TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What Is a Business Proposal?
- The Different Types of Business Proposals
- What Questions Should a Business Proposal Answer?
- What Is Included in a Business Proposal?
- How to Write a Business Proposal in 10 Easy Steps
- Sample Business Proposal Templates
- Business Proposal Example: Formatting Tips
- Business Proposal Best Practices for Success
- Final Thoughts on Business Proposals
- Business Proposal FAQs
Those just starting a business in B2B industries often use business proposals to outline formal value propositions to potential clients. These proposals offer a convenient framework for generating revenue from new customers by presenting a clear, detailed overview of services and products. However, entrepreneurs without experience in developing business proposals often make avoidable mistakes that can damage their ability to garner new business.
This guide explores the different types of business proposals, what they should include, and how to effectively write them, among other related topics. Read ahead if you’re ready to generate industry-leading proposals that help your business win new clients and improve revenue!
What Is a Business Proposal?
A business proposal is a document crafted to secure customers in a B2B setting. It outlines your product ideas or services, clearly delineating how your business can address a client’s problem.
Don’t make the mistake of confusing a business proposal with a business plan. While a business proposal provides information on products and services for marketing to potential customers, a business plan is a formal document outlining a business’s overall strategy. Business plans are primarily for internal use and are also required for certain lending applications; they are not intended for client acquisition.
The Different Types of Business Proposals
Business proposals vary based on several factors. Generally, there are three different types of business proposals: formally solicited proposals, informally solicited proposals, and unsolicited proposals. The strategy for developing each type is unique, so it’s crucial to understand their differences.
A formally solicited business proposal is used when a potential customer requests a business proposal from your company. Here, the potential client provides information about their needs and requirements, allowing your team to tailor the proposal accordingly. In other words, this proposal is catered specifically to the needs of the business requesting the proposal.
An informally solicited business proposal results when there isn’t an official request for a document, but it’s clear the potential client has an interest in services or products your company provides. For example, if you have a casual conversation with a buyer about your products, you may follow this conversation up by sending them a business proposal with more detailed information about your solutions.
In this case, your business may not be completely aware of the customer’s needs or background, meaning the proposal will have fewer details specific to the client. However, you should glean some insights from informal interactions and research to inform your approach to the proposal.
Lastly, unsolicited business proposals are developed to engage potential clients with whom your business has had no previous contact. As you don’t have any detailed information about your prospective customer or their needs, these proposals tend to be more generalized than solicited ones.
However, some businesses customize unsolicited business proposals by researching potential customers, identifying their needs, and generating tailor-made proposals to attract their attention.
What Questions Should a Business Proposal Answer?
When creating a business proposal, it’s useful to assess which questions the document should answer. While each business proposal has unique requirements, answering the following questions is a good starting point:
What is your company?
Ensure your business proposal includes detailed information about you, your company, and its leadership team. Providing a transparent company history will make your business more appealing to potential customers. Being too vague about your company’s history and mission could undermine your brand’s authority and cause potential clients to think twice about working with you.
What is your experience?
Including information about your experience will help you establish why a business should choose your company’s products or services. If you’re a specialist in a niche field, exhibit this by outlining your experience with past projects, products, and services.
What is your client’s problem?
Next, address your client’s problem. Consider some examples of problems that may prompt companies to seek services from a third-party business:
- A hospitality business doesn’t have a website or online marketing strategy, so it’s losing market share to other digital-savvy companies.
- A pressure washing business operates with outdated machinery, which makes it hard to compete with other companies in the same field.
- An eCommerce business has too many chargebacks, which impacts its credit card processing rates and makes revenue retention more challenging.
What is your solution to your client’s problem?
Once you understand your client’s problem, it’s critical to outline how your business will solve it. Let’s explore examples of solutions to the issues stated in the previous section:
- Your business may offer to make a website for the hospitality company and provide ongoing digital marketing services, such as PPC campaigns, SEO, social media marketing, and more.
- Your business may offer to supply new machinery to the pressure washing company, as well as a servicing contract to ensure hardware continues to perform in the future.
- Your business may offer to provide chargeback prevention services and software, helping the company reduce its overall chargeback levels and retain more revenue.
Remember, your business proposal is selling a solution. Make sure you provide a clear description of how you will help your potential client solve issues.
How much does your product or service cost?
Your business proposal should include clear information about the cost of your services or products. You may also want to include information about the cost of add-ons or other solutions relevant to your potential client.
Research suggests customers view businesses with transparent pricing much more favorably.Forbes. “The Benefits of Cost Transparency“. Accessed on December 1, 2023. If you cannot offer exact pricing due to your quote structure, provide ballpark estimates closely linked to the final price.
How long will it take for your solution to be delivered?
You must also provide a realistic timeframe for delivering your solution. Make sure your business understands the timeline for delivering on the business proposal, as your reputation will depend on it.
Which team members will work on your client’s project?
It’s beneficial to share information about which staff members will work on delivering the customer’s solution. Details about their relevant experience and past projects can foster confidence in your team. Some business proposals include pictures, professional credentials, and other personal information to help the client connect with the team.
How much return on investment can your client expect?
Providing detailed information about the return on investment (ROI) will help you establish the financial gains associated with your solution. If this is a large-ticket solution, your customer will likely want evidence of ROI from past projects.
What Is Included in a Business Proposal?
A business proposal should include answers to the questions listed in the above section in this guide. A business proposal communicates how your business will solve an issue for a potential client. It should include the following:
- Information about your business
- How your business can solve the problem
- Resources you have to solve the problem
- Information about the problem your potential client is facing
- Terms and conditions
- How long the project or delivery will take
- The cost of your solution
- Additional specifications about the products or services you’re offering
How to Write a Business Proposal in 10 Easy Steps
Following a step-by-step process to build a business proposal will help you include all the core elements the document requires. To simplify this process, we’ve compiled a ten-step guide for writing a business proposal from scratch. Check it out below:
1. Design the title page
Your business proposal needs to grab attention right away, meaning your title page must be designed with intent. Make sure you include the client’s name, date, business name, your name, and your contact information.
Many successful businesses use images, logos, and color schemes in line with their existing branding. Using custom branding makes it easier for potential customers to identify and remember your business. In fact, research suggests developing consistent branding across multiple communication channels can improve business revenue by up to 20%.Fit Small Business. “31 Branding Statistics Every Small Business Should Know in 2022“. Accessed on December 1, 2023.
2. Create a table of contents
Next, develop a table of contents, which provides an overall structure for the business proposal. Not only does this help your customer find the information they’re searching for, but it also ensures your business proposal writer includes all the necessary elements in your proposal.
If you’re presenting your business proposal as an interactive document, hyperlinking the table of contents for easy navigation makes the proposal more user-friendly.
However, if your business proposal is just a few pages long, a table of contents may not be necessary.
3. Write the executive summary
An executive summary allows you to outline your business proposal without delving into too much detail. An executive summary should overview key points in the proposal. Let’s explore the topics you should cover in an executive summary:
- The reason for the proposal
- The issue you are trying to solve for the company
- Why your business is the best option for solving the issue
- The experience and resources your business possesses
Regardless of what you include or omit, your executive summary should be concise and engaging, persuading the reader to continue with the proposal.
4. Describe your problem statement
Now it’s time to dive into the details of your business proposal. As mentioned previously, a proposal provides a chance for your business to showcase how it will solve a specific issue another business is facing. A “problem statement” introduces the problem your business’s services or products will solve.
For example, if you’re writing a problem statement for a business without a website or digital marketing presence, it could start as follows:
Your business requires web development and digital marketing experts to help you upgrade your online presence and tap into new markets. With more than 214 million online shoppers in the United States alone, your business is currently removed from one of the largest global marketplaces.Oberlo. “HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOP ONLINE IN THE US? (2020–2026)“, Accessed on December 1, 2023. By implementing an online store and digital marketing strategy, you can quickly improve revenue and grow your brand.
Presenting the client’s problem as urgent will spur them into action. Explain why the problem is crucial so your potential client feels the need to implement a solution.
Also, including specific details about the target client in the problem statement will show that you have done your research before crafting the proposal. A one-size-fits-all problem statement won’t impress nearly as much.
5. Propose your business solution
Once you finalize your problem statement, it’s time to propose your business solution. Your solution should directly address the issues outlined in your problem statement. Whether you’re offering a product or service, you should include how they solve the business’s problem.
The business solution part of your proposal is one of the most integral components. This section must sell your product or service.
In many cases, proposals list multiple solutions, offering potential clients a range of options. Each solution should have its own specifications. Include information about the timeline for your solution, especially for long-term projects where the client will expect clear delivery timeframes.
6. List your qualifications
Now it’s time to exhibit why your business is the right choice for implementing the solutions you listed. An excellent business proposal will also display qualifications, awards, previous projects, and other forms of “social proof.”
For example, if you’re a digital marketing company, you might include information about other projects you’ve completed, your years of industry experience, and awards your business has won. All of this should be easily verifiable by the client.
This is one of the many reasons why it’s essential to maintain a portfolio and gather testimonials. They will prove invaluable when you need to demonstrate the quality of your work!
7. Include a price scale
Providing transparent, accurate pricing will help your potential clients immediately assess your solution’s affordability. If you are offering multiple solutions, using a “price scale” helps exhibit the various price points for different services or products. Placing your price scale into an easy-to-understand table will simplify your potential client’s comparison process.
You may include figures in this proposal section if you have clear examples of the return on investment (ROI) associated with your products. Providing ROI figures alongside pricing will help prove the worth of your services to potential clients!
8. Clarify terms and conditions
Include any terms and conditions in the business proposal to prevent future disputes. These may cover product delivery timelines, return policies, performance standards, and other crucial details. It’s also worthwhile to include information about payment methods, payment dates, late fees, and other relevant aspects.
Take care in developing your terms and conditions; failure to do so could lead to legal action and financial losses.
9. Conclude with a summary
All good proposals end with a solid summary, overviewing the critical points in the proposal and compelling the potential client into entering a business arrangement. Be sure to include information about the business’s problem, why it requires immediate attention, and how you intend to fix it. A successful summary will include a convincing call to action (CTA) to instill a sense of urgency. Your business should develop a summary designed to increase conversions.
10. Leave space for signatures to sign the agreement
Finally, always leave space at the bottom of your business proposal for customers to sign the agreement. Even if your customer doesn’t immediately sign the business proposal, the space for signatures acts as a call to action, encouraging the buyer to consider a formal arrangement with your business.
Sample Business Proposal Templates
When it comes to finding the best business proposal templates, there are several websites that offer a wide range of options to suit your needs.
Canva is a popular online graphic design platform that offers a vast selection of customizable templates, including business proposal templates. With its intuitive drag-and-drop interface, you can easily add your content, customize colors, fonts, and images to create visually appealing proposals that leave a lasting impression.
Microsoft Office Templates is a comprehensive resource for various template needs, including business proposals. Whether you use Word, PowerPoint, or Excel, this website offers a collection of professionally designed templates that can be easily tailored to your specific requirements. They provide a user-friendly experience and are ideal for those familiar with Microsoft Office Suite.
PandaDoc is an all-in-one document automation platform that also offers a library of business proposal templates. Their templates are customizable and provide a range of designs for different industries and purposes. Additionally, PandaDoc offers features like electronic signatures and document tracking.
Proposify is a dedicated platform for creating professional proposals. It offers a variety of customizable proposal templates that are specifically designed to help you win clients. Their templates are organized by industry and come with pre-built sections and content blocks to streamline the proposal creation process.
Venngage is an online design tool that provides a selection of visually appealing business proposal templates. With its user-friendly interface, you can easily customize the templates by adding your own content, images, and branding elements. Venngage also offers a wide range of data visualization options, making it ideal for proposals that require charts and graphs.
Business Proposal Example: Formatting Tips
Formatting plays an integral role in developing a successful business proposal. You want your business to convey professionalism from start to finish—amateur designs lead to subpar results. Let’s explore some helpful business proposal formatting tips:
Know your audience
Understanding your audience is one of the most critical factors when writing and formatting your business proposal. The purpose of a business proposal is to entice a potential client into entering into a business arrangement with your company. Conducting research into their needs and preferences can help you develop a proposal specifically designed to attract your potential customer’s attention.
You will likely have credible information about the client and its needs if it’s a formally solicited proposal. However, for informally solicited or unsolicited work proposals, take time to dive deep into the target client and determine their needs. If you send a one-size-fits-all proposal to a client, you might as well send them a general email—a proposal should contain in-depth, relevant information about the client’s needs.
Distinguish your brand
Next, don’t underestimate the power of using your business’s branding throughout the proposal. As discussed previously, your branding should begin with the title page and end with your summary. Incorporating professional logos, color schemes, and graphics will help you distinguish your proposal from others.
If your business doesn’t have an established brand, logo, or color scheme, hiring a branding agency has the potential to yield significant results. Generic templates and designs simply won’t cut it, if you want to stand out from other businesses.
Include data and visuals
Data and visuals will grab your customer’s attention. Collecting information on past projects, services, and product performances can help you display real-life evidence of your success. A text-only document doesn’t provide the same allure as a proposal with valuable graphics and data. If you have data, plenty of graphic designers online specialize in creating unique visuals to make presentations more engaging.
Keep it simple
Including data and visuals doesn’t mean your business proposal should be complicated. You don’t want to confuse your potential client. Never deviate from the core value proposition in your proposal. Address the customer’s problem and clearly outline how your solution will help. Only include details directly correlated to your customer’s needs.
Try multiple business proposal designs
Don’t be afraid to try different designs. As you develop more business proposals, you will better identify the most effective design for attracting new customers. Make sure to keep metrics on how your various business proposal designs perform. If an existing business proposal design doesn’t yield results, it’s time to choose a new option.
Business Proposal Best Practices for Success
Developing consistent business proposals can be challenging without internal controls in place during the production process. To avoid mistakes as you generate new business proposals, it’s crucial to incorporate certain best practices. Here are some tips to ensure your business proposals are effective:
Rely on an outline
Relying on an outline can help make the process of writing a successful business proposal less stressful. Starting a new design from scratch every time you begin a new proposal will reduce your focus on the content. While using an online template can expedite the process of designing a proposal, be sure to customize it with your business’s logo and branding information.
Having a reliable outline available can make generating proposals at short notice more manageable. Opportunities can arise unexpectedly. If a company formally solicits a business proposal from you, a quick turnaround time can help you secure business.
Include social proof
Social proof refers to evidence of your services or products providing benefits for others. Evidence suggests up to 88% of people trust random user reviews as much as recommendations they receive from associates.OptInMonster. “Social Proof Statistics: Powerful Facts That Will Help You Boost Your Brand“. Accessed on December 1, 2023. Using social proof in a business proposal can help develop trust in your products and services.
There are many creative ways to incorporate social proof into a business proposal. Here are some top examples:
- Display Verified Testimonials from Past Clients: Displaying a glowing review from a past client in your proposal can instill confidence in your products or services. Verified testimonials from customers can be a strong form of social proof.
- Advertise Company Awards: If your company receives rewards from industry organizations or other relevant parties, it’s worth noting this in your proposal. Reputable awards help lend legitimacy to your brand.
- Display a List of Clients: If your business has served high-profile clients, displaying their names in your proposal can help provide social proof. If you’ve worked with clients in your target customer’s niche, it’s worth showing that you’ve provided similar businesses with successful services and products.
- List Usage Statistics and Other Data: Including positive information about usage, customer reviews, or other data points in your proposal is a great strategy.
Incorporate video content into your proposal
More than 85% of businesses using video as a marketing tool believe it offers a good ROI, which suggests that including video content in your proposal can enhance engagement with your business.HubSpot. “What Video Marketers Should Know in 2022, According to Wyzowl Research“. Accessed on December 1, 2023. If you take advantage of digital documents, you can incorporate video content directly into your proposal.
However, keep in mind that developing custom video content may be expensive, and creating low-cost content could detract from your professional image. Ensure any video content remains consistent with your branding and professional voice.
Utilize call-to-action messaging
A call-to-action (CTA) refers to content encouraging a potential buyer to take action (purchase a product or service). CTAs are helpful if you want to increase your business proposal conversions. Let’s explore some examples of CTAs below:
- “Contact us today to upgrade your website and tap into new online market segments—never miss an online sale again!”
- “Purchase our telemarketing services today and receive a 30% discount on the first three months of your contract!”
- “Contact our sales team today to sign up for a 14-day risk-free trial!”
These CTAs encourage the reader to take immediate action. The goal of a business proposal is to win business, so ensure your messaging aligns with this objective.
Include up-sell and add-ons
A business proposal offers an excellent opportunity to market other products and services. If you have any up-sell or add-on opportunities available to potential clients, your business proposal must advertise them. Examine if your business offers any solutions related to the core of the business proposal and include details about your offerings and how they will help your client.
As discussed earlier, using a pricing scale is one of the best ways to display costs in a business proposal. Likewise, a pricing scale allows you to include add-ons within your proposal without being too forceful.
For instance, if you’re crafting a business proposal to build a company’s new website, you may include branding and digital marketing services in the pricing scale. This demonstrates how a client can combine a website with other benefits your business offers.
Create a sense of urgency
As with any good sales pitch, instilling a sense of urgency can help motivate customers to respond to your proposal. A great method to do just that is to highlight how your solution will immediately benefit the potential buyer. Offering a discount or promotional period may also prompt a customer to decide quickly!
Final Thoughts on Business Proposals
Developing successful business proposals will help your business approach sales more confidently. Potential buyers are more likely to take your proposals seriously if you convey your products, services, and value propositions with professionalism and authority. Incorporating cutting-edge, customer-centric payment solutions into your offering can significantly boost the attractiveness and utility of your business proposals. By incorporating the tips, templates, and formatting advice in this guide, you’ll be on the right track to upgrading your business proposals and winning more clients!
Business Proposal FAQs
Why write a business proposal?
The primary purpose of writing a business proposal is to win new business. Your business proposal provides a comprehensive overview of how your business’s products or services will solve client issues. By developing a business proposal, you’re showing potential customers you take their needs seriously.
Business proposals are especially useful for companies offering complex services or products. If it’s challenging to explain the benefits of your solutions in a small advertisement or short email, a business proposal provides the framework for showcasing your merits.
What’s a good length for a business proposal?
The length of a business proposal will vary depending on your target audience, list of products, and industry. Some business proposals are only a few pages, while others are more than 50 pages. Regardless, while business proposals should be comprehensive, they should also focus on critical details and concise information.
Additionally, building a longer business proposal than necessary may discourage your buyer from reading it. As many business proposals target a potential customer’s senior management team, you must understand they have limited time to sit down and read large documents.
How is a business proposal different from a business plan?
Business proposals and business plans are two entirely different documents. As discussed in this guide, a business proposal is a document outlining products and services relevant to a potential client. It encourages a prospective customer to enter into a business arrangement with your company.
On the other hand, a business plan is a formal document outlining your business’s overall strategy for success. This document, which businesses typically develop in the initial stages of incorporating a company, will include various details and plans, including budgets, business license information, potential funding arrangements, market research, projected revenue figures, and more.
Is there a format for a business proposal?
There’s no one-size-fits-all format for a business proposal. Incorporating custom branding elements and other unique factors will help you improve your business proposal’s allure. However, there are a few elements you must include in a successful proposal:
- Title page
- Table of contents
- Executive summary
- Problem statement
- Business solution
- Relevant qualifications
- Price scale
- Terms and conditions
- Space for signatures
What are business proposal design best practices?
Incorporating best practices into developing your business proposals will help you improve quality and lead to higher conversion rates. Earlier in this guide, we discussed best practices in more detail. Here’s a list of our top recommendations:
- Rely on an outline
- Include social proof
- Incorporate video content into your proposal
- Utilize call-to-action messaging
- Include up-sells and add-ons
- Create a sense of urgency
Where can I find free business proposal samples?
Fortunately, if you want to use a pre-set template for your business proposals, there are plenty of excellent resources online. In addition to the examples in this guide, your business will find plenty of useful options on websites such as PandaDoc, Canva, Microsoft Office, Proposify, and Venngage. and other document depositories.PandaDoc. “PandaDoc Business Proposal Templates“. Accessed on December 1, 2023. However, many businesses benefit from developing custom business proposal templates with unique branding—it helps distinguish your business from competitors.
- Forbes. “The Benefits of Cost Transparency“. Accessed on December 1, 2023.
- Fit Small Business. “31 Branding Statistics Every Small Business Should Know in 2022“. Accessed on December 1, 2023.
- Oberlo. “HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOP ONLINE IN THE US? (2020–2026)“, Accessed on December 1, 2023.
- OptInMonster. “Social Proof Statistics: Powerful Facts That Will Help You Boost Your Brand“. Accessed on December 1, 2023.
- HubSpot. “What Video Marketers Should Know in 2022, According to Wyzowl Research“. Accessed on December 1, 2023.
- PandaDoc. “PandaDoc Business Proposal Templates“. Accessed on December 1, 2023.