Learn How to Write a Business Proposal in 8 Simple Steps

With just 8 simple steps, you can learn how to write a business proposal that sells your business and impresses your recipient.

how to write a business proposal

Closing sales and winning business are embedded in the day-to-day of every company. It starts with some outreach, then careful nurturing, until you’re eventually ready to make a formal offer. Then, you realize you need to learn how to write a business proposal.

In this article, we’ll share:

  • The key components of a business proposal.
  • Tools that help with business proposal writing.
  • The different types of business proposals.

The Ins and Outs of Business Proposals

A business proposal is a document compiled by a company that formally offers products or services. It’s a crucial part of your sales strategy. The document is given to a lead to outline what they can expect to receive and for how much.

Business proposals shouldn’t be confused with business plans. A business plan explores the fundamental aspects of a business. These are often sent out to investors. A proposal is an arrangement between the business and an individual lead.

Proposals come in two forms, even if the core documentation is the same. 

The first is a solicited proposal. These tend to be sent out following multiple discussions with a prospect. The prospect will either have asked you to send them a proposal or will be expecting one. These proposals convert relatively well, especially as they can be full of personalized information and a tailored offering.

The second is an unsolicited proposal, which is sent to a prospect without asking. It is a more aggressive form of outreach that can deliver results if appropriate research is done on the prospect beforehand.

Every business will have their way of writing a proposal. You’ll need to create your own style to differentiate your business from the competition. All proposals, however, have three core tenets:

  • What is the prospect’s problem?
  • What is your solution?
  • How much will it cost?

How to Write a Business Proposal in 8 Simple Steps

writing a business proposal

It’s tempting to start filling in a stylish template and send the proposal as soon as possible. Yes, you need to act promptly, but you must take time to understand who you’re sending the proposal to.

Before we get into the individual steps of writing a business proposal, you first need to get to know your prospect. If you can learn specific information on their pain points, their company composition, and what solutions they’ve previously engaged with, you’ll write a far more detailed proposal. That proposal will be far more relevant to them and resonate at a higher level.

If you’re sending a solicited proposal, chances are you’ve already conducted most of this research already. Now, you need to reflect on it and ensure that you are clear on the goals that they want to achieve. 

Step 1: Pick an Appropriate Software

Many different pieces of design software have business proposal templates on offer. Canva has quickly become a top choice for many looking for a stylized proposal. It has an easy editor that makes for a high-quality product. Other options include:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Google Docs
  • Photoshop 
  • Jotform

There are also software services that focus exclusively on writing and delivering proposals. Proposify is one of the leading options. It has a huge library of templates, streamlined workflows, and advanced insights on proposal engagement rates and views. Plus, you can link it to your CRM system.

If you’re going to send the proposal by email, you might want to consider using a B2B sales email template.

Step 2: Create a Title Page

Your title page is not dissimilar to the front cover of a book. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, we all do.

The title page needs to include:

  • Who you are
  • Which company you’re from
  • When the proposal was sent
  • The prospect’s name and their company

This should be a professional-looking cover for your proposal that matches your company’s branding. Ideally, the recipient should know that the document is from you at a glance. It’s your first impression. You need to make it count.

Step 3: The Executive Summary

Succinctly tell the recipient why they’re receiving this proposal from you. This goes beyond “because you asked me to.” You should use this short paragraph to explain why you’re the perfect choice to find a solution to their pain point.

Take the opportunity to use some specifics. You should share what you have to offer, the benefits that you can bring, and how that solution will be delivered.

There will be more details later in the proposal, but the prospect should know what is on offer by the end of the executive summary.

The most successful executive summaries are personalized and tailored to the recipient. If you go too general and fail to address them personally, your proposal will feel like a mailshot. That’s impersonal, and the last thing you want is for a genuine prospect to feel like another number.

Step 4: Remind Them of Their Problem

The recipient knows what problem they’re trying to solve, but putting it in black and white doesn't harm. It summarizes the issues they’re facing and gives you a chance to explain how you can solve them.

As with previous sections, this element will be at its best when it is based on detailed research. If you can talk precisely about their individual problems, then your proposal will resonate more. You could even discuss previous solutions that they have tried before that didn’t deliver.

Whichever way you present this section, ensure you create a space where you can sell your products or services as the solution.

Step 5: Share Your Solution

This is your chance to showcase what you can offer. Don’t be tempted to copy and paste product or service information from your website. Tailor this section so that it is personalized to the recipient. Even if what you’re offering is relatively similar to your standard offer.

More individualized solutions make the recipients feel special and show that you’re willing to go the extra mile. This is then a reflection on your business as a whole. If you’re making this much effort in the proposal, your customer service will surely be on par.

This is also the section where you should talk about logistics and deliverables. How and what are you going to offer them? It’s also worth including any timeframes you’re willing to adhere to. Just don’t overpromise.

Step 6: Show Off Your Experience

At this point, you must share why you’re a good choice as an individual or company. What makes you qualified to deliver what you say you will deliver? Share anything that you deem to be relevant here. That might include:

  • Relevant formal qualifications
  • Experience in business
  • Major projects that you’ve been a part of
  • Recognizable clients that you’ve worked with

Alongside these elements, this is a good spot to include relevant case studies and testimonials. Social proof is a powerful motivator. If you have legitimate testimonials, use them. You could even link to a third-party review site like Google Business or Trustpilot.

Step 7: Pricing

Unsurprisingly, pricing is the page where most recipients spend the most time. Often, they’ll skip straight to this part and then read back through the rest of the proposal afterward.

Your pricing is personal to your business. We can’t advise on what that should be, but we can remind you that you’re putting this down in writing. That means other prospects could catch wind of this pricing structure, so be wary of how you price your products or services.

If your pricing is set, include an itemized list of what you’re offering and the price. If this is a quotation, then consider breaking the quotation down into smaller parts. People feel reassured when they know precisely what they’re getting for their money.

If you have pricing tiers, include this information, but make sure that you highlight the tier that you recommend they should go for and explain why. 

Some proposals even compare their pricing to competitors. It’s a bold tactic, but if your pricing is attractive compared to others, it might prevent the prospect from contacting a competitor for a quote.

Step 8: Summarize The Proposal

This is where you sign off and leave a lasting impression. Politeness goes a long way, as does a reminder of how excited you are at the potential of working together. Start with a summary of the proposal outline, then share the next steps.

Every proposal should include a call to action. Be sure to make it simple to complete and compelling. Typically, these are either a signpost to purchasing or a meeting request to confirm.

Share your contact details again. If the options are right in front of your recipient when they decide, they are far more likely to reach out.

Tips for Business Proposal Writing

proposal writing tips

Refer to these tips as you begin to write, and you’ll soon have a masterpiece crafted.

  • Plan beforehand: Grab a piece of paper or a blank document and sketch out your proposal outline before you get started. Use the 8 steps above to form headers, then jot down your ideas. This will make the process quicker and ensure you keep your proposal on point.
  • Don’t overcomplicate it: There’s always a temptation to put as much information and detail as possible into a proposal. Remember that the person you’re sending the proposal to (if it is solicited) already knows the basics. Now they want to details.
  • Get it checked: Quality control is important, especially when you get to the point of writing multiple proposals a week or day. Nothing puts off a client quicker than when they’re addressed by the wrong name. Get someone on your team to proofread your work and check it for design.
  • Add in some visuals: Images, graphics, and data visualizations can help break up larger walls of text. This helps to keep the reader engaged. If you’re sending the proposal online, you could include some video elements, too.
  • Use principles of persuasion: Robert Cialdini coined the 7 Principles of Persuasion. These principles include using scarcity to create a sense of urgency. If used correctly, they can have a powerful impact on how your proposal is received.
  • Predict any objections and handle them: You’ll likely already know what roadblocks there might be to them agreeing. If you can predict what they are, you can think how you’ll begin handling objections.
  • Signpost terms and conditions: You don’t necessarily have to include them alongside your proposal, but this is a good time to share them. That’s especially true if you’ll be entering into a contract together.
  • Offer further services: This is a great opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell. They’re already considering using your services, so why not let them know what else you have on offer? Just be sure to only include relevant options.

Key Takeaways

Learning how to write a business proposal is one thing. Writing it is another. It will take practice and time. Once you have the template, experiment with variations and note what was well received. Listen to feedback, then implement changes where necessary.

  • The best business proposals will always include personalization and a tailored offering.
  • Always tell the recipient what the next step is through a clear call to action.
  • Be prompt in your proposal delivery.

Opportunities to send business proposals come after carefully nurturing new relationships. Often, that relationship can grow through email campaigns and clear communication. Instantly facilitates both, all wrapped up in an intuitive interface. Sign up today and see for yourself.