How to write a business proposal

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How to write a business proposal

A business proposal can help you reel in new work and build new relationships. To win clients over, it’ll have to be detailed and believable, and give them a feel for what makes you different, and what they’ll get by choosing you.

Whether you’re selling products or services, a business proposal should sum up everything another person or business needs to know about working with you – from the ‘elevator pitch’ to objectives, costs and timescales.

When to send a proposal

Like boiling an egg or perfecting your golf swing, timing is everything. A business proposal often comes off the back of a conversation or meeting, so one or two days later is usually about right.

That said, you might need more time to estimate costs or assess the scope of the work – so there are no hard and fast rules. The main thing is that your client knows when to expect your proposal.

Five things to include

There’s no rules for how long a business proposal should be, either. It depends on what you’re quoting for. If it’s to decorate someone’s house, you can probably cover everything in a page. But if you’re vying for a six-figure contract, you’ll need to get into the specifics and jump through a lot more hoops to win the work.

  1. Introduction

    Tell them about your company. Tell them your story, what you’re about, and what makes you right for the work. Also, sum up what makes you different. You’re aiming to get the big, memorable messages across from the off, but keep it brief and to the point.

  2. The opportunity

    This is your chance to show you understand their industry, the market, their competition and audience. In other words, highlight any challenges that came up in the meeting and summarise the benefits of working with you.

  3. The details

    Describe what you’ll deliver and how. Keep the focus on what the client stands to gain. If the proposal is long or complicated, you can use charts and illustrations to break things up. Also, give the client a feel for who they’ll be working with. Include pen portraits of the team, and avoid them looking cut-and-paste by describing what your people would do on this project.

  4. Costs and timescales

    Tell them how much it’s going to cost, with a rough idea of how long it will take. Remember, it’s no use landing the project if you’ve under-quoted for the labour and other costs. Give a clear breakdown to make sure no one’s in any doubt. And perhaps offer different options for how to bill for the work, so they can see you’re helpful.

  5. Benefits and qualifications

    Your conclusion should explain why you. This is a chance to talk about any relevant experience or qualifications. Try to include case studies of similar work you’ve done for other clients. Nothing persuades like a story. And back them up with some testimonials from happy customers.

  6. The small print

    Are there any caveats? Are there things you won’t do? Perhaps you’ll paint the house, but the client has to move the furniture. Maybe the cost could go up if unknowns pan out in a certain way. Be sure to include things like this in the proposal to avoid any crossed wires. And don’t bury them away – the client will probably welcome you being clear and upfront.

    What language to use

    When it comes to striking the right tone, think about your audience. You’ll have got their measure in your meetings with them. Try to make the proposal feel like that conversation is carrying on naturally. Aim for simple and approachable language over purple prose or uber-formal phrases. And try to avoid business-speak or clichés, like claiming your product or service is ‘best of breed’, or that you’ll ‘leverage core competencies’.

    As a rule, avoid jargon and any technical industry terms (unless using them actually saves time and everyone knows what they mean). And (obviously) get someone to proof-read for spelling and grammar.

    One more thing. If you’re emailing your proposal, by all means add a personal note to warm your readers up. But don’t be too familiar – you never know whose inbox it might end up in.

    Following up

    The moment you click “send” is when the real work starts. Make a note to follow up with the client – whether it’s using CRM software, an alert in your calendar or writing it on the back of your hand. Give them enough time to read through everything, but if you don’t hear from them, a friendly reminder will re-open the conversation.

    In a nutshell

    A business proposal introduces your company and the work you’ll be doing, and how, plus how much it’ll cost and how long it’ll take. In short, all the details the client needs to make a decision. Try to tilt the decision in your favour by describing what makes you different, and including some stories to help the client believe you. And use language that makes them feel they won’t be working with a corporate robot.

Can we help?

We want to open up the law to everyone. Explaining it clearly is part of that, but we also find ways to make everyday legal services cheaper and easier.

If you’d like to start a business or register a limited company, we can help you. We can start your company, handle your PAYE and VAT registration, and plenty more. In fact, we’ve managed to make our cheapest company-formation package cost less than going direct to Companies House. Visit our company formation webpage, or call us on 0345 122 8103 if you need advice.

Can we help?

We want to open up the law to everyone. Explaining it clearly is part of that, but we also find ways to make everyday legal services cheaper and easier.

If you’d like to set up a business or register a limited company, we can help you. In fact, we’ve managed to make our cheapest company formations cost less than going direct to Companies House. We can also help with accounting, payroll and tax services or a central London address – there’s a month’s free trial, and you can cancel any time. If that all sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry. Using a formation agent (like us) to do the legwork could actually save you money. Visit our company formation webpage, or call us on 0345 122 8103 if you need advice.

Can we help?

We want to open up the law to everyone. Explaining it clearly is part of that, but we also find ways to make everyday legal services easier and more affordable.

Perhaps you’re thinking about how to take care of things if the worst happens, so there’s less stress for the people you love? We can help with willsliving willspower of attorney and more. Or call us on 0345 122 8103 if you need advice.

Can we help?

We want to open up the law to everyone. Explaining it clearly is part of that, but we also find ways to make everyday legal services cheaper and easier.

If you’re buying or selling a property, we can help you. In fact, we have everything you need to get the conveyancing process done and dusted online. Have a look at our conveyancing webpage, or call us on 0345 122 8103 if you need advice.

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