFP thoroughly to know exactly what the client wants. Schedule a meeting to get a better understanding of the problem.
Now it’s time to learn what should be included in a business proposal.
1) Cover page
What is a required element to include in a proposal? Start with a cover page. This is the first thing your customer sees, and as research shows, you only have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression with visual content.
The cover page must balance professionalism and engagement to create a strong first impression. Make it visually appealing, but not too flashy.
2) Table of contents
Make it easy for the reader to navigate the structure of the proposal by using a clear table of contents that highlights the major topics covered. Consider adding clickable links (hyperlinks) for quick access to each section.
3) Executive summary
In the summary, lay out why your solution is the best fit for the potential customer. Be specific and show your unique value proposition.
Present the benefits of your company’s services and convincingly demonstrate how they can solve your potential client’s problem. The summary should provide a clear understanding of how you can help your client.
4) Solutions pages
Define the problem or need in detail. You must demonstrate that you understand the challenges your potential client faces. To do this, you need to thoroughly research and make an effort to understand exactly what the client’s problems are. Your goal is to present a concise and compelling summary of the problems your client needs help solving.
The solution should be tailored to their specific needs so they know you understand the problems they face. Describe the results you will achieve and the expected time frame. This way, the client knows what to expect from you and expectations are high for what you will deliver.
5) Highlighting your qualifications and expertise
Demonstrate your competence, showcase your past accomplishments, and demonstrate your professional awards to gain trust.
6) Pricing options
What should be included in an alternative proposal? Determine your pricing method by choosing a fixed fee, hourly contract, unit rate, or a combination of these. Accurate pricing is essential to winning a bid.
If an accurate estimate is not possible, explain the situation and provide a range. Transparency is extremely important in this section. Customers want to know how costs are determined and what they are paying for. Make sure that all information is presented accurately.
Highlight all the information you have provided in a concise summary. Highlight your qualifications, explain why you are the best choice and indicate your availability. Leave a lasting impression by providing your contact information and making it easy for the client to contact you. The goal is to increase the client’s anticipation of working with you.
How do you close a business proposal? The closing should contain a clear agreement. To avoid confusion, a clear section on terms and conditions should be included. This section will include all the important details of the project, such as price, payment schedule, and deadlines. Have your legal department review and approve this section before sending the document to your client.
Provide a space for signatures to finalize the agreement and formally acknowledge the terms. This is also an opportunity to encourage the client to contact you if they have any questions or concerns before signing.
How to make a proposal for a business – 8 steps
Step 1 – begin with a business proposal outline.
Before you begin writing a business proposal, identify the critical sections and the most important information that must be included. This will help you stay organized and focused while delivering a clear and concise message.
Step 2 – Represent your brand
Provide an overview of your business, and why it is unique, and kindly invite your customers to contact you with questions. For this reason, you can place this information in the “About Us” section. Remember that such information does not have to be a dry company description.
Do not just rely on your own words – back up your offer with credible evidence from customers. More than 90% of customers trust personal recommendations over other forms of advertising. Social proof builds trust with skeptics who are more likely to believe other customers than a sales pitch.
Step 3 – Use data, visuals, and videos
Include concrete data with relevant numbers and charts that illustrate the value of your business. Highlight your online offering by including videos. The creative business proposal is a dynamic combination of text and media.
Step 4 – Include a call-to-action (CTA)
Don’t let your document down by leaving the readers guessing about what to do next. Guide them to action with a clear and bold CTA. Highlight the specific steps they should take to express interest in your work.
Step 5 – Make a sense of urgency
Don’t let your customers miss out on a valuable opportunity. Indecision often stems from a lack of urgency. Give them the sense of urgency to act by clearly articulating your short- and long-term goals for their business. Highlight the immediate benefits they can expect and make them so enticing that they can’t resist.
Step 6 – Keep it simple
What is important when writing a proposal for a business? Simplicity is key. Research from Google’s research shows that users prefer familiar designs . Use concise language and avoid overly complicated visuals.
Step 7 – Drive the decision
Create a business proposal in such a way that turning it down is equivalent to rejecting a lucrative offer. Offer more than they expect and remove any obstacles that might prevent them from accepting the offer.
Step 8 – Maintain quality control
Make sure your document is polished and error-free. A sloppy appearance could damage your message and your professional reputation. Check carefully for spelling and grammatical errors before sending. Elements can vary depending on your industry and the needs of your potential clients. Improve quality with Grammarly , which checks for spelling errors and content engagement.
Templates of A Business Proposal
Each template for a business proposal differs depending on your goals. Check out these proven templates from top business proposal sample software providers.
Digital Marketing Project Template
Make your offer stand out with this concise one-page proposal format for business. It covers the most important aspects so you can make a strong impression in a fast-paced industry. This format for a business proposal provides pricing strategies to help you secure the deal.
Impress your clients with a document that demonstrates your unsurpassed expertise and enviable track record. This template for business proposals is designed to help you quickly establish credibility. Present your proposed service solution outlining the goals and comprehensive plans.
Social Media Marketing Template
Maximize your chances of getting a social media marketing project by submitting a well-crafted offer. This format of a business proposal includes a transparent breakdown of the cost of services.
Unlock the potential of your online presence with this powerful SEO business proposal template . This template includes a roadmap for a successful SEO plan with expertly written sample content to guide you every step of the way.
Web Design Template
Propose confidently by using this format for a business proposal . It is designed to help you understand your customer’s needs. Start with a professional introduction and guide the client through your development process. Use professional tools like Canva to find a free template for a business plan proposal.
Example of business proposal
Looking for an example of a business proposal? Achieve success for you and your clients with free HubSpot’s proposal format for business . Quickly and easily customize the template for any project.
Summary of the article
Review your document thoroughly. Make sure it is complete and accurate by considering the following factors:
Readability. Write the document in an ideal style, and tone, and with structured sentences. Captivate your target reader and convey information.
Error-free. Eliminate all grammatical and technical errors, such as punctuation and spelling mistakes.
Meet requirements. Meet all requirements and include relevant information to achieve the client’s goals.
A well-crafted document should leave little room for questions. It can provide a clear picture of your company’s capabilities. Use the strategies described in this article to create a professional proposal that will increase your chances of winning a contract.
It can be challenging to standardize the proposal writing process. With our comprehensive guide and free templates, you can streamline your proposal writing. Every opportunity is unique, so it’s important that you have all the information you need and can present solutions effectively.
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How to write a business proposal (The modern way)
Nothing speaks to a customer’s direct needs like a well-written business proposal.
But how do you make sure that your proposal is engaging to every potential client?
This year, we analyzed nearly 570,000 proposals sent in 2021 through the PandaDoc platform for insights on what works best and what doesn’t.
Here’s what we learned about writing business proposals.
The basic structure of your business proposal
Building a business proposal is like building a house.
While there are certain elements that are always necessary — like the foundation — a house varies based on location and the architect or homeowner’s preferences.
In the same way, the components of a business proposal can vary based on industry, company size, and many other factors.
Just like writing anything else, a well-written proposal begins by gathering information and assessing the problems that your potential client is trying to solve.
With that in mind, the following items are what readers are looking to glean from your proposal. Think of these as the roof, walls, and foundation of your document:
- Information about your company. Your background, your qualifications, and why you’re a better fit than the rest of your competitors.
- Demonstrated knowledge of the problem. Proof that you’ve listened and done your research. You know what the client needs and you have a viable solution.
- Pricing and methodology. How you plan to solve the client’s problem, information about your proposed solution, and how much it’s going to cost.
In the next section, we’ll take you through how to draft a business proposal using our social media proposal template as an example.
If you’re not a social media company, don’t worry.
While the template we’re using is an example of a simple project proposal, the basic structure applies to nearly every business proposal — no matter how complex they might be.
You can download this proposal example and hundreds of other business proposal templates on our website.
Here are the nine elements of a business proposal , and what to include in each section.
Before you start, a quick note on length
Based on our analysis of proposals on our platform, we found that the average proposal length is about nine pages.
But, as several of our own account executives and sales team members were quick to point out, longer doesn’t always mean better.
“Short and sweet has a high conversion rate,” said Josh Gillespie, from Upmarket Sales . “Fewer pages and less fluff is better. Ideally, a proposal should be fewer than 10 pages for transactional proposals below $10,000, and never more than 50 pages.”
Artyom Voronetskiy, Account Executive with PandaDoc, agrees:
“Keep it short, on-point, and eye-catching. Do not write more than six to ten pages unless your product is extremely complicated.”
While you should make sure to include all relevant information that prospective clients will need in order to make a decision, take care to avoid overcrowding them with irrelevant details.
01. Cover page
This section includes basic information like your company’s name and contact information, your company logo, your client’s name, and contact information, the date, and a title.
A strong title page makes the project proposal look neat, organized, and well put together.
It’s also the very first thing that your prospective client will see when they open your proposal, and everyone knows how important that first impression can be.
Studies have shown that you have as little as 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression when designing visual content like websites.
The same holds true for your cover page.
Unlike the rest of your document, a cover page is a place where you can place graphics and visual content to set the tone before the reader dives into the meat of your proposal.
But don’t go overboard with complicated graphics and logos on this page. According to a study by Google , users love simple and familiar designs , especially at a first glance.
This is also a great way for you to stand out. Based on our data, only about 13% of proposals we see use cover pages . Take advantage of this missed opportunity and use it to stand out from your competitors.
02. Cover letter
You wouldn’t walk up to your potential client and dive into project specifics without introducing yourself, would you?
A cover letter is that introduction.
Include a one-liner about your company, short background information about how your company came to be, and a brief overview of what makes your company better than the rest.
Make it friendly and encourage your reader to reach out with any questions. Close it with a thank you and a signature.
Cover letters don’t have run on to the point of exhaustion. They can be simple, short, and sweet. In this example, the text is just over 100 words, but you could make it even easier to read by using bullet points.
Check this out:
Thank you for considering [Sender.Company] for your social media marketing needs.
Enclosed, you’ll find a proposal based on our understanding of your social media expectations. Briefly, we propose:
- An expanded social media strategy across currently unused platforms and channels
- A comprehensive distribution strategy designed to generate original and unique content
- Improved post automation for increased audience engagement during peak times
Our methods and procedures are based on extensive analysis, an intense study of social media trends, and the application of specifics unique to [Client.Company].
We are confident in delivering effective results within your social media channels.
Thanks again for considering us, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions.
My contact information is below.
Your cover letter can take on many forms, and you can use those formats to make your proposal stand out from the crowd.
In our proposal example, note that we’ve also used an image to keep things fun and interesting.
This is critical throughout your proposal. In our research, we found that a proposal with media like photos and videos included is 34% more likely to close.
As you’re designing your proposal, don’t be afraid to add graphics and images to keep readers engaged. A winning business proposal is more than just black text on a white page.
As you’re designing your proposal, don’t be afraid to add graphics and images to keep readers engaged. A winning proposal is more than just black text on a white page.
03. Table of contents
Unless your proposal is very brief, include a table of contents that outlines the basic structure of your document.
A table of contents is an important, but often overlooked, part of any longer document because it helps the reader know what they can expect to find in the proposal.
Most word processors generate a table of contents automatically using the headings in your document . As you’re writing, take the time to set the formatting for your headings and then simply generate a table of contents from those headings.
A table of contents isn’t always necessary, but it can make any proposal much easier to parse as your document is passed around to all appropriate parties.
Remember: Proposal documents may not be read chronologically. Different decision-makers will care about different things and will check your proposal to see how it addresses their unique pain points.
Don’t lose a deal just because stakeholders couldn’t find what they were looking for!
04. Executive summary
Your executive summary sets the scene for the rest of your proposal by providing a high-level overview that summarizes the contents of future pages.
If you provided a few of these details in your cover letter (like the bullet-point example shown above) this is your opportunity to go into greater detail and summarize your overall strategy.
Using our example, our potential clients are primarily realtors in the greater Chicago area looking to reach new clients through social media marketing, so your executive summary might read like this:
This proposal outlines a coordinated plan crafted with the intent of building John’s Real Estate social media presence, primarily including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, and Twitter.
By engaging an audience through social media channels, our team will demonstrate the ability to generate awareness, widen your company’s potential reach within your target market, and contribute to driving more website traffic, which will ultimately result in top-line growth.
We help realtors identify, target, and communicate with their ideal clients through each of the following:
- Creating Engaging Social Content
- Posting Company-Related Updates
- Promotions & Social Campaigns
- Integrating Social Media Activity into Other Marketing Plans
While our competitors work to serve multiple industries and target audiences , we specialize in the real estate industry. Our co-founder Tom Lancaster also has a background in both social media and real estate , giving him a unique perspective on the needs of the market.
Your own executive summary will shift depending on the duties you’re performing for the client, and what kind of industry they’re in.
Your tone might also change. If you’re targeting a young travel startup run by college graduates, you might use a more casual tone peppered with industry jargon and humor.
Jump Social Media Marketing offers full-service social media services for the real estate industry. Our team ensures area realtors are targeting their core market with an authentic message across the best channels possible.
Jump Social Media Marketing will work to identify, target and market to your ideal customer through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, and Twitter channels. Our team estimates we will grow your social media followers from your combined 214 followers to over 5,000 in the next six months and generate additional leads for your business.
We know that today’s realtors are also tasked with marketing homes and their own real estate firms. With a background in real estate and social media , Jump Social Media understands the unique needs of your industry.
While writing, keep in mind that your executive summary isn’t designed to explain every detail or sell your entire RFP response by itself!
Don’t get lost describing deliverable logistics or strategic plans. Focus on the client’s needs and the outcomes they specifically wanted to address in their request for proposal.
Let your executive summary present a high-level overview and leave the other pages of the document to explain the details. This will prevent your summary from getting overcrowded or bogged down with specifics best handled elsewhere.
05. Proposal and solutions pages
The proposal section is a general overview of the custom-made solution your company has devised for your potential client.
This section gets into the specifics.
Anticipate their questions, and take them through the process so they know what they’re signing up for when they hire you.
As Josh points out, this section of the proposal is critical because it demonstrates the relevance of your product or service to a specific product.
“Quick delivery and relevance to your specific prospect are two of the most important items in any proposal,” he said. “Prospects need to know what you’re selling, how it will help them, and how long it will take them to get it.”
Describe exactly what deliverables they can expect and when they can expect them.
A timetable that pairs deliverables with their expected date can make your document more visually appealing, and your information more digestible.
You might also break down your main objectives even further by describing how you plan to execute a given strategy.
In our example, we touched on six key goals during our executive summary. Let’s expand on those here.
1. Creating engaging social content
Beginning with quick and thorough planning/preparation, our team will plan out a dynamic, ongoing social content calendar to guide you to your goals.
We will grow an increasing social audience and follower base using each of the following techniques:
- Hashtag campaigns
- Strong use of keywords
- Sharing/retweeting relevant news
- “Liking” posts
- Staying updated within the industry
- Contributing our own unique content to broaden reach.
2. Posting company related updates
Our plan is to engage your social media audience by sharing company news, press releases, events, employee spotlights, and more.
We will also pay attention to industry trends, and share them. This will help to gain exposure to your target market.
3. Promotions and social campaigns
We will utilize social channels to connect with your follower base and engage them with promotions to get them excited about both current events and the brand itself.
These campaigns may be as short as a day or run up to six months. We’ll analyze the results from each campaign, and then we will provide a report of its success.
Results of campaigns can be compared so the most effective promotions, offers, or contests can be replicated.
4. Integrating social media activity into other marketing plans
With clear communication and monthly brainstorm meetings, we’ll be able to consolidate the marketing initiatives to fit your goals and promotional material.
Campaigns via social media are more important than just sharing about giveaways, sales, contests, and/or promotions. We will agree on a schedule for a series of posts to keep up the exciting momentum for all prospective customers.
It is important to regularly maintain marketing activity for maximum growth.
We will continually monitor each channel and will respond to any questions, comments, and posts within a two-hour time period. Two hours will allow us to confirm that accurate information is relayed back to the person asking.
We will provide you with each of the following:
- Daily and weekly analytics. Follower growth, reach, demographics, comments, “likes”, shares, retweets, and additional metrics as provided by each platform and our own internal tracking data.
- Reporting. Summarizing various results and activities over each quarter.
We will also set up a monthly meeting to go over the results and then tweak our approach accordingly.
Your own content may look different than this depending on your proposal writing skills and services, but you can still use the example as a framework. Add in more details as needed.
For example, a cybersecurity company would need to include information on penetration testing and how often it would be done to look for possible intrusions and hacks.
Breaking up this section
While writing your proposal content, keep in mind that this section is both the most important and the most flexible section of all.
Your entire proposal doesn’t need to be bundled into a single, long section. It can easily be broken down into smaller sections such as:
- Strategic Assessment
- Goals & Outlook
There are other combinations you can try, depending on your proposal and how your solution should be explained.
If you’re offering a complex solution to a client problem, breaking your proposal into bite-sized chunks is a great way to ensure that readers understand your solution.
The importance of good data
Leveraging good data is critical when creating an effective business proposal.
Use details surrounding impact and ROI around your products and services to prove your worth and add value to your proposal.
Consider these two phrases:
“Our customers love us!”
“To date, our products and methodologies have helped more than 700 companies increase their sales by 35%!”
Which sounds better? Which is more compelling? Numbers and figures catch the eye and help readers build trust. By demonstrating a proven record of success, with numbers and data, you’re adding tangible details that help to justify your costs.
This is especially useful when competing with other solicited proposals, especially if you can include these data points as visual representations (charts, graphs, etc.) of your success within your proposal document.
This is the section where clarity and specifics are key — and nearly every member of our sales team agreed.
Create a pricing table that clearly identifies each product or service, and pair it with the most accurate pricing information you can provide.
Jump Social Media Marketing operates on a monthly billing cycle. Here’s a layout of the pricing and services for John’s Real Estate.
While building the proposal, all you’d need to do is set the price for the item and the quantity of distribution.
If you were sending an hourly contract, the quantity becomes the estimated number of hours invested at a predetermined rate.
For recurring payment schedules, you’ll need to structure the document in a way that reflects your monthly workflow.
Transparency is critical in this section. Potential customers want to know how you’re charging them, what they’re being charged for, and over what period they should expect to pay.
Be sure to include all details in a clear and accurate way.
07. About us
While you already said hello with the cover letter, this section is where you get to explain what makes your company unique.
If you’re a small business or a new company, get personal and give your potential client a chance to get to know you and your team members. Include brief bios and photos of the people they’ll be working with.
If your company has a unique backstory, a mission, or a cause that your company stands for, share that with readers. For example:
Too often in social media , good things come at a price. At Jump, paying for followers or favorable reviews of products is tantamount to criminal activity.
Authenticity is important in today’s online world, and Jump Social Media Marketing makes this our No. 1 priority in your social media space.
The information included on this page doesn’t have to be a stodgy company boilerplate or a cleverly designed sales pitch.
As the old saying goes: People buy from people — so don’t be afraid to let your team’s personality shine through.
08. Testimonials and social proof
No sales proposal is complete without information about your past successes, awards, and jobs well done.
Often, this comes in the form of social proof, such as client testimonials and short case studies.
Why do you need this? Because social proof matters!
According to data, 92% of customers are more likely to trust earned media, like recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
By including recommendations from satisfied customers and industry awards that prove your expertise, you can earn additional trust from prospective clients.
Here’s a good example of how Jump Social Media Marketing might leverage the accolades they’ve received:
Jump Social Media Marketing has received major public recognition for our work.
We’ve been named as Chicago’s Best Social Media Agency for Small Businesses by the Chicago Tribune for the past three years and have been recognized as a recommended partner by the National Association of Realtors .
We also grew the Chicago Real Estate Solutions Facebook page from 0 to 5,000 in six months , secured 250 new leads in that time frame , with 25% converting to sales .
You can also provide testimonials from past clients who can speak to your approach and how it worked for them, like so:
Lively and humorous testimonials like these can add additional personality to your company while building trust and rapport with potential clients.
However, keep your industry in mind when compiling testimonials and do your best to find user feedback that fits the mood.
If your industry has serious clients, a humorous approach may not be appropriate. If you’re working with a 3D manufacturing company with B2B clients, the messaging and tone they take with their own clients — and what they expect from the businesses they work with — may follow different expectations.
Be sure to plan accordingly.
09. Agreement and CTA
Depending on your business proposal, you may include an agreement, a call to action, and terms and conditions at the end of your document.
Your signature below indicates acceptance of this social media marketing proposal and entrance into a contractual agreement with Jump Social Media Marketing beginning on the signature date below:
Depending on your goals and your sales process, you need to be very careful in this section. In many jurisdictions, proposals are considered legally binding contracts if they meet the criteria for a contract.
By adding legal language and/or an electronic signature request at the bottom of your document, you might be entering into a contract earlier than expected.
This may not be ideal if your proposal is only intended to provide a rough estimate of costs or bring the client into further negotiations.
If you don’t intend to create a legally binding contract from your proposal, be sure to note that in your document and prompt the reader to contact you to move the process forward.
On the other hand, well-built proposals can double as complete contracts with all the terms and conditions necessary to start work immediately.
If you’re confident in the scope of work and you’re ready to take on the additional work, let the client know by promoting them for a signature.
How does a business proposal look?
First things first: We’re well past the turn of the century. Nobody likes getting thick envelopes in the mail.
Modern business proposals are sent electronically, and this is more convenient for both you and your potential customers.
While it’s possible to email a proposal created with a word processor like Microsoft Word, platforms like PandaDoc are a better fit. Our tools help you create a collaborative environment for negotiation, feedback, and electronic signature .
Regardless of how you choose to send your proposal, be sure to pay close attention to the look and feel of your document. Especially because your proposal may be your first impression with several key stakeholders, it’s essential that you follow expected formats and make a good impression.
If you search for business proposal examples online or take a look at our template library , you’ll find that most proposals rely on the structure described above to emphasize their value propositions.
Taking care to create a visually appealing proposal will help you communicate your ideas more easily. It’s also something that your competitors are doing and something that many clients are beginning to expect.
In our research, we found that roughly 80% of proposals included an image and 20% included a video. We also saw higher close rates when these multimedia tools were used compared to when they weren’t.
Exactly how a proposal is designed still has some flexibility, depending on your brand and what you’re trying to achieve, but keep in mind that it can have a big impact on success.
Proposals with pages of blocky text are much harder to navigate than proposals with charts, graphs, images, and bullet points.
It’s important to spend time beautifying your proposal,” points out Jared from PandaDoc Sales .
“A proposal that are can draw the eye directly to relevant content and keep the reader engaged is a powerful tool when trying to close a deal.”
Rather than writing a 1000-word About Us section, consider including team member headshots and a brief bio.
Rather than adding highly technical language about operational processes and leaving stakeholders to figure it out, provide visual aids that summarize the information in a clear and easy fashion.
Clearly defining your milestones isn’t the only reason to pay careful attention to how your proposal is written.
While there can be legal ramifications to poorly written proposal content, perhaps the most important consideration is the impression that your proposal leaves behind.
Your proposal introduces your client to the quality of work they can expect from your business. If it’s full of typos, spelling, and grammatical errors, or just seems sloppy, you’re unlikely to close the deal.
Read and re-read. Be sure to proofread every passage for errors before you send it to prospective clients or save it as a template.
You can also offset some of this tedium, especially on smaller deals, by focusing on creating a concise offering rather than a long-winded document.
As Quincy Berg, Enterprise Account Executive for PandaDoc points out,
If these aren’t assets that you have on your staff, consider hiring that skillset onto your team or hiring a freelancer to assist with proofreading and correction.
While many clients will overlook a stray typo or a misplaced comma, too many errors will land your proposal in the discard pile.
A word about costs
When you’re creating proposals, it’s easy for costs to add up. Costs for customized professional business proposals can take hours of research, consultation, and preparation — all with no guarantee of success.
That’s why savvy companies do everything they can to lower the cost of proposal preparation. Typically this is done by generating a template for business proposals — an outline or skeleton that someone can fill out quickly to save time and expedites internal company processes.
It’s an effective way to keep overhead low. Based on our research, an average of 20 documents are generated from each template you create .
That’s a huge time saver for any business.
After you hit ‘Send’
Once you’ve sent your proposal, your next step will depend on the process. Based on our information, about 65% of proposals containing a signature block close within 24 hours.
However, your mileage may vary. RFPs tend to be competitive processes, so you may have to wait until the submission window closes before you hear a response.
Don’t forget to follow up and ask your potential client if they have any questions. Based on the proposals we looked at, you are 30% more likely to close a deal if you send a series of reminders to keep your proposal top of mind.
PandaDoc and other proposal software tools can help you monitor your proposal using document analytics so that you know exactly when to reach out.
These tools let you know when your potential client viewed your proposal, how many times they opened it, and which sections they spent the most time on.
With these insights, you can anticipate their questions or objections and have your responses ready to go.
Free business proposal templates
Ready to get started but don’t know where to begin? PandaDoc can help with some great examples of business proposals.
In the proposals that we looked at, those created using our templates regularly created high-performing results for customers with minimal editing time.
Take a look at some of the metrics around the top professional business proposal templates currently in our template library .
Once you’ve fitted an existing template to your personal needs, you can save it as a fresh template in your content library for even faster reuse.
In doing so, you can slim the entire business proposal design process down from hours to minutes or spend more time refining your proposal for maximum appeal.
To see the true power of the PandaDoc editor, be sure to check out our community gallery for expertly designed templates from real PandaDoc customers.
If you’re a PandaDoc user, you can eve swipe these proposals and load them directly into your PandaDoc editor with a single click.
It’s just that easy.
Ultimately, your business proposal should be focused on your client’s needs and how your business plans to fix them.
No matter how you choose to build your proposal, never lose sight of that goal.
The RFP you receive will have most of the information you need to build a great proposal.
Take things step-by-step, and use the opportunity to show your client that your business is the right fit for the job.
Originally was published in October 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness in February 2022
Frequently asked questions
What’s the point of a business proposal.
Typically, the point of a business proposal is to describe in detail how your product or service will meet a client’s needs. Depending on those needs and the industry that you occupy, the content included in a standard proposal will fluctuate.
For example, at PandaDoc, many of our proposals are customized to fit the unique needs of enterprise-level organizations that are too big for our smaller plans.
If you were to compare our sales team to that of a construction company submitting a proposal to construct a building, the difference in requirements becomes clear. The proposal required for building construction is probably longer and may include far more business proposal topics than what our sales representatives would include when closing a deal.
However, despite the differences and industry requirements, each proposal will still follow the standard proposal format depicted above.
What is the format of a proposal?
The traditional format of a business proposal is as follows:
- Cover letter
- Table of contents
- Executive summary
- Proposal & solutions pages
- Testimonials & social proof
- Agreement & CTA
Based on our research into over 566,000 proposals created on our platform, most proposals are around nine pages in length .
To get a closer look a how to get started and how to bring your business proposal ideas to life using these sections, check out each section of this article.
What should be included in a business proposal?
Your business proposal should include everything you think you need in order to sell your product or service.
This includes all of the basic headings and subheadings you’ll see in a traditional proposal, as well as any supplemental documentation to justify your costs and reinforce your proposed approach to solving the client’s problem.
In addition to basic information about your product, you should also consider including the following:
- Contact information
- Value statements
- Pricing tables
- Client testimonials
- Examples of past work (case studies)
- Images, graphics, and related multimedia
If you’re sending your proposal electronically, you should also consider including an electronic signature block so that decisionmakers can quickly and easily seal the deal when they’re ready to proceed.
What types of business proposals are there?
All business proposals are essentially the same, but your submittal method may vary depending on the type of business proposal you need to send.
Solicited proposals are proposals that a company has asked you to provide for their consideration. The potential customer has reached out to your business and requested a proposal. This usually falls into one of two categories:
Formally solicited proposals are typically competitive and follow a standardized (formal) process. The prospective client sends out an RFP detailing the scope of work and requests that your business formally submit a bid to complete that work.
Informally solicited proposals are typically created based on conversations between a prospective client and a vendor that they want to work with. There might not be any formal documentation, and there may be no competitive process. This work can often lead to a sole-source, non-competitive contract.
Unsolicited proposals are documents that your company sends to a prospective client who hasn’t asked for one. They are not submitted in response to an RFP or an information request. Such proposals are typically created based on a market opportunity — often one that the client is either unaware of or hasn’t yet acted upon.
Proposals 14 min
Proposals 9 min
Document templates 15 min
Business Proposal vs Business Plan: What's the Difference?
One of the most searched queries on Google is "business proposal vs business plan", and we are here to break the confusion.
August 14, 2022
Business Proposal vs Business Plan: Which One Do You Need?
You are starting a new business, and you aren't sure what you need to do. You heard that you needed a business proposal and a business plan, but you weren't sure what's the difference between them.
You did some research and couldn't find what you are looking for... You decided to create both of them, but you need weeks to write and refine them.
Don't worry, we are here to remove this confusing process. Let's see what's the difference between them. You may, and probably do need both of them. But which one should be your priority?
The Difference Between a Business Plan and a Business Proposal
When you're starting a business, one of the most important things you'll need to do is create a business plan . This document will outline your company's goals and strategies for achieving them over the next five years.
A business proposal , on the other hand, is a sales document that you put together to pitch potential projects to clients. It's not the same as a business plan, and it usually includes cost quotes for potential projects.
The main difference between a business proposal and a business plan is that, while a business plan is informative, a business proposal is intended to showcase operations, goals, and potential.
The executive summary of a business plan will include information about the company leadership structure or the introduction of management. Generally, business plans include an executive summary part while business plans don't.
We have seen some samples that use executive summaries but since the main goal is to close a deal. We suggest keeping them short and clean.
The business proposal format depends on whether the business is solicited or unsolicited . Details of products and services offered, the scope of work and responses to specific questions in an RFP are included in a business proposal.
A business plan documents the vision of a business and how it will be achieved. A business proposal offers comprehensive information for potential investors, suppliers, accountants, etc.
A proposal shows the external player what the company is all about and how it intends to carry out its project. Keep these differences in mind when you're putting together your next business presentation --you'll need to tailor your content accordingly!
What Are Business Plans?
A business plan is a document that outlines the business goals, strategies, and tactics a company will use to achieve those goals. The business plan also includes an overview of the company, its management team, the target market, and the products and services the company plans to offer.
It usually includes information about the company's products and services, target market, marketing plans , financial forecasts, and management team bios.
Here's a sample template to use while creating a detailed business plan.
What Is The Purpose of a Business Plan?
A business plan is a key document for any business. It lays out the goals and strategy of the business and helps to ensure that everyone involved in the business is on the same page. It can also be used as a tool to help secure funding from investors or banks.
A business plan is a document that outlines the strategy and goals of a company. It can be used as a planning tool , to track progress, or as a basis for making decisions . A well-written business plan provides a roadmap for the business , and it can help attract investors or partners.
There are many reasons to create a business plan. Some of the most common reasons include:
- To track progress - A business plan can help you track your progress and ensure that you are on track to achieve your goals.
- To make decisions - A business plan can provide guidance when making decisions about the future of your company.
- As a planning tool - A business plan can help you identify potential problems and solutions, and it can be used to forecast future growth.
- To attract investors or partners - A well-written business plan can help you attract investors or partners who share your vision for the company.
What is a business proposal?
A business proposal is a written document that offers a solution to a problem or a way to achieve a goal. It is often used to sell products or services to a potential customer. A business proposal must be well-written, clear, and concise in order to convince the reader to take the desired action.
A business proposal is a formal response sent to an RFP (request for proposals). It is a way for the seller to convince the buyer that their proposed solution is the right one in order to win business. Business proposals are meant to persuade a prospective client.
A business proposal typically consists of four main points: what are the challenges, how your solution solves the problems, why they should choose you over others, and the best pricing options available. The price is typically stated in the document. If a business is requesting proposals, they should be sent in their format. An RFP response should include specific details about the scope of work and the cost estimate.
Here's a sample template to use while creating a detailed business proposal.
Why do you need a business proposal?
A business proposal is a key part of the business development process . It is a document that outlines the business goals, strategies, and tactics that will be used to achieve those goals. A proposal is used to convince potential clients or partners that your business is the best option for them.
It's typically used to pitch an idea to a potential client or customer. A well-crafted proposal can help you win new business and close deals.
Your company might be expanding into a new market and need to propose a new product or service. Or, you might be approached by another company with an opportunity you'd like to explore. Maybe you've identified a gap in the market and want to propose a new product or service to fill it.
How To Prepare For a Business Proposal?
Well, we do have a comprehensive guide to business proposal creation with templates and examples, but if you need a more brief explanation, keep reading!
When preparing for a business proposal, it is important to do your research and understand the client's needs. You should also have a clear understanding of your own company's capabilities and what you can offer the client. Additionally, it is important to be well-organized and to have a strong pitch.
You should have a clear understanding of your target audience and what will appeal to them. You also need to have a good grasp of the competition and what they are offering. In addition, you should be familiar with the terms and conditions of any potential contracts that may be involved.
Your proposal should be neatly formatted and easy to read. It should also be free of grammatical errors and typos. Be sure to proofread your work carefully before submitting it.
Make sure you provide complete contact information, as well as an outline of your proposed solution or service. If possible, include testimonials from past clients who have been satisfied with your work.
Remember that you are offering a valuable service that can help the reader achieve their goals. Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed, and you will be able to deliver a winning proposal every time
How To Write a Business Proposal?
When writing a business proposal, make sure to follow this brief outline:
- Introduce yourself and your company
- Outline the proposal's purpose
- Explain the problem that you're trying to solve
- Describe your solution
- Explain the benefits of your solution
- List your qualifications
- Request a meeting
It should include an overview of the product or service, information about the company proposing it, financial projections, and terms and conditions. A well-crafted proposal can help your company win new contracts and increase sales.
Here's another sample template you can use while creating a business proposal:
Business Proposal Template Checklist
Here's a story of our customer John who joined the Decktopus community 2 years ago.
John had been working in sales for years, but he had never worked in a company that sold products. When he was hired by a new startup, he was excited about starting making sales and increasing profits. However, he soon realized that there was no one in the company who knew how to sell. The founder of the company told him that he would need to create a presentation template to share with the other reps.
John wasn't sure where to start. He read article after article, trying to gather information about what made a good business proposal. After weeks of research, he finally created a template that he felt confident in sharing with his fellow reps. He was excited to see how it would help them increase sales and profits.
This is the outline we gathered while our support team helped him along the way:
- Marketing Plan
Types Of Business Proposals
An unsolicited proposal is one in which the company offers a product or service to a potential customer who has not solicited it. Here's an unsolicited proposal template .
A solicited proposal is one in which the company responds to a request for proposal (RFP) from a potential customer. Here's a solicited proposal template .
A proposal to bid is a document that a company submits to a potential customer in response to an RFP.
The purpose of the proposal to bid is to persuade the potential customer that the bidder's product or service is the best option among those being considered.
Here's a proposal to bid template .
Business Plan Structure
A business plan has three main sections: the executive summary, a description of the business model, and financial projections.
The first section is an introduction that should be no more than one or two pages long. It should include a brief overview of your company, its products and services, and how you plan to make money.
The second section, a description of the business model, provides details about your company's competitive landscape, industry trends, and how you plan to reach your target market.
The marketing model is an informative section that should include detailed information about the industry competition and build-out plan. This part of the document can be several pages long and will help investors understand your company's place in the market.
While all three sections are important, remember that potential investors will likely focus on the financial projections most closely when deciding whether to invest in your company. The financial projections section is important because it shows potential investors how you expect your business to grow over time.
A well-crafted business plan can help convince potential investors to put their money into your company.
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Tips for Job Interview Presentations
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How to Write a Proposal and Get What You Want (Free Templates)
✅ Bonus material: Simple Proposal Format Template + Checklist to help you get started ASAP!
A proposal has a lot of different purposes, but there’s only one good way to write one: the way that pulls together all of the information in a concise and persuasive way and helps you get what you want … whether that’s a whole new software system, or just a tweak to your marketing strategy.
This Process Street article isn’t about a business proposal — also known as a quote — but instead about the document required when formally pitching an idea for action and execution by managers or department heads .
To explain how to write a proposal document and get what you want, we’ll go through the following:
Free proposal writing template
When are proposals necessary, why are proposals important, examples of proposals, how to write a proposal: step-by-step, last steps before submitting the proposal, more free proposal writing checklists, even more free proposal writing checklists, customize your proposal checklists with process street.
Let’s get started.
If you fancy taking a quick look at a free interactive template, that will help you write your proposals right away, feel free to dive straight into this!
Writing a Proposal: Step-by-Step Guide
There are more templates, like this one, further down in this post, so stick around.
Any project you don’t have the clearance or authority to start without a higher-up’s approval, you need to submit a proposal for.
According to SSWM , a proposal is “a detailed description of a series of activities aimed at solving a certain problem”.
That problem could be anything, from:
- Process improvement
- Cost reduction
- A new marketing strategy
If it’s an idea you need to ask permission to execute, or to get action on, it needs a proposal.
A proposal is a way to pitch an idea and state your requirements, so it’s important for supervisors because they can get information in writing (not casually in the elevator), and be able to act knowing the full implications of their decision.
They’re also a chance for you to make a structured, logical argument and lay down everything in favor of your idea. A well-written proposal shows your manager you care about the cause, and it’s not just a mid-meeting whim you blurted out.
To write a top proposal you need to scrutinize it before you present it.
It’s a broad topic, but it’s best explained with examples.
- Proposal for Process Improvement
- Proposal for Server Replacement
- Proposal for Cost Savings
Below is a simple proposal example with some basic sections.
Now let’s take a look at how to write a proposal — whether it’s as simple as the one above, or more complex.
Here’s the general structure of a proposal:
As you can see, a proposal generally consists of:
- Introduction : A brief overview of the problem, solution, costs, and benefits.
- Issue : The main definition of the issue, including subject, purpose, main argument, background information and importance.
- Solution : The main definition of the solution, including your step-by-step plan, the benefits, and how potential obstacles will be overcame.
- Qualifications : Overview of the personnel required, experience.
- Conclusion of the costs and benefits, and wrap-up : Balance the cost against the benefit, reinforce your point one last time.
1. Identify and define your reader
Just like with any kind of persuasion, it helps if you understand how to appeal to your audience. Who will be reading your proposal and deciding if it’s accepted or rejected? What do they care about? What kind of language and benefits would resonate with them? This is the first step because it’s an important thing to keep in mind as you go along and as information that informs the way you write from here on.
2. Define the problem your proposal will solve
Who : Who will the proposal affect?
What : What’s the reason for you to write the proposal in the first place? Explain the current situation and the problems that come with it.
3. Define the solution
How : How are you going to solve the problem? Explain step-by-step in detail.
Who : Identify the personnel you need, along with their prior experience to add persuasion to the proposal
4. Conclusion: costs, benefits and wrap-up
Reiterate : The purpose and main argument
Costs : Break down the projected costs involved for different elements of the project
Benefits : Break down the benefits to the organization, monetary and non-monetary, to persuade the reader there’ll be a return on investment
Thanks : Thank the reader for their time.
Contact information : Where can the reader get in touch with you? Make sure to be crystal clear to make the details easily discoverable.
Clear writing is your best friend when you’re trying to write persuasively. For that reason, there are a few checks to run before you submit your proposal.
Remember, what’s clear to you might not always be clear to other people.
1 .Check for jargon (then destroy it)
Although jargon is popular in the business world, not everyone shares the equal love for it. It’s terms like right-size, blue sky (verb), turn-key, and synergize. They might mean something to you, or make you feel intelligent, but there are simpler alternatives that will help people understand what you mean !
2. Change the passive voice to the active voice
The passive voice is defined as :
“The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as Our troops defeated the enemy) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice (e.g. The enemy was defeated by our troops).”.
It’s a long-winded way of expressing something that could be expressed in simple terms:
The passive voice sounds distant and even deceptive, and, since the reader might even just be skimming your proposal, you don’t want to add extra words to cloud your point.
3. Proofread the proposal
Install a tool like Grammarly and check the proposal in an online text editor. Grammarly will manage to pick up on anything that is grammatically incorrect and sometimes even flags up stylistically poor phrases. Poor spelling and grammar will only discredit the value of what you’re saying and could be a problem that leads to your proposal being rejected.
As promised, check out the below five templates that have each been designed by the team at Process Street — makers of the finest remote work software for processes around — to help you write winning proposals.
Proposal Template Checklist Process
This proposal template is a checklist that should be used alongside the proposal document you are planning to submit. Use it to make sure that all the elements have been considered, that the proposal contains everything it needs to and that it meets all set requirements.
Click here to access the Proposal Template Checklist Process!
Business Proposal Template Checklist
Whether your business proposal is solicited or unsolicited, use this business proposal template checklist to ensure you include all the required information in your proposal and cover key areas such as these the problem the organization is facing, the proposed solution, the budget, and a key CTA.
Click here to access the Business Proposal Template Checklist!
How to Write a Grant Proposal Checklist
Use this template to make sure your grant proposal includes all the relevant information, that it contains everything it needs to, and that it meets all stated RFP requirements.
Click here to access the How to Write a Grant Proposal Checklist!
Research Proposal Example Checklist
Use this template to convince others that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it.
Click here to access the Research Proposal Example Checklist!
Project Proposal Template Checklist
Use this template, alongside the proposal document you are planning to submit, to set the project vision, define the project requirements, describe the deliverables, and specify the deadlines.
Click here to access the Project Proposal Template Checklist!
If you’re looking for more inspiration, give these alternative proposal writing templates a go too.
- Bid Proposal Template Checklist
- Budget Proposal Template
- Construction Proposal Template Checklist
- Consulting Proposal Template Checklist
- Continuation Project Proposal Template
- Contractor Proposal Template Checklist
- Event Proposal Template Checklist
- Marketing Proposal Template Checklist
- Project Proposal Template
- Renewal Project Proposal Template
- Simple Proposal Format Checklist
- Sponsorship Proposal Template Checklist
- Supplemental Project Proposal Template
- Website Proposal Template Checklist
If the above templates don’t quite fit your company, industry, or the proposal document you are writing, don’t worry!
Process Street to the rescue!
Process Street is super-powered checklists . We are a super-charged, state of the art BPM SaaS platform which allows you to create templates and run individual checklists from these. You can check tasks off as you work through them, set deadlines, request approvals, assign various tasks , and work through your proposal workflows with ease.
Watch this to get an idea about who we are and what we do:
To help you customize your proposal writing template, and make your proposal wriitng easier, you can use all these different types of Process Street features:
- Dynamic due dates
- Task permissions
- Conditional logic
- Approval tasks
- Embed widget
- Role assignments
You can also connect your templates to thousands of apps through Zapier , webhooks, or API access to automate your proposal processes and workflows.
If you’re unfamiliar with process automation, what it means, and the benefits it can bring to your business, watch this Process Street webinar on automation:
Remember, if you want to get access to any of our proposal writing checklists, just click the links above and they will be added to your Process Street account where you can use them over and over again. Or, if you haven’t yet signed up for a Process Street account, click here and start your free trial.
Has this guide helped you out? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Get our posts & product updates earlier by simply subscribing
Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street , and runs Secret Cave on the side. Find him on Twitter here .
I am strongly looking forward to learning how to write a proposal, thanks
Thanks Honar, it’s an honor to have you here 😉
I am looking forward to learning how to write a great proposal. Thanks for posting this site.
Practice makes perfect, just keep it up and you will get there!
Looking forward for you to checklist and using it to edit my proposal…. thx a lot
Awesome, and remember you can sign up for a free account for life, no credit card required to run up to 5 checklists for proposals or anything else!. Check out more about Process Street here: http://process.st/product/
I really loved your paper on how to write a proposal. I looked up others and found total satisfaction when I came across yours! Thanks again Tanya Palacios
We are very pleased to hear that.
thanks a lot for helping me understand proposal writing more clearly. Am very grateful.
Of course, proposal writing can be tricky, but if you follow the templates we provide you will quickly see it’s not that difficult. Proposals follow the same structure most of the time, once you learn that structure it’s easy to create proposals quickly.
Very nice and excellent advice and coaching on proposals writing. I will always keep in touch for more information.
Excellent writing Benjamin. Definitely agree with the destroying jargons part. There’s no need for these kinds of words for project proposals. Anyway, here’s an informative step-by-step guide that I’d like to share regarding writing project proposals: https://www.freenvoices.com/how-to-write-project-proposal . I believe that this will complement your well-written article and your readers too. 🙂
Great post Evatt, thanks for sharing!
I am in the process of drafting a proposal for a multi-million deal. Looking forward to getting pointers to make my proposal a seller!
After reading your post,it now became crystal clear that proposals are not easy…But thanks alot. You’re a good teacher
Hey Vitalis, yes they take some practice but you will get there. Just keep it up!
i want to write proposal for study PhD but i dont know how to write it can you send to me example thank you very much best regards
Hi Mays, There’s some good advice here in regards to writing a PhD proposal: https://www.findaphd.com/advice/finding/writing-phd-research-proposal.aspx
My personal advice would be to really demonstrate strength when outlining your methodology. This section is a great opportunity to display deep knowledge of methodological approaches and their academic grounding. Make sure to cite the foundational texts for the approach you want to take and to reference current academic discussions pertinent to your particular application of that approach. If you can find a recently published PhD thesis which takes a similar methodological approach to you own then you can read through their methodology section to give yourself both inspiration and a great starting point for building a methodology reading list for yourself.
Best of luck!
Además, asimismo desarrolla otros proyectos de formación en línea sobre marketing digital y nuevas tecnologías con la finalidad de instruir a emprendedores de qué forma crear un proyecto digital para vender sus conocimientos.
Your blog is very informative. Nice you tried to provide a crystal clear information on this topic!
Nice one, at least have got an idea now about proposal writing
Appreciate the guidelines on how to write an explicit formal proposal.
You are most welcome Ogoh, we’d love any feedback you may have in the future!
Appreciate for providing knowledge on proposal writing
I’m really happy to learn from this paper.I’ve increased my knowledge in proposal writing.Thanks
Wow! You’re really doing a nice work, really haven’t got it detailed and simplified before.
Nice job. I am a professional proposal writer in lagos Nigeria and I must confess that you have done a good job on this article. I learnt a few new things. Keep up the god work
Thanks Mr Sam, always good to have the support of an expert.
the explanation is very complete I am happy to be able to find articles on various types of letters and I can learn here thanks for all the articles
We tried our best Zaki, thanks for the kind words
nice suggestions. thanks
Thanx for the great work U have done towards my exprienc on Proposal writing.May God bless U.
You did a great job in outlining all the nitty-gritty of writing a great proposal in this article. Kudos!
Thank for sharing this knowledge
It was a pleasure!
Write a comment…great work but I need a proposal on how to start car wash business inside school
Thank you for the little experience I have achieved on proposal writing. Can you give me a broad idea on a proposal I wan to write, I want to do a Clean City proposal…
Hey Darious, check out these posts we wrote on sustainability: https://www.process.st/corporate-sustainability/ https://www.process.st/sustainable-business/
so grateful for the information.
Very happy to learn how to write a proposal from you.
Very happy to help you 🙂
Very informative, really appreciated your expertise. I learned quite a bit. Thank you, I’m all set, also number two (2.) Change the passive voice to the active voice is something for me to remember when I’m writing.
Yes that’s a great tip!
It is really great, I would like to know more about writing a great proposal about enhancing bank customer service
Sounds like an important project, you might also enjoy this post: https://www.process.st/enterprise-risk-management/
I sincerely appreciate you for this brilliant presentation. I still need to know more about the solicited proposals. Thanks!
I would like to know how to write a good proposal .
I’m looking forward to be the best in writing proposal, in the organization
Good luck with your endeavors Paul!
I want to learn how to write project proposals
I have an idea of how to write the proposal but would am unsure and would rather see what the experts have to say about it. Thanks!
I want to write a proposal to get a generator for my hospital as a back up
This piece has given me a clearer understanding on how to and what to look out for in writing a proposal. But I will be more grateful if u can give me a template and points on how to write a proposal to a state government to train their young people on drug abuse and how to minimize the current menace it is causing to our society. Thanks, it was a nice experience.
Glad to hear you liked it. We don’t have any templates specific to that use case, but we will look to create some more soon. Cheers, Adam
Glad you enjoyed the experience 🙂
Thanks very much for the well explained presentation.
Hello. This is very good and helpful, I need help to write a proposal for freelancing and content writing. Thanks
I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but we have an article here about pitching to TechCrunch: https://www.process.st/write-for-techcrunch/
I hope it helps!
You are most welcome!
I never knew on how to write a proposal but now I have got something from you thank you. But I would like an example of a professional proposal …… as for me am writing a proposal on the need to make clubs for youth of East Africa based science, technology and arts plz I need it very soon even today
We don’t currently have any examples for you, but we are working on a set of processes to follow to help people write proposals like these. It should be published in a few weeks.
For the time being, perhaps look at what different organizations say they want. Here are a few examples from the UK:
– Warwickshire Community And Voluntary Action (CAVA) have this document where they ask people to send them proposals to start youth programmes. They explain what they are looking for and how they will judge the proposal.
– Here is another example but this time from an organization in Manchester, UK. This has instructions and requirements, and you can use its specifications as inspiration for how to create your proposal.
I hope some of this makes the proposal writing process clearer.
Best of luck, Adam
This may also help: https://www.process.st/proposal-template/
Good luck with your proposal Naomi! Sounds like it’s for a great cause..
Thats great. I have learned alot thanks.
I need to know how to write a proposal writing. Can u give an example plzz…..
Hi Sapioamoa, you can find a collection of examples here: https://www.process.st/proposal-template/
I hope this helps! Adam
i thank you for that and now i am requesting for help, i am a student first year and my ambition is to help the orphans i would like you to help me how to write a proposal of that kind. thank you.
Hey Deo. It sounds like you’re doing great work. Check out these proposal templates . They should help you!
thank you so much sir
Living in a rural setting in Uganda- am writing a proposal to ask for financial donations to buy agricultural inputs, medical assistance etc for my community- this website has helped to put ideas together and to hopefully come out with a winner! Thank you!.
That’s great to hear we’ve been able to help! Best of luck Catherine!
am very greatful to receive such an skillful knowledge from you,but may i pls receive a sample of how to write a proposal for starting a small scale printing firm just in kenya.
thank you in advance
Thanks for the kind comment, Elijah. You might be able to find some more useful information in our most recent article about proposals (with lots more templates) here: https://www.process.st/proposal-template/
Nice one. Thanks for this.
Glad to hear it helped, Deji!
Glad you enjoyed this, Lillian! ⭐️
This is what i was looking for so long. Thanks for summing up all these informations about how to write a proposal. I’m really glad that you add these free template 🙂
Awesome, glad you enjoyed the templates. Was there a particular one that you found most helpful?
Are you still free to give feedback? Happy New Year btw.
Sure we are here to give feedback! Just leave your question about proposal writing in the comments and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
I feel this is among the most vital information for me.
And i’m glad reading your article. But want to statement on few normal things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is truly excellent : D. Excellent activity, cheers
Glad to hear you enjoyed it!
Hi,have learned a lot from you,could you please help me to write a proposal how to spend on projects in a christian organization Thanks
Not sure how that would be any different, but if you have a specific question about writing proposals I’d be happy to answer it 🙂
Thanks sir for your post. I’am very greatful to receive such an skillful knowledge from you
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You find yourself at a fork in the road – you know there’s an opportunity ahead, but there are obstacles in your way. One path leads to success, the other to failure.
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How to Write a Proposal
Last Updated: December 26, 2022 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Dave Labowitz . Dave Labowitz is a Business Coach who helps pre-entrepreneurs, solopreneurs/entrepreneurs, and team leaders start, scale, and lead their businesses and teams. Before beginning his coaching career, Dave was a startup executive who spent over a decade building high-growth companies. Dave’s “path less traveled” life includes adventures such as dropping out of high school, co-authoring a book in the Smithsonian Institute, and getting his MBA at Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 79 testimonials and 85% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 3,922,994 times.
Writing a good proposal is a critical skill in many occupations, from school to business management to geology. The goal of a proposal is to gain support for your plan by informing the appropriate people. Your ideas or suggestions are more likely to be approved if you can communicate them in a clear, concise, engaging manner. Knowing how to write a persuasive, captivating proposal is essential for success in many fields. There are several types of proposals, such as science proposals and book proposals, but each following the same basic guidelines.
Planning Your Proposal
- Who will be reading your proposal? What level of familiarity with your topic will they have? What might you need to define or give extra background information about?
- What do you want your audience to get from your proposal? What do you need to give your readers, so they can make the decision you want them to make?
- Refine your tone to meet your audience's expectations and desires. What do they want to hear? What would be the most effective way of getting through to them? How can you help them understand what you're trying to say?
- What is the situation this issue applies to?
- What are the reasons behind this?
- Are we certain that those, and not others, are the real reasons? How are we sure of it?
- Has anyone ever tried to deal with this issue before?
- If yes: has it worked? Why?
- If no: why not?
Tip: Use your summary to show that you've conducted in-depth research to evaluate and understand the issue. Include only the information that's most relevant to your topic, and avoid writing a summary that's obvious to anyone in the field.
- Your proposal needs to define a problem and offer a solution that will convince uninterested, skeptical readers to support it. Your audience may not be the easiest crowd to win over. Is the solution you're offering logical and feasible? What's the timeline for your implementation?
- Consider thinking about your solution in terms of objectives. Your primary objective is the goal that you truly must achieve with your project. Secondary objectives are other goals that you hope your project achieves.
- Another helpful way of thinking about your solution is in terms of "outcomes" and "deliverables." Outcomes are the quantifiable results of your objectives. For example, if your proposal is for a business project and your objective is "increase profit," an outcome might be "increase profit by $100,000." Deliverables are products or services that you will deliver with your project. For example, a proposal for a science project could "deliver" a vaccine or a new drug. Readers of proposals look for outcomes and deliverables because they are easy ways of determining what the "worth" of the project will be.
- How are you going to be persuasive? Convincing proposals can use emotional appeals, but should always rely on facts as the bedrock of the argument. For example, a proposal to start a panda conservation program could mention how sad it would be for the children of future generations to never see a panda again, but it shouldn't stop there. It would need to base its argument on facts and solutions for the proposal to be convincing.
Avoid writing in jargon and using obscure abbreviations or needlessly complex language. Instead, write in plain, direct language as much as possible.
For example, instead of saying "rectification of a workplace imbalance," you could simply write, "let employees go."
- Your outline should consist of your problem, your solution, how you'll solve it, why your solution is best, and a conclusion. If you're writing an executive proposal, you'll need to include things like a budget analysis and organizational details.
Writing Your Own Proposal
- If you have any stark facts that shed some light on why the issue needs to be addressed and addressed immediately, it's a safe bet that's something you can start with. Whatever it is, make sure what you start out with is a fact and not an opinion.
- Emphasize why your problem needs to be solved and needs to be solved now. How will it affect your audience if left alone? Make sure to answer all questions and cover them with research and facts. Use credible sources liberally.
Tip: Make the issue as relevant to the audience as you can. Tie it to their interest or goal as directly as you can. Make it specific to them, and avoid relying solely on generic appeal to emotions or values.
- Discuss the larger impact of your ideas. Ideas that seem of limited applicability aren't as likely to spark enthusiasm in readers as ideas that could have widespread effects. Example: "Greater knowledge of tuna behavior can allow us to create a more comprehensive management strategy and ensure canned tuna for future generations."
- Addressing why you will do something is as significant as stating what you will do. Presume that your readers are skeptical and will not accept your ideas at face value. If you're proposing to do a catch-and-release study of 2,000 wild tuna, why? Why is that better than something else? If it's more expensive than another option, why can't you use the cheaper option? Anticipating and addressing these questions will show that you've considered your idea from all angles.
- Your readers should leave your paper assured that you can solve the problem effectively. Literally, everything you write should either address the problem or how to solve it.
- Research your proposal extensively. The more examples and facts you can give your audience, the better -- it'll be much more convincing. Avoid your opinions and rely on the hard research of others.
- If your proposal doesn't prove that your solution works, it's not an adequate solution. If your solution isn't feasible, nix it. Think about the results of your solution, too. Pre-test it if possible and revise your solution if need be.
- Your readers probably understand that your budget may change, especially if this is a startup project, but they want to see that you at least have a cohesive plan. They have to see that you know directionally where you're going to spend the money and how long it's going to last.
- When do you envision the project starting? At what pace will it progress? How does each step build on the other? Can certain things be done simultaneously? Being as meticulous as possible will give your readers confidence that you've done your homework and won't waste their money.
- Make sure your proposal makes sense financially. If you're proposing an idea to a company or a person, consider their budget. If they can't afford your proposal, it's not an adequate one. If it does fit their budget, be sure to include why it's worth their time and money.
Tip: Stay away from vague or unrelated objectives! Include details, responsibilities, and time commitments for departments and individual staff.
- If you have extra content that doesn't exactly fit into your proposal, you may want to add an appendix. But know that if your paper is too bulky, it may scare people off. If you're in doubt, leave it out.
- If you have two or more appendices attached to your proposal, letter them A, B, etc. This can be used if you have data sheets, reprints of articles, or letters of endorsement and the like.
- Have another set of eyes (or two) read over your work. They'll be able to highlight issues your mind has grown blind to. There may be issues that you haven't completely addressed or questions you've left open-ended.
- Eliminate jargon and clichés! These make you look lazy and can get in the way of understanding. Don't use a long word when a short word will do just as well.
- Avoid the passive voice whenever possible. Passive voice uses forms of "to be" verbs and can make your meaning unclear. Compare these two sentences: "The window was broken by the zombie" and "The zombie broke the window." In the first, you don't know who broke the window: was it the zombie? Or was the window by the zombie and just happened to also be broken? In the second, you know exactly who did the breaking and why it's important.
- Use strong, direct language and avoid muddling your proposal with qualifiers and extra phrasing. For example, instead of using phrases like "I believe that...," or "this solution may aid...," say, "The plan will significantly reduce poverty rates."
- Any mistakes on your end will make you look less educated and less credible, reducing your likelihood of getting approved.
- Make sure that your formatting is in line with whatever the guidelines require.
- Use language that everyone can understand. Keep to short sentences that are clear and to the point. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- Any discussion of financial or other resources should be conducted carefully and should present a realistic picture of the expense required. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Do not try to use very twisty and tacky words, which are not used in a normal conversation, thinking that it would be useful and impressive. Don't beat around the bush. Go to the main point straight away using simple words. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/grants-2/
- ↑ http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2004/nsf04016/nsf04016.pdf
- ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/academicwriting
- ↑ https://www.northwestern.edu/climb/Research%20Proposal%20Writing/A%20Basic%20Research%20Proposal%20Outline.pdf
- ↑ https://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/cfwriters/Graduate_Student_Writing_Resources/GrantOutline.pdf
- ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185918
- ↑ https://blogs.wp.missouristate.edu/writinglab/rhetoric/problem-solution/
- ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/revising/revising-and-editing/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
About This Article
To write a proposal, start with an introduction that clearly states the purpose of your proposal. Then, explain the problem at hand and why it needs to be solved right now. Go on to detail your proposed solutions to the problem and why you've chosen those solutions. Also, don't forget to include a schedule and budget. To conclude your proposal, briefly summarize the key points you want readers to walk away understanding. For help formatting and outlining your proposal, read the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Write a Business Proposal in 7 Steps
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Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C company, you’re in the business of convincing customers to choose to spend their money with your business. For a B2B company that process usually involves a business proposal. In the B2B industry, once you've attracted new customers, which are most likely other businesses, you have to actually make a deal. Unlike B2C companies, who use marketing strategies and then hope their customers respond and purchase their product and service, there's a little more involved in this exchange. That's where your business proposal will come into the picture.
Luckily, even though your process and the exact format for your business proposal can be unique to your company, there is also a general formula you can follow to make things easier, especially the first few times you write a proposal.
In this guide, we'll walk you through the general steps of how to write a business proposal—including how to decide what kind of proposal you're writing, how you should organize it, and what information you should include.
How to write a b usiness proposal: 7 essential steps to follow
With these starting points in mind, let's get down to the process. Whether you’re just learning how to write a business proposal, or want to change up the one you’ve already been using, you’ll want to break down writing into a step-by-step approach. The organization is key when you’re writing a business proposal—structure will not only help you answer the core questions mentioned above, but it’ll also help you create consistent, successful proposals every time you’re pitching new business.
This being said, when writing a business proposal, you can break down the document into these sections:
Table of contents
Deliverables and milestones
Bonus: Appendix (if necessary)
Step 1: Introduction
The introduction to your business proposal should provide your client with a succinct overview of what your company does (similar to the company overview in your business plan). It should also include what sets your company apart from its peers, and why it’s particularly well-suited to be the selected vendor to undertake a job—whether the assignment is a singular arrangement or an ongoing relationship.
The most effective business proposal introductions accomplish more with less: It’s important to be comprehensive without being overly wordy. You'll want to resist the temptation to share every detail about your company’s history and lines of business, and don’t feel the need to outline every detail of your proposal. You'll want to keep the introduction section to one page or shorter.
Step 2: Table of contents
Once you've introduced your business and why you're the right fit for the client you're submitting the proposal to (a quasi-cover letter), you'll want to next create a table of contents. Like any typical table of contents, this section will simply outline what the client can expect to find in the remainder of the proposal. You'll include all of the sections that we'll cover below, simply laid out as we just did above.
If you're sending an electronic proposal, you may want to make the table of contents clickable so the client can easily jump from section to section by clicking the links within the actual table of contents.
Step 3: Executive summary
Next, your business proposal should always include an executive summary that frames out answers to the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions that you’re proposing to the client lead. Here, the client will understand that you understand them.
It's important to note that despite the word "summary," this section shouldn't be a summary of your whole business proposal. Instead, this section should serve as your elevator pitch or value proposition. You'll use the executive summary to make an explicit case for why your company is the best fit for your prospect’s needs. Talk about your strengths, areas of expertise, similar problems you’ve solved, and the advantages you provide over your competitors—all from the lens of how these components could help your would-be client’s business thrive.
Step 4: Project details
When it comes to how to write a business proposal, steps four through six will encompass the main body of your proposal—where your potential client will understand how you’ll address their project and the scope of the work.
Within this body, you'll start by explaining your recommendation, solution, or approach to servicing the client. As you get deeper within your explanation, your main goal will be to convey to the client that you’re bringing something truly custom to the table. Show that you've created this proposal entirely for them based on their needs and any problems they need to solve. At this point, you'll detail your proposed solution, the tactics you’ll undertake to deliver on it, and any other details that relate to your company’s recommended approach.
Step 5: Deliverables and milestones
This section will nest inside the project details section, but it’s an essential step on its own.
Your proposal recipient doesn’t get merely an idea of your plan, of course—they get proposed deliverables. You'll outline your proposed deliverables here with in-depth descriptions of each (that might include quantities or the scope of services, depending on the kind of business you run). You never want to assume a client is on the same page as you with expectations, because if you’re not aligned, they might think you over-promised and under-delivered. Therefore, this is the section where you'll want to go into the most detail.
Along these lines, you can also use this section of the prospective client's proposal to restrict the terms and scope of your services. This can come in handy if you’re concerned that the work you’re outlining could lead to additional projects or responsibilities that you’re not planning to include within your budget.
Moreover, you might also want to consider adding milestones to this section, either alongside deliverables or entirely separately. Milestones can be small, such as delivery dates for a specific package of project components, or when you send over your first draft of a design. Or, you can choose to break out the project into phases. For longer projects, milestones can be a great way to convey your company’s organization and responsibility.
Step 6: Budget
There’s no way around the fact that pricing projects isn’t easy or fun—after all, you need to balance earning what you’re worth and proving value, while also not scaring away a potential client, or getting beaten out by a competitor with a cheaper price. Nevertheless, a budget or pricing section is an integral part of a business proposal, so you'll want to prepare your pricing strategy ahead of time before getting into the weeds of any proposal writing.
This being said, if you fear the fee might seem too high to your potential client, you might decide to break out the individual components of the budget—for example: social media services, $700; web copywriting $1,500—or create a few different tiers of pricing with different services contained in each. The second approach might not work for all types of businesses or proposal requests, but it may be worth considering if you’re worried about your overall fee appearing steep.
With these points in mind, once you've determined how to outline your pricing, you'll list it out (you might even include optional fees or services) and the overall cost for the scope of work you've described.
Step 7: Conclusion
Finally, your conclusion should wrap up your understanding of the project, your proposed solutions, and what kind of work (and costs) are involved. This is your last opportunity to make a compelling case within your business proposal—reiterate what you intend to do, and why it beats your competitors’ ideas.
If you're writing an RFP, again, meaning a potential client has requested this document from you, you might also include a terms and conditions section at this point. This end-on piece would detail the terms of your pricing, schedule, and scope of work that the client would be agreeing to by accepting this proposal.
Bonus step: Appendix (optional)
After the conclusion, you might also decide to include an appendix—where you add any supplemental information that that either doesn’t fit within the main proposal without being disruptive for the reader, or is less than essential to understanding the main components of your proposal. You’ll likely only need an appendix if you have stats, figures, illustrations, or examples of work that you want to share with your potential client. This being said, you might also include contact information, details about your team, and other relevant information in this section.
If you don't have any additional information to include, don't worry—you can end your business proposal with the conclusion section.
Business proposal considerations
Before you dive into determining how to write a business proposal that will give you a competitive edge, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
First, you'll want to make sure that you’re accomplishing the right objectives with your proposal. When writing a business proposal, you’re trying to walk a line between both promoting your company and addressing the needs of your would-be client, which can be difficult for any company to do.
This being said, you'll want to remember that a business proposal is different than a business plan, which you likely already wrote for your company when you were starting your business. Your business plan spells out your company's overall growth goals and objectives, but a business proposal speaks directly to a specific could-be client with the purpose of winning their business for your company.
With this in mind, in order to write a business proposal for any potential client, you'll need to establish your internal objectives and how these will contribute to the work you're proposing. To explain, you'll need to consider the following:
What tasks will need to be done for this work?
Who will do each task, and oversee the job at large?
What you’ll charge for the job?
Where will the work be delivered?
When will it be done?
Why are you the best fit for the job the client needs to be accomplished?
How will you achieve results?
Not only are these questions at the heart of clear and concise writing, but you also won't be able to write your business proposal without answers to them. So as you're going through the different pieces of your business proposal, keep in mind the objectives of your business, while also remaining persuasive regarding why the potential client should work with you instead of someone else.
The next important thing you'll need to keep in mind before you start writing a business proposal is what kind of proposal are you writing. Essentially, there are two types of business proposals—solicited proposals where someone requested the proposal from your company—and unsolicited proposals, where you're sending the document to another business unprompted.
In the case of solicited proposals, often called RFPs (short for a request for proposal), it’s likely that this potential client already knows at least a little about your business. With these kinds of business proposals, you'll want to spend less time convincing the client that you're the best small business consultant for the job and more on making your proposal feel custom to their specific brief, project, or problem. On the whole, the less generic your business proposal is, the more likely you are to win the work.
Unsolicited proposals, on the other hand, are much harder to sell.
As you’re writing a business proposal to a company that doesn’t know they may need your services, you’ll want to focus on getting them to understand why your company is specifically unique. You want to show them that you can add significant value to their business that they don’t already have. If there is currently someone performing the function you would like to, the sell will even be more difficult.
Business proposal examples
So, now that we've gone through all of the steps to show you how to write a business proposal, let's discuss some examples. As you go through the writing process, you might find it's helpful to consult external resources to review business proposal samples or templates and see how other businesses have structured these types of documents. Specifically, it might be even more helpful to review business proposal examples that relate to your particular industry—such as marketing, advertising, or finance.
General business proposal sample
If you're looking for a general business proposal example, you might consult BPlan, which offers advice, examples, and templates for the documents that are required to plan and operate a small business. In the BPlan sample, BPlan breaks their example into three overarching parts—a problem statement, a proposed solution, and a pricing estimate. This may be a good place to start if you're writing a business proposal for the first time and need a simple, general example to follow.
For a solicited proposal or RFP, you may want to reference a business proposal example that specifically operates under the assumption that you've been asked for this proposal. In this case, you may check out one of the downloadable RFP templates from Template Lab.
Template Lab offers both Word and PDF versions of their templates—and these business proposal samples will include sections more appropriate for RFPs including terms and conditions, scheduling, and points of contact.
Business proposal template services or software
For the most advanced and plug-and-play type business proposal samples, you may decide to utilize a service like Proposify or PandaDoc. These software services allow you to choose from their library of professionally designed and outlined business proposal examples (which are also usually industry-specific) and customize the template for your business's needs.
It's important to note, however, that although you may be able to sign up for a free trial for these services, most of them will eventually require a paid subscription.
5 best practices for writing a business proposal
Writing a business proposal can seem overwhelming at first, as it requires you to provide information about your company and its services as they relate specifically to what your prospect needs. As you go through the process again and again, however, it will become easier and easier to write a succinct and effective business proposal.
This being said, there are a few best practices you can keep in mind to help you as you get started:
1. Be direct.
Although you might feel the urge to show off your language skills while trying to impress a client, when you’re writing a business proposal, tour best bet to win business is to be clear, concise, and direct. You won't want to use overly flowery language or anything that could possibly be misconstrued.
2. Don’t leave room for ambiguity.
You'll want to make sure your proposal is straightforward and easy to understand, with no room for misinterpretation around what you say you’ll do or deliver.
Therefore, you'll want to avoid overly complicated industry jargon to be sure your client can understand exactly what you're talking about and what it means within the scope of your (and their) business.
3. Write for the right audience.
If you were writing a proposal for a specialty food business, it shouldn't look or sound exactly the same as if you were writing a proposal for an asset management company. You'll always want to keep your audience in mind as your craft and develop your proposal.
Ultimately, your best bet is to be straightforward, clear, and stick to the details, but you also shouldn't be afraid to tailor your writing to your audience so that your client feels that the proposal has truly been created with their business in mind.
This being said, your proposal should show that you not only understand your potential client but that you also respect them professionally.
4. Consider a title page.
Although this may not be necessary for a shorter business proposal, a title page can help with the general organization, flow, and professional feel of your document.
Like a title page for any other type of report, this one-page cover sheet would precede the remainder of your proposal and would likely include your business's name, contact information, and logo, as well as who you're submitting the proposal to.
Depending on your business or the potential client you're submitting the proposal to, you might decide that a title page is unnecessary, however, it's worth keeping in mind that it may be something to visually draw in your reader from the start.
5. Err on the side of brevity.
Finally, within the world of business proposals, shorter is usually better. This isn't to say, of course, that you should leave out details or omit important sections—it simply means that you should try to find the most succinct way to say what you need to say and get your point across to the potential client.
The bottom line
There's no doubt about it—learning how to write a business proposal is a lot of work. Luckily, however, you can follow our steps so you know what to include in your proposal and how to include it.
Ultimately, selling your services to potential clients is part of running and managing your business and as you do it again and again, it will only become easier.
This being said, as you go through the lifecycle of your business, you'll begin to accumulate a library of business proposals that you can continuously reference and use to develop your pitching strategy and writing process based on proposals that have and have not worked. And, hopefully, by taking the time to invest in this business proposal process, you'll be winning the work you need to grow your business.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.
Sales | How To
How to Write a Business Proposal (+ Template & Examples)
REVIEWED BY: Jess Pingrey
Jess served on the founding team of a successful B2B startup and has used a wide range of sales and marketing tools over the course of her 15-year career. She uses her industry knowledge to deliver the best answers to your questions about sales tools and sales management.
WRITTEN BY: Bianca Caballero
Published February 27, 2023
Bianca is a staff writer at Fit Small Business who specializes in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management .
Free Business Proposal Template
- 1 Determine Sales Proposal Requirements
- 2 Gather Necessary Information
- 3 Design Your Proposed Solution
- 4 Calculate Pricing
- 5 Draft Your Proposal
- 6 Edit Your Proposal Draft
- 7 Send Your Proposal
- 8 Follow Up With Your Recipient
- 9 Best Practices in Writing Sales Proposals
- 10 Bottom Line
A business proposal is a document sent to a prospective client that outlines a firm’s product or service offerings. It also explains how you will provide a solution, the cost, timeline, and qualifying information, such as your background and prior work experience. In this article, we outline eight steps for how to create a business proposal, offer a free proposal template, and provide best practices for writing proposals.
Creating a sales proposal can feel tedious, especially if you’re drafting it from scratch each time. We’ve created a free template that you can use as a resource for your sales proposal.
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Free Sales Business Proposal Template
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After you’ve downloaded our free template above, you can now customize it according to your business needs as you follow the steps to writing a proposal below:
1. Determine Sales Proposal Requirements
The first step in learning how to write a business proposal is knowing what needs to be included. Government agencies, public universities, and large corporations typically use requests for proposals (RFPs). These are formal solicitation requests for products or services in which the requirements are normally laid out line by line and must be followed precisely.
If you are writing a proposal for a potential customer undergoing your unique sales process , include things a decision-maker would like to see. For instance, pricing, timelines, and the proposed solution regarding quantities and the mode of product or service delivery are critical purchasing factors enclosed in the document.
Pro tip: ClickUp is a free-forever project management tool that helps teams:
- Create professional proposals
- Collaborate with shared tasks and team chat
- Assign tasks to teammates
ClickUp project management board (Source: ClickUp )
2. Gather Necessary Information
Gathering essential information and materials for your proposal can be complex because each potential client may want different details. This could demand other personnel to get involved in pulling the documents and information needed. For instance, some may only request the price and proposed solution, while others will ask for your background story, client reference lists, and work samples to show you’re qualified.
While learning how to write a proposal for business purposes, you may have to dig around your file database for company information, employee biographies, marketing materials, and pricing sheets. Keeping all resources needed for a proposal in one place makes this process easier. Use customer relationship management (CRM) systems to track your proposal progress and acquire what’s needed to draft it in one place.
Pro tip: HubSpot is a popular CRM platform that lets you monitor opportunities using sales pipelines and store documents—all in one system. You can utilize the Sales Documents feature to store, share, and customize templates and materials you’ll need for your proposals.
HubSpot’s deals and opportunities pipeline (Source: HubSpot )
HubSpot’s Sales Documents library (Source: HubSpot )
3. Design Your Proposed Solution
Your proposed solution involves the processes, materials, product quantities, and personnel required to fulfill the offerings or address your customer’s problem statement. Additionally, it should be included in the scope of work section in the proposal. For businesses that only provide a product, such as equipment for a manufacturing plant, this step could be as easy as knowing the quantity and having a logistics plan for delivery and installment.
For more service-based businesses, such as business consultants or content development services, there will likely be more steps and deliverables to complete the work. Regardless of your business, you can use the five W’s and an H methodology to construct a proposed solution that addresses your prospect’s primary pain points:
- Who: Who will be involved, do the work, manage, and be a point of contact for the prospect?
- What: What solutions or products will be delivered, and what resources, processes, or technology will be used?
- Where: Where will work be done or delivered to?
- When: When will the work start and be completed, what are the key milestones throughout the project, and when is each deliverable expected to occur?
- Why: Why did you choose this particular solution for this customer’s needs?
- How: How will work be done, managed, and checked for high quality and customer satisfaction?
For example, a business-to-business (B2B) content writing business might be trying to address a statement of needs issued by a client: “We would like to express thought leadership on the topic of the Zero Trust Cybersecurity Framework.” In this case, the business could use the solution in this business proposal example:
The objective of this business proposal is to demonstrate how ABC Writing Agency can promote the thought leadership of Cybersecurity Corp. for the Zero Trust Security Model. We believe the best course of action is to research and copyright a branded e-book (roughly 4,000 words) regarding Zero Trust Security, the details of the solution, its benefits, and the modern-day security challenges it solves (what) with the final product completed in August 2022. (when) The e-book will use your logo and branding scheme to convey your personal grasp on the subject and thought leadership using a series of direct quotes and statistical callouts. (why)
To ensure high-quality work and client satisfaction, we will begin with an initial call to construct a detailed outline discussing the sections, style guides, tone, and to retrieve direct quotes. Following an initial draft, multiple rounds of edits will take place between Cybersecurity Corp. and ABC Writing Agency to develop a final draft. (how)
The project will be led by our senior editor, Collin Buchanan, and content manager, Jake Cunningham, who comes from the world of cybersecurity. Our team will utilize and manage freelancers experienced in writing e-books on technical topics to research and copyright the asset. (who) All work will be completed by us virtually and delivered via Google Docs. (where)
4. Calculate Pricing
Once you know how you’ll provide your product or service, the next step in writing a proposal is formulating the costs to specify in the document’s pricing section. This is one of the toughest steps because of all the factors that need to be considered, such as product cost and other expenses. That’s why it is critical to accurately communicate your costs to avoid losing a deal for overcharging—or worse—winning a deal with significantly underestimated costs.
As you price everything, you can either do a flat fee, hourly rate, per-unit charge, or some combination of the three. Sometimes, it’s best to work backward by establishing your desired probability first in the form of a percent like 20% profit or a flat dollar amount such as $10,000 above the work cost.
For example, you want to make a 20% profit on the work for an equipment installation job for a manufacturing business, and you’re pricing using a flat fee. You’ve itemized the costs as the following:
- 1 x $80,000 manufacturing equipment = $80,000
- 3 installation/delivery employees x 5 hours x $32 per hour = $480 wages
- $480 employee wages x 7% employer payroll tax = $33.6 payroll tax
- $480 employee wages x 20% benefits and workers’ compensation = $96 benefits and compensation
- $200 for the delivery truck and gas = $200 for delivery costs
When you add all the itemized expenses, the total cost for this installation job will be around $80,809. To get the total, you need to charge this customer to meet your desired profitability, and multiply it by 20% to get $16,162. Add that to your total cost ($80,809 + $16,162), and $96,971 is the flat fee you will charge for the installation job.
Pro tip: Struggling to visualize your pricing process? Try using these seven free estimate templates . Designed for various business types, these templates allow you to outline and itemize the costs of providing work to share with your customers to help win more deals easily.
5. Draft Your Proposal
Now that you know your proposal requirements, have gathered the necessary information, determined the proposed solution, and calculated pricing, you are ready to draft the document. Following along with our free template, your draft will consist of the following elements:
The title page leans more toward showing the professionalism of your business than providing information. There should be a specific title establishing the purpose, such as “ABC Writing Agency Proposal for Cybersecurity Corp. to Promote Thought Leadership on Zero Trust Security.”
Also, be sure to indicate who the proposal was prepared for in terms of the decision-making person and their company name. Add your logo to the front and the contact information for the primary point of contact for your business so they can contact you with further questions.
Table of Contents
Use a table of contents to break down each part of the proposal for business so they can easily navigate through it. Because of the digital age we live in, we recommend linking your table of contents electronically to each associated section. That way, those reading your proposal can go to any part of the document by clicking on the table of contents.
The executive summary takes everything in your proposal and compresses it into one paragraph. Essentially, if a reader reads this section, they should be able to grasp the general idea of your solution. Here’s a business proposal example using the content writing example above:
With over 10 years of experience in writing high-quality marketing assets, we are eager to assist Cybersecurity Corp in its endeavor to promote thought leadership on Zero Trust Security. We plan to achieve this by writing a comprehensive e-book using engaging copy, stat callouts, and direct quotes from your leaders to help associate the security framework with your brand.
Here’s your time to talk about your inception story, mission statement , founding purpose, and company history. You can also provide biographies and professional pictures of your company founders, leaders, and key personnel that might be involved in the work you provide.
This is also the time to express your unique selling proposition . In other words, addressing the question “why choose us” over competitors. Lastly, if you’ve had any recognition or won any company awards, this is the section to highlight those successes.
Scope of Work
This section correlates with creating your proposed solution in step three as you present it in an actionable business plan. Describe the work that will be completed and the tangible deliverables associated with it.
In this small business proposal example, we see how a content writing business might construct a scope of work:
We will provide content writing services to create predetermined marketing assets for Cybersecurity Corp. This includes researching online data for usable information, interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) for additional insights and quotes, copywriting drafts, inserting callouts, and making edits per revision requests made by Cybersecurity Corp. Deliverables for the scope of work above include:
- 1 x outline developed by ABC Writing Agency and approved by Cybersecurity Corp.
- 1 x drafted e-book (max. 4,000 words) delivered by Google Doc
No matter how long your scope of work is, it’s crucial to avoid industry or technical jargon that the general audience may not understand. Take the time to review the scope of work and translate any statements that may be misunderstood or confusing.
Be sure to indicate how long you expect it to take to complete the entire scope of work. It’s also a good idea to provide estimates for each milestone or individual deliverable you set. Whenever possible, present the information visually to help your reader absorb it better. Below is a sales proposal timeline example for a sales consulting business and its milestones.
Pricing or Price Estimate
For this section, take the price calculation you did in step four and present it to the potential customer. While you should itemize it to show where the price comes from, avoid adding your desired profitability, as that should be private to your business. Make sure it’s clear as to how each item is priced, whether that be hourly, per unit, or a flat fee.
This section should also be used to explain payment expectations, e.g., when invoices must be paid by, how much money is required upfront vs after work is completed, refund policy, and if other billable expenses can be included automatically or require client approval.
Be upfront with your estimate if you don’t know how many units you’ll need or how many hours it will take to accomplish your business offering. Provide an explanation and an estimated range.
Conclusion, Terms & Appendix
The final sections should include additional information that could be useful to your prospective client. A conclusion should express your gratitude for the opportunity and explain the next steps to move forward. Terms (or terms and conditions) can be added in a proposal or in the service agreement to cover legal aspects of a working contract, like contract dispute policies, confidentiality, rules on subcontracting, etc.
The appendix is optional but would utilize visuals or supplemental documents to enrich your proposal. For instance, you might include links to sample work, a client reference list, or a catalog of options for materials or software vendors from which the client can choose.
6. Edit Your Proposal Draft
Once you have completed the first draft of your proposal, run it by multiple departments to ensure it is comprehensive and accurate. Some things to consider as you review it for potential revisions:
- Has strong readability: The proposal uses appropriate style, tone, and structured sentences to create a clean flow of information understood by the specific reader.
- Avoids grammar and technical errors: The proposal avoids punctuation, spelling, or other errors related to proper writing mechanics.
- Addresses requirements: The proposal contains all the information and sections required to meet the reader’s or customer’s needs and objectives.
Use editing tools such as Grammarly to evaluate your business proposal writing for enhanced quality. Grammarly lets users upload text into a system to check for grammar and spelling mistakes as well as for engagement and readability of content. There’s also a plagiarism check feature to evaluate the text to billions of pages online. You can even adjust style preferences when subscribing to Grammarly Business to ensure it meets all your goals.
Grammarly Business’ in-line writing suggestion (Source: Grammarly Business )
Pro tip: Use graphic design tools like Canva to give your sales proposal the professional touch it needs. Canva is a user-friendly platform with thousands of free templates for presentations, marketing materials, social media posts, and proposals for business. Users of all design skill levels can easily turn regular copies into visual masterpieces.
Canva’s sales proposal templates (Source: Canva )
7. Send Your Proposal
Now that your proposal is drafted, edited, and has the aesthetics it needs, it’s time to send the document for review. More formal submissions for RFPs may require that you submit them in person, electronically, or both, so review those provisions carefully before sending them in.
Some sales plans incorporate unsolicited proposals to new leads to present problems they didn’t know existed with viable solutions they could offer. In these cases, they use the proposal to get their foot in the door and create sales opportunities.
When taking this course of action, it’s important to add context to the unsolicited proposal. For instance, in a sales email , briefly introduce yourself, your business, and what services you provide. Furthermore, indicate why you wanted to send a proposal to them specifically and let them know they can reach out if they wish to discuss it further.
8. Follow Up With Your Recipient
Even after you send a proposal, the process is not over. Make time to follow up to confirm the contact received the proposal and see if they have any questions. Because of the proposals’ details, there are usually other clarification steps in the procurement process, such as interviews, client meetings , or sales presentations before work begins.
We recommend using a customer relationship management (CRM) system with task management capabilities to ensure sales reps don’t forget to reach out to a prospect after a proposal is initially sent. A CRM like Pipedrive lets you design and assign tasks to team members from within a project. You can also create projects that are linked to open or won deals.
Pipedrive’s project and task management feature (Source: Pipedrive )
Best Practices in Writing Sales Proposals
Now that you know the steps in how to write a business proposal, there are a few tips you can practice and maintain to produce thoughtful and effective proposals.
Keep It Simple
When learning how to make a business proposal, remember to write short, simple sentences. While there is no strict rule on the business proposal format or length, make sure it is straightforward and easy to understand. Avoid loading it with too much business jargon and fancy words. Instead, strike the sweet spot between conveying essential information and ensuring anyone who reads it can understand it.
Outline Major Sections & Pertinent Information
The first thing to do when learning how to do a business proposal is to outline all the major sections of your document. This should also include all the pertinent information that you want to get across. The business proposal outline will help you stay focused on the main points of the document and keep your ideas from drifting away.
Add Data & Visuals
Capture your prospect’s attention by including quantitative data and figures highlighting your offerings and the value of your company. For example, you can show your month-on-month sales trends as proof of your stellar performance. Adding visual elements like charts and graphs can also help make your proposal more engaging.
Increase Credibility With Social Proof
Assert your company’s credibility. Many prospects won’t readily believe your claims about your business and are most likely to trust the word of their own peers and other customers. To help build your credibility and gain their trust, include social proof, such as reviews and testimonials from your own customers.
Use a Call to Action (CTA)
After the prospect reads your proposal, direct them to the next step. Use a call to action with a verb that defines what they should do to act on their interest in your proposal. Examples of CTAs are “Subscribe today” or “Download this guide now.” You can also use a CTA with a no-obligation statement like “Sign up, it’s free” for prospects who perceive risks in taking action.
Another excellent idea when adding CTAs is to create a sense of urgency to make your prospect feel that now is the best time to subscribe to your service. Some people are motivated to do something right away for fear of missing out (FOMO). That said, phrases like “Limited-time offer” and “On sale now for 20% off” can trigger action from prospects.
Stay True to Your Brand
Each company has a different brand voice and personality. Staying true to your business brand is a great way to stand out among your competitors. For instance, if your company sells baby clothes, it is best to use language that parents with babies can relate to, like “cute and cuddly” or “snug and comfy.” Use a more formal tone of voice in your proposal if you are selling office wear.
Many business owners and sales managers would like to standardize their proposal-writing system. However, it can be tricky to address the unique needs of every solicited and unsolicited opportunity to get the correct information in order and present their proposed solutions. Our how-to sales proposal examples and free template will help you streamline your bidding process to win more deals.
About the Author
Find Bianca On LinkedIn
Bianca Caballero is a subject matter expert at Fit Small Business who covers Sales and Customer service topics. Prior to working at FSB, she was in field sales and territory management. When she launched her career as a writer, she worked with companies from the US, Australia, and China. She gained expertise in writing and editing news, health, technology, and business articles. At present, she uses her decade-long writing experience to provide FSB readers with the best answers to their questions.
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How to Write a Business Proposal That Drives Action
A carefully crafted business proposal can be a powerful catalyst for positive change. It can also position you as a trailblazing leader and a trustworthy source of insight.
Creating a proposal that strikes a chord with your audience, however, requires proper formatting and compelling content. Otherwise, it could easily be glazed over or tossed into the trash before it even gets read.
According to a report by software company Proposify, an estimated 50% of proposals are signed or rejected within twenty-four hours of opening. So it’s critical to take extra care in ensuring every aspect of your proposal is working to drive the intended subsequent action from the reader.
Let’s discuss the basics of how to write a business proposal—the fundamental elements all proposals should include, as well as what makes for an effective proposal, and how to apply those principles to your own work.
What makes a business proposal effective?
Having the right format and information will get your proposal read—but making it compelling will ensure it gets implemented. So how do you write an effective business proposal?
A persuasive proposal is . . .
Tailored to fit its audience. The focus of your business proposal should always be on your audience’s needs and how your solution can address them.
Easy to read and understand. The formatting should be easy to follow, and the content should be concise and free of distracting tangents and irrelevant details.
Written in a confident, direct tone. A timid tone can quickly undermine an otherwise bulletproof proposal. After all, if you’re not convinced of your own argument, why should your reader be?
Professional in its presentation. Your document should be free of mistakes that might misdirect or distract your reader. If you print your proposal, be sure to keep the papers in pristine condition until they are delivered.
Now, let’s take a look at how to approach writing a proposal inclusive of all these elements.
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How to write a business proposal: the basics
There are two basic types of business proposals: solicited and unsolicited.
Solicited business proposals are specifically requested by prospective clients and tend to require less research. This is because the client typically includes all (or at least most) of the pertinent information about themselves and their requirements for your proposal in a formal request for proposal (RFP) document.
Unsolicited business proposals are similar to cold emails. They are sent to potential customers, clients, and investors with the hope that they will want to hear more. Because you will not have been provided with an RFP document first, you will need to conduct thorough research on your own to understand your audience prior to writing this type of proposal.
In general, all business proposals follow the same basic structure:
1 Title page
2 table of contents, 3 executive summary, 6 your qualifications, 7 cost summary, 8 terms and conditions, 9 agreement.
Let’s delve into what specific information you’ll need to include in each section of your proposal, depending on the type of proposal you’re writing and to whom you will be addressing it.
The title page should clarify who you are, who your audience is, and what the topic of your proposal will be.
- When sending a proposal to an external audience, be sure to include the full name of your business, your name, and all relevant business contact information.
- For internal proposals, it’s more important to focus on what your proposal is about. Your title should reflect what problem you are solving or what solution you are proposing, e.g., “Proposal to Increase Marketing Budget.”
Keep this page simple and clean in terms of both layout and content—avoid cluttering it with unnecessary text and too many graphics.
This brief list of topics covered in your proposal is only necessary for longer documents—it makes more detailed proposals easier to navigate.
- For physical submissions, include the titles of each section as well as page numbers. (Be sure to number the pages of your document as well.)
- For electronic proposals, it’s best to link each item to the corresponding section.
While you can get a little creative with your section titles if it fits your brand, prioritize clarity above all. It should be easy to tell at a glance what the purpose and contents of each section will be.
As the name suggests, this is a concise summary of the content you will be presenting throughout the rest of your proposal.
- For customer, client, or investor proposals, this is your first chance to introduce yourself and your brand. Briefly discuss who you are, what you do, what need your proposal addresses, and how you plan to fill it.
- For internal proposals, it is especially important to emphasize the “why”—the reason you are submitting this proposal and how your solution will benefit your company.
For the summary, conciseness is key. Keep sentences short, simple, and to the point; avoid getting too detailed (you can go into more depth in the following sections).
This section is where you clearly state the problem you are trying to solve or the need you seek to fill.
- This is your opportunity to show that you understand both the problem itself and the requirements you’ll need to fulfill in order to solve it.
- Be sure to emphasize why it’s so important that this problem gets solved.
Be as detailed as necessary to fully convey the scope of the issue your proposal will address—just be sure to only include directly relevant information.
This is the meat of your proposal—a clear and detailed outline of your solution and its benefits.
- Preemptively address any concerns your audience may have at this point by discussing potential obstacles and how they can be avoided or addressed.
- Clearly state why your solution is the best solution. What is it that makes your proposal more effective or beneficial compared to alternative options?
When writing this section, always keep your audience at the forefront of your mind. The more tailored your proposal is to your audience’s perspective, the more convincing it will be.
This is where you reassure your audience that you have the experience and/or expertise necessary to solve the problem.
- This section is mainly useful for proposals directed at customers, clients, or investors who may be unfamiliar with you or your work.
- You may also want to include this section in unsolicited internal proposals if, for example, the colleague it is addressed to is someone with whom you have had little prior communication.
- This section may not be necessary for a solicited proposal, as the use of an RFP indicates your audience is already aware of your qualifications.
For this section, tone is almost as important as the content itself. A confident tone will reinforce the trust you are trying to build.
Hint: An easily integrated digital communications assistant like Grammarly can swiftly analyze the tone of your piece in real time and provide suggestions for improvement to ensure your message has maximum impact.
This is where you include the financial cost of your solution, as well as any other potential costs (time, resources, etc.) it may incur.
- Clearly break down the different costs—ensure your readers will know exactly what they are paying for and how much it will cost.
- If applicable, make sure to differentiate between necessary costs and those that, while ideal to include, can be cut if absolutely necessary.
- For electronic submissions, consider including a responsive pricing table that will allow the reader to check off only the items they are interested in to instantly calculate the total.
For this section, good organization is critical. Use simple tables, charts, or lists to make it as easy as possible for your reader to review their options.
Use this section to thoroughly cover billing procedures, project timelines, and other legal formalities—the “terms and conditions” of your agreement.
- This section is likely not necessary for internal proposals, but is absolutely necessary for proposals directed at customers, clients, or investors.
Avoid frustrating your reader with confusing legalese and industry jargon here; keep your vocabulary simple and direct .
Hint: Grammarly Business allows companies to create custom style guides to ensure all content is brand-aligned and avoids jargon that can confuse readers.
This is where you and your reader sign off on the proposal once it is accepted.
- Be sure to include both your and your readers’ names and titles in print below the signature lines.
- For customer, client, or investor proposals, include contact information should they have questions or concerns about your proposal.
Again, keep this section simple and easy to read in order to smooth the path to acceptance.
As for creating the document itself, there is a wide variety of purchasable business proposal templates and programs. However, many major drafting platforms (such as Google Docs ) offer free templates you can use as well. In most cases, you can even customize the look of these to fit your brand image.
Tips for polishing up your business proposal
It’s one thing to understand how to write a business proposal; it’s another thing entirely to recognize how to optimize your argument to its fullest potential. Here are a few tips for improving your writing skills when it comes to crafting proposals:
- Do your due diligence. Thoroughly research your problem, solution, and audience before writing to ensure you are not missing any important details.
- Trim unnecessary information. If it doesn’t clarify the problem, support your solution, or position you as the ideal candidate to propose the solution, then it’s not relevant.
- Break up long paragraphs into bullet points, numbered lists, tables, or smaller paragraphs with shorter sentences.
- Use images where appropriate to make your proposal more visually engaging. Again, keep it relevant—think charts, graphs, or other graphics that will help illustrate your main points.
- Align your overall tone with your brand’s personality. This will make a good impression whether your proposal is for customers/clients or colleagues.
- Read your proposal out loud (in private) to listen for the correct tone, or have someone else read it to you.
- Proofread your work. Even minor spelling and grammatical mistakes can be distracting and detract from your credibility, no matter who your audience is.
Using a digital communication assistant like Grammarly Business can significantly decrease the time you spend not only writing, but also refining your proposal. You’ll also be able to minimize the margin of human error by automating processes such as proofreading, tone analysis, and readability testing. A feature-rich business writing tool will allow you to polish your business proposal to perfection, enabling you to turn more of your great ideas into effective plans of action.
Knowing how to write a business proposal that drives action can be easier said than done. But with an AI-driven writing assistant like Grammarly Business, it is easy to check your work and refine your proposal to its fullest potential. Contact us to learn more or get started with Grammarly Business today!
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500+ Free business plan examples
Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 500 free real-world business plan examples from a wide variety of industries to guide you through writing your own plan. If you're looking for an intuitive tool that walks you through the plan writing process, we recommend LivePlan . It includes many of these same SBA-approved business plan examples and is especially useful when applying for a bank loan or outside investment.
Find your business plan
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Example business plan format
Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:
The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.
Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).
Products & services
The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and how your product or service fits into the existing competitive landscape.
Describe the problem you're solving, how your offering solves the problem, and who your potential competitors are. You'll want to outline your competitive advantages and the milestones you have in mind to successfully start and grow your business.
Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.
Marketing & sales
The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.
Organization & management
Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure, location, and history if you're already up and running.
Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.
Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.
The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or our-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.
Types of business plans explained
While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. To get the most out of your plan, it's best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.
Traditional business plan
The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you'll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.
Business model canvas
The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.
The structure ditches a linear format in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It's faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations.
One-page business plan
The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan . This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business.
By starting with a one-page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You'll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan.
The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance.
It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27-minutes . However, it's even easier to convert into a full plan thanks to how heavily it's tied to your financials. The overall goal of Lean Planning isn't to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the Lean Planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and remain stable through times of crisis.
It's faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
Download a free sample business plan template
Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2022.
This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.
How to use an example business plan to help you write your own
How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.
Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company
You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.
For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.
Use a business plan example as a guide
Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.
One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.
You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition ), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.
If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, this guide on how to write a business plan is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .
Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document
Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.
Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool
Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.
If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.
Prepare to pitch your business
If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.
Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.
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What is a Business Proposal?
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A business proposal is a document used to explain what goods or services one individual or business offers to provide for another. A business proposal template can help you create a document that may be used for solicited or unsolicited proposals. For either type, make sure that you include all of the information requested by the other party. Also, make sure that you include all of your main points in the executive summary portion.
What is a business proposal?
Components of a business proposal, writing a business proposal, 4. write proposal.
A business proposal is a written outline that specifically details a transaction between a business and a prospective client. A client may request proposals from many different companies in order to see which business offers the best price, quality, and timeframe. A proposal is an important part of any business' efforts to acquire new clients.
A project proposal should list the services that can be done and how long the expected project will take. An estimate can also be included. This doesn’t need to be 100% accurate, as it is not a formal offer or contract, but it should be well-researched. This information will help the buyer make their decision regarding the winning proposal.
A business proposal template is often the first step in what is known as a complex sale – any sale where the buyer must consider more than just price in purchasing. In an investment situation , the business proposal template will need to include anything that the investor might need to know before deciding whether or not to invest. It should also include anything that might convince the investor that the joint business venture is a worthwhile endeavor. This might include: a detailed explanation of the business venture you’re proposing, the amount of capital you anticipate needing, any research you’ve done that pertains to that particular market, and any additional information and investor wants before coming to a decision.
There are two basic types of business proposal – those that are solicited by the buyer or client, and those that are submitted to potential buyers even though they haven’t requested one. Both types of proposal are important; the solicited proposals, however, give you a chance to communicate and include information that is tailored to the specific job.
The terms business proposal and business plan are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to remember that they are, in fact, not the same thing. A business proposal offers a service or product to the potential client. A business plan, on the other hand, is a more formal document that may be part of a business proposal. The business plan sets out certain goals for the business interaction, and how those goals would be achieved.
If you’re new to business proposal writing, it’s wise to look over several free business proposal samples online. When you go through free business proposal samples, take note of what works – and what doesn’t – in the proposals other have written. When a proposal is well-written, comprehensive and presented confidently, the result is often a successful sale for both sides of the equation.
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In some industries, a business proposal has a well-defined format that is specific to that industry. For example, in professions such as architecture and advertising, a visual presentation is the norm. However, most general business proposals will have the following structure:
- Cover Letter - usually contains a brief summary of the entire proposal, names the price, and highlights the bidder’s qualifications
- Proposal Document - usually contains:
- Title Page - Includes your name, name of your company, your company logo, your potential client’s name and contact information, date
- Table of Contents - Outline of contents of proposal
- Executive Summary - Explains why you are sending the proposal
- Statement of the Problem - Restates the client’s objectives and goals
- Approach - Summarizes the proposed approach for solving the problem
- Methodology - Details how the approach will be carried out, describes deliverables that the client can expect
- Schedule and Benchmarks - Details timeline of work, outlines any specific benchmarks
- Cost and Payment Schedule - Details full cost and payment details
- Legal - Any legal matters, terms and conditions
To write a successful business proposal, follow these steps:
1. Gather the Information You Need
If you are responding to a request for proposal (RFP), read the RFP carefully. Make sure that you meet all of the requirements that are specified by the client.
Learn everything you can about the client and project to help you customize the best possible proposal. You may want to have an initial meeting with the prospective client before sending a proposal. In that case, you would send a cover letter thanking the potential client for meeting with you and attaching the proposal.
2. Outline the Scope of the Project
Before writing the proposal, think about the project. Reflect on the key people who will be involved in the project and the things that will need to happen to complete the job. Who will do the work and manage the project? Who will the customer call if there are problems? What work needs to be done? When will you begin work and when will it be complete? When is payment due? How will the work be complete? Why have you chosen the approach to complete the job? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you write your proposal.
3. Estimate Labor and Costs
Think about how many hours you will need to spend on the project. Many businesses use a simple formula to estimate labor costs. First, add up the realistic amount of hours that it will take to complete each task on the project. Then multiply that number by 1.5.
Adding in this extra time will help to account for the different things that may go wrong during your project. If everything goes smoothly and you end up using less than the estimated amount of hours, you could always bill the client a lower amount or offer extra work as a bonus.
Begin by identifying the problem that your potential client has. If necessary, explain any context that the reader will need to understand the proposal. Define any key terms and then offer a roadmap of the proposal.
Tell your reader how you intend to solve their problem. Your solution will typically be the goods or services that you are offering to your client. Explain the benefits that your solution offers. Justify your expected benefits with evidence.
Explain your timeline for when tasks will be completed. Lay out important milestones. Explain that your timeline is an estimate and may be subject to change based on other factors.
Include a conservative budget estimate about how much the project will cost. When you are calculating costs, make sure to remember to include: start-up costs, labor costs, materials costs, monthly fees, maintenance costs.
Explain key contract terms. Be sure to include information about deposits, penalties or interests for late payments, and cancellation policies.
5. Edit Proposal
Once you have written your proposal, set it aside for a short period of time and then review it. Reread it for accuracy, spelling and grammar. Pay close attention to the dates and numbers you’ve included in your proposal to make sure they are correct. Review the RFP and any other correspondence with the potential client to ensure that you’ve included anything that the client asked for.
If possible, ask another person to review the proposal. A second set of eyes will help catch errors that you did not notice. Make sure that the language of your proposal is professional and clear. Be sure that your proposal is short enough to read in a single sitting. A good proposal should take less than eight minutes to read.
6. Send Proposal and Follow Up
Once you’ve sent the proposal, you should follow up with the client to remind them about it and answer any questions. If you’ve sent the proposal by email, you can choose to receive a notification when your potential client opens your message. Follow up with them the next day to see if they have any questions.
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Restaurant business plan, sample business proposal.
Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics
Grant Proposal Writing is Exciting, Imaginative Work
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Overview Additional Resources about Grants and Grant Writing Considering the Audience, Purpose, and Expectations of a Grant Proposal Common Elements of Grant Proposals General Tips Successful Sample Proposals
So, you want to write a grant proposal? This is exciting! This means that you have valuable research to do or a particular nonprofit to build or a community resource you’re passionate about developing. You have a distinct vision for how something could be improved or advanced, and you’re ready to ask for funding or other support to help this vision become a reality.
As you reach toward this unrealized vision by developing a grant proposal, you should think about successful grant writing as an act of imagination. Professor Kate Vieira, a Curriculum and Instruction professor at UW-Madison with considerable grant writing experience, describes grant proposal writing as a creative process akin to fiction writing—these are works of imagination. Professor Vieira recommends approaching the task of writing a grant proposal with an attitude of wonder and excitement as you strive to turn your ideas into something real. You have a great idea, and you think that you’re the best person to achieve a specific goal. Now you just need to convince others to get excited about this vision as well.
On this page, we offer some ways of thinking about grant proposals and advice about the process of planning and writing a proposal. We consider grant proposals; overall purposes, audiences, and expectations in order to make this information applicable across a range of contexts. However, this general approach has important limits . First, you will need to get more tailored advice about grant writing within your specific discipline or sphere. Second, you’ll need to follow very carefully the exact instructions about proposals from the granting agencies to which you are applying.
Talk with professors, mentors, previous grant recipients, the funding agency/group you are applying to, and trusted advisers in your field to learn more about what successful grant proposals look like in your situation and to get feedback on your plan and on your drafting process.
Before you start writing your grant proposal, you’ll want to make sure that you:
- develop a specific, meaningful, actionable plan for what you want to do and why you want to do it;
- consider how your plan will achieve positive results;
- locate a granting organization or source that funds projects like the one you have in mind;
- research that organization to make sure that its mission aligns with your plan;
- review the organization’s proposal guidelines; and
- examine sample proposals from your department, peers, and/or the organization.
When you’ve done all of this, you’re ready to start drafting your proposal!
Additional Resources about Grants and Grant Writing
For students, faculty, or staff at UW–Madison, a great place to learn more about grants, grant proposal writing, and granting institutions is the Grants Information Collection at UW–Madison’s Memorial Library. Check out their website and our review of some of their materials as well as links to other useful grant resources here.
Considering the Audience, Purpose, and Expectations of a Grant Proposal
A grant proposal is a very clear, direct document written to a particular organization or funding agency with the purpose of persuading the reviewers to provide you with support because: (1) you have an important and fully considered plan to advance a valuable cause, and (2) you are responsible and capable of realizing that plan.
As you begin planning and drafting your grant proposal, ask yourself:
- Who is your audience? Think about the people from the agency offering this grant who will read this proposal. What are the agency’s mission and goals? What are its values? How is what you want to do aligned with what this agency is all about? How much do these readers know about what you are interested in? Let your answers to these questions inform how you present your plan, what vocabulary you use, how much background you provide, and how you frame your goals. In considering your audience, you should think about the kind of information these readers will find to be the most persuasive. Is it numbers? If so, make sure that you provide and explain your data. Is it testimonials? Recommendations from other collaborators? Historical precedent? Think closely about how you construct your argument in relationship to your readers.
- What are the particular expectations for this grant? Pay attention to everything the granting organization requires of you. Your proposal should adhere exactly to these requirements. If you receive any advice that contradicts the expectations of your particular situation ( including from this website ), ignore it! Study representative samples of successful proposals in your field or proposals that have received the particular grant you are applying for.
- How do you establish your credibility? Make sure that you present yourself as capable, knowledgeable, and forward thinking. Establish your credibility through the thoroughness of your plan, the intentional way that you present its importance and value, and the knowledge you have of what has already been learned or studied. Appropriately reference any past accomplishments that verify your ability to succeed and your commitment to this project. Outline any partnerships you have built with complementary organizations and individuals.
- How can you clearly and logically present your plan? Make sure that your organization is logical. Divide your proposal into predictable sections and label them with clear headings. Follow exactly the headings and content requirements established by the granting agency’s call for proposals.Grant proposals are direct and to–the–point. This isn’t a good place for you to embroider your prose with flowery metaphors or weave in subtle literary allusions. Your language should be uncluttered and concise. Match the concepts and language your readers use and are familiar with. Your readers shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what you are communicating. For information about writing clear sentences, see this section of our writer’s handbook. However, use a vivid image, compelling anecdote, or memorable phrase if it conveys the urgency or importance of what you are proposing to do.
Common Elements of Grant Proposals
General tips, pay attention to the agency’s key interests..
As mentioned earlier, if there are keywords in the call for proposals—or in the funding organization’s mission or goal—be sure to use some of those terms throughout your proposal. But don’t be too heavy–handed. You want to help your readers understand the connections that exist between your project and their purpose without belaboring these connections.
Organize ideas through numbered lists.
Some grant writers use numbered lists to organize their ideas within their proposal. They set up these lists with phrases like, “This project’s three main goals are . . . ” or, “This plan will involve four stages . . . ” Using numbers in this way may not be eloquent, but it can an efficient way to present your information in a clear and skimmable manner.
Write carefully customized proposals.
Because grant funding is so competitive, you will likely be applying for several different grants from multiple funding agencies. But if you do this, make sure that you carefully design each proposal to respond to the different interests, expectations, and guidelines of each source. While you might scavenge parts of one proposal for another, never use the exact same proposal twice . Additionally when you apply to more than one source at the same time, be sure to think strategically about the kind of support you are asking from which organization. Do your research to find out, for example, which source is more likely to support a request for materials and which is more interested in covering the cost of personnel.
Go after grants of all sizes.
Pay attention to small grant opportunities as well as big grant opportunities. In fact, sometimes securing a smaller grant can make your appeal for a larger grant more attractive. Showing that one or two stakeholders have already supported your project can bolster your credibility.
Don’t give up! Keep on writing!
Writing a grant proposal is hard work. It requires you to closely analyze your vision and consider critically how your solution will effectively respond to a gap, problem, or deficiency. And often, even for seasoned grant writers, this process ends with rejection. But while grant writers don’t receive many of the grants they apply to, they find the process of carefully delineating and justifying their objectives and methods to be productive. Writing closely about your project helps you think about and assess it regardless of what the grant committee decides. And of course, if you do receive a grant, the writing won’t be over. Many grants require progress reports and updates, so be prepared to keep on writing!
Successful Sample Grant Proposals
One of the best ways to learn how to write grant proposals is to analyze successful samples. We’ve annotated and uploaded three very different kinds of successful proposals written by colleagues associated with UW–Madison. We encourage you to carefully read these samples along with the annotations we’ve provided that direct your attention to specific ways each one is doing the work of a strong proposal. But don’t stop with these! Find additional samples on your own of successful proposals like the one you’re writing to help guide and further your understanding of what has worked and been persuasive.
- Sample Grant Proposal 1 (PDF) Fellowship Proposal for UW–Madison’s Center for the Humanities’ Public Humanities Exchange (HEX)
- Sample Grant Proposal 2 (PDF) Proposal for a 3–Year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
- Sample Grant Proposal 3 (PDF) Madison Writing Assistance’s grant proposal to the Evjue Foundation
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How to Write a Business Proposal Begin with a title page. Create a table of contents. Explain your "why" with an executive summary. State the problem or need. Propose a solution. Share your qualifications. Include pricing options. Summarize with a conclusion. Clarify your terms and conditions. Include a space for signatures to document agreement.
Generally, there are three types of business proposals: 1. Formally solicited A formally solicited business proposal is made when you respond to an official request to write a business proposal. In this scenario, you know all the requirements and have more (if not all) information about a prospective buyer.
The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit in the current market or are...
Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you'll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan. Step 1: Executive Summary The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:
Your business proposal should start with a title page, which should include your name, the name of your company, the name of the person to whom you're submitting your proposal, and the date submitted. Table of contents Depending on how long your business proposal is, a table of contents is a nice touch.
When you write your business plan, you don't have to stick to the exact business plan outline. Instead, use the sections that make the most sense for your business and your needs. Traditional business plans use some combination of these nine sections. Executive summary Briefly tell your reader what your company is and why it will be successful.
Here are a couple of examples of business proposals you can refer to when writing your own: Example 1 Ben Smith ABC Marketing Corp. 123 Main Street San Francisco, California (555) 555-5555 July 3, 2022 Dear Mr. Fawkes, My name is Ben Smith, and I'm writing to you on behalf of ABC Marketing Corp.
When you write a business proposal, think about the emotion you want your potential client to feel at the end of reading your proposal. Excitement - Describing possibilities, using uplifting pictures, and success stories will be good here. Don't bore them with a document resembling a long business plan.
Here are some seven steps to follow when composing a proposal letter: Introduce yourself and provide background information. State your purpose for the proposal. Define your goals and objectives. Highlight what sets you apart. Briefly discuss the budget and how funds will be used. Finish with a call to action and request a follow-up.
Transform your format of a business proposal with this professional proposal writing guide. To learn how to bring the concepts in a business proposal to life, check out all the sections of a business proposal in this article.
How to write a business proposal? 1. Cover Page 2. Cover Letter 3. Table of Content 4. Executive summary 5. Proposal and solutions page 6. Pricing 7. About us 8. Testimonials and social proof 9. Agreement and CTA Create a business proposal Nothing speaks to a customer's direct needs like a well-written business proposal.
A business proposal is a written document that offers a solution to a problem or a way to achieve a goal. It is often used to sell products or services to a potential customer. A business proposal must be well-written, clear, and concise in order to convince the reader to take the desired action.
How to write a proposal: step-by-step Here's the general structure of a proposal: As you can see, a proposal generally consists of: Introduction : A brief overview of the problem, solution, costs, and benefits. Issue: The main definition of the issue, including subject, purpose, main argument, background information and importance.
Learn about the best business plan software. 1. Write an executive summary. This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement ...
Discover where your bids are good, bad and even ugly. And how to build a better proposal. RFP Writing Service. Make smart procurement decisions with our turn-key RFx management service. Proposal Automation. Secure more projects and invest less time and money with our powerful proposal automation platform. Business Proposals. Unlock a new source ...
What that looks like in your plan. Your vision should be direct and clearly stated in the Executive Summary section—and remain clear throughout the entire business plan. 5. Proof that you have something to talk about. According to Guy Kawasaki, ten slides is all a business plan needs. That, and a prototype.
Basic BASIC. $50. Standard STANDARD. $100. Premium PREMIUM. Investor Ready Business Plan With Basic Research (10-12-pages business plan) Investor Ready Business Plan With Professional Research (20-25 pages business plan) Investor Ready, Detailed, and Comprehensive Business Plan (30-50 pages business plan) Executive summary.
Planning Your Proposal 1 Define your audience. You need to make sure that you think about your audience and what they might already know or not know about your topic before you begin writing. This will help you focus your ideas and present them in the most effective way.
Step 3: Executive summary. Next, your business proposal should always include an executive summary that frames out answers to the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions that you're ...
1. Determine Sales Proposal Requirements 2. Gather Necessary Information 3. Design Your Proposed Solution 4. Calculate Pricing 5. Draft Your Proposal 6. Edit Your Proposal Draft 7. Send Your Proposal 8. Follow Up With Your Recipient Best Practices in Writing Sales Proposals
Because you will not have been provided with an RFP document first, you will need to conduct thorough research on your own to understand your audience prior to writing this type of proposal. In general, all business proposals follow the same basic structure: 1 Title page. 2 Table of contents. 3 Executive summary.
The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea. The structure ditches a linear format in favor of a cell-based template.
I'd like to teach these 5 major topics in this master's course. 1. Business plans and proposals: introduction and importance. 2. The functions, types, and steps of a business plan. 3. How to write a business plan. 4. A business proposal's elements and 3Ps.
The terms business proposal and business plan are often used interchangeably, but it's important to remember that they are, in fact, not the same thing. A business proposal offers a service or product to the potential client. ... Writing a business proposal. To write a successful business proposal, follow these steps: 1. Gather the ...
A grant proposal is a very clear, direct document written to a particular organization or funding agency with the purpose of persuading the reviewers to provide you with support because: (1) you have an important and fully considered plan to advance a valuable cause, and (2) you are responsible and capable of realizing that plan.