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What is a business proposal?
Before signing a contract, you'll want to make sure you and your client are on the same page. The purpose of a business proposal is to discuss and negotiate the needs of both sides.
Writing good business proposals is key to expanding your business with quality relationships. Still writing a business proposal can be tricky to promote your business. Advice is to keep things simpler and keep the details honest and straightforward in a single document. Creating one requires time and thought, but it's essential to any business.
Here's everything you need to know about writing a business proposal in 5 easy steps:
Gather the Facts:
When a hot business opportunity knocks at your door, you may feel excited to get your proposal sent over as soon as possible. While you certainly want to send it sooner than later, taking some time to learn about the client and project first will help you craft a proposal that’s more likely to be accepted.
An unsolicited proposal, also known as a cold proposal, is presented to a possible customer who has not asked for or expected one, Richard added. It is your responsibility to reach out and pique their interest in your products or services.
Outline the Scope of the Project with the format:
Before you start typing out the proposal itself, take a moment to reflect on the project. Answer the “who, what, where, how, when, and why” and follow the body of the message with the below-mentioned format:
• Title page
• Table of contents
• Executive summary
• Statement of problem, issue or job at hand
• Approach and methodology
• Schedule and benchmarks
• Cost, payment and legal matters
Saving the document as a PDF before sending it to prospects will take proposal in a way that you won't have to worry about your formatting or design looking different on the client's end.
What to include
Availability: Make sure your clients know when and how often you will be available to offer your services to them. They're likely not your only customers, so scheduling yourself with each client will ensure you're equally dedicated across the board.
"Not only does this hold you accountable, but it also ensures the client knows how much of your time they're getting," said Crystal Richard, president of Crystal Richard & Co. "Especially if you have other clients, you don't want one thinking they have you 40 hours a week when in reality, you're only working on their account for 10."
Breakdown of fees: Don't commit to a client before sorting through costs. Discuss what's included in your fees, extra costs, invoicing, etc., said Richard.
For example, as a PR professional, Richard doesn't include the cost of distributing on a newswire in her fees. It's important for clients to understand that, if interested, it comes at an additional cost.
The expiration date for the proposal: Details change, from costs to services. Your current business proposal might not be relevant in the months, or even weeks, to come. Make this known in your document.
"This way, a prospective client can't come back to you three or six months down the line and expect the same pricing," said Jessica Lawlor, president and CEO of Jessica Lawlor & Company. "I typically include an expiration date of two to three weeks from when the proposal is sent – this also puts a bit of pressure back on the prospective client to make a decision, as the new business process can sometimes take a long time."
Add a personal touch.
When you present your document, express yourself and your company in ways that set you apart from others. Whether it be leveraging your quirky design skills or expressing your character in a conversational tone, commit to your own personality.
Schedule a follow-up call. Reaching out after sharing your proposal is crucial to securing clients. That way, you can clear up any questions they have, clarify your pricing and further sell your business.
"It's helpful if you can schedule a call for the day you send the proposal," said Lawlor. "This way, you can walk through the sections of the proposal and explain items in further detail before a prospective client digs in on their own."
Additional tips: Meet in person first. A formal meeting will give your prospect a chance to become familiar with you before blindly diving into a business contract.
"A proposal, in my opinion, should never be the first point of contact,” "I send a proposal to a prospective client after an initial conversation and ensuring the project seems like a good fit on both ends. At that point, the prospective client already has an idea of my personality and what my company can offer."
While a proposal introduces you and your product or services, nothing beats an in-person consultation.
Simplicity is key: Your proposal doesn't need to be an elaborate persuasive essay or art project. In fact, it's better to keep it succinct. Richard stated that the best feedback she's received was for proposals of which she focused on quality over quantity, and cut out the additional fluff.