The term business proposal printed on an old typewriter

Business Proposal: Tips for Writing Effective Business Proposals

Do you get a feeling of dread when you need to write a business proposal?

When faced with the prospect of writing a business proposal, do you think of a thousand other things you would rather be doing?

Writing a business proposal isn’t as bad as it seems when you understand the elements needed for an effective proposal.

Each business proposal will have different requirements, depending on the project, industry and the information sought by the company requesting the proposal.

Understanding the elements that are found in most business proposals will give you a confidence the next time you need to write your business proposal.

Executive summary of a business proposal

The executive summary outlines the main points you will cover in more detail in the body of the proposal. This is an important part of the document because busy decision makers might not have time to read the full proposal and will rely on the executive summary when making a decision. In many situations, you’ll want to write the executive summary first ─ it can serve as your outline while helping you determine the most important information to include in your business proposal. For more more information about executive summaries, go to Writing an Executive Summary to Clearly Summarise Your Document.

The current situation

One way to begin this section of the business proposal is to explain the customer’s problem and how you plan to solve it. Doing the research to gain an understanding of their challenge shows that you are truly concerned and have their best interests at heart. Closely analysing their needs will also help you come up with the best solution.

Products and/or services offered in a business proposal

This is where you detail what you plan to supply under the proposal. You can cover a number of areas including:

  • Benefits –  Will your solution save time, save money, increase safety, increase sales?
  • Delivery – How will your product or service be delivered, implemented and followed up?
  • Quality assurance – What quality control measures are in place – recruitment procedures, training, safety procedures, product warranties?
  • Timeframe – When will services or products be delivered? What are the milestone dates for long-term projects?
  • Approach – How do you plan to deliver your services or products? Why should the customer choose you instead of competitors? What makes you different?

The company and personnel section of a business proposal

In this section of the document you highlight your company’s history, abilities and achievements. Include descriptions of the key people who will be involved in delivering the product or service. If it’s a large project with many team members, include an organisational chart showing the management structure. Explain how each person’s training and experience will be applied to create the outcome the customer wants.

You might include case studies in the business proposal that show successes with similar projects in the past. If possible, show tangible results of your product or service – for example, “Our safety products and system design reduced workplace accidents by 25 per cent”.

Costs in your business proposal

This section of the business proposal will vary depending on the type of contract you are bidding on. When supplying products, your price may be a fixed amount. For bidding to supply services, the pricing in your business proposal might be based on cost-plus, materials and labour, cost-reimbursement, or some other method. Whatever pricing structure you use, it’s important to provide detail of costs and budgets by breaking these down.

Covering all bases

Regardless of how you decide to organise and format your business proposal, it’s essential to cover all the information requested by your potential customer. If you receive a request for proposal document, be sure that you address all the points in it. If you have been asked to submit a less formal proposal, ask questions to determine what the client is looking for when choosing a supplier.

Feel confident writing a business proposal

Understanding the elements outlined here and keeping the customer’s needs and concerns in mind will increase your chances of success when submitting a business proposal. It will also help you overcome fear and procrastination the next time you are called upon to write one.