How to write great business proposals

Opportunities to submit proposals come in two ways: the first is a formal Request for Proposal; the second is an informal proposal, usually requested by a potential or a current client.

Formal Request for Proposals are very like tenders; you’ll be competing against potentially countless other businesses, you’ll have to respond to very prescriptive questions and you will need to invest many hours in writing your proposal submission.

Informal proposals are those opportunities that arise during a conversation or after you’ve approached a prospective or current client. Occasionally, you may be asked to bring a proposal with you to discuss at a first meeting. More often, your meeting with a prospective client will close with them asking you to submit a proposal relating to the product or service you’ve just been discussing.

Informal proposals are great opportunities. You’ve already have a conversation with the prospective client; you know what they are looking for; you’ve learnt more about their needs and business; and you’ve established rapport. And best of all, there will be limited competition, if any.

All you need to do now is to get your proposal down on paper.

What to do:

Tell them what they told you

Set the scene in an executive summary across one to two pages. Summarise what the prospective client told you at your meeting. Do a little research to supplement what they told you. This sets the scene for your proposal. It also puts the focus on them, not on your business. Summarise how you will fulfil their needs.

Scope out the work

Give an overview of what’s involved in delivering your product or service. It’s unlikely at this stage that you need to go into too much detail. Include some diagrams or charts to illustrate what you will be doing where appropriate.  Include a Gantt chart to give an overview of the key steps or milestones and timeframe.

Explain how your service or product will benefit the client

Explain the benefits your service or product will bring to them. Ultimately, the prospective client wants to know what’s in it for them. This is where you flesh out how you will fulfil the prospective client’s needs that you summarised in the executive summary. Have 3-4 key benefits or selling points that you can offer the prospective client.

Put their mind at ease

Minimise your prospective client’s perception of risk by giving them comfort that your business is the right choice. It may be a leap of faith for your prospective client to invest in your product or service. Describe your recent experience, client list, short testimonials from happy clients and include three referees.

Describe who will be doing the work

Include brief CVs for the key team members and explain why these people are important for the delivery of the product or service. Cover their role on the team and their relevant experience.

Check all the details

Proofread your document to make sure it’s error free, before you send or present your proposal. Make sure names are spelt correctly. Consider if you need graphic design for a more sophisticated look.

Watch more tips for winning a proposal or tender 

If you would like help writing, editing or proofreading your Tenders, proposals or business documents, head to the contact  page or call Rosemary Gillespie direct on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216.

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