How To
12 min read

How to Write a Business Proposal to Close Your Next Deal

Soniya Jain

June 2, 2022

"My prospect wants a written proposal. Now what?"

If you ever had to say this, you are not alone.

Whether you are a sales rep in an organization or a solopreneur, if you want to make successful sales, you would be required to write business proposals a lot.

Unfortunately, many business people lack the confidence and skills to write a compelling sales proposal.

This leads to wasted time, frustration, and lost opportunities for the company.

However, like any other form of writing, with solid foundational knowledge and regular practice, you should be able to achieve mastery in writing business proposals and closing deals faster than ever.

This in-depth guide on how to write a business proposal will offer you that foundational knowledge to persuade even the toughest of prospects towards a deal.

Here is what you will learn:

  • A refresher on what exactly is a business proposal.
  • What to include in your business proposal document.
  • A step-by-step process for writing a business proposal from start to finish.
  • Valuable tips to further improve your business proposal's chances of success.
  • Answers to some commonly asked questions on business proposal writing.

What is a business proposal?

A business proposal is a document (electronic or physical) shared with a potential customer with the primary objective of convincing them of your proposed solution, which can be a product or service that you sell.

It is usually written by a salesperson in an organization or a business owner, detailing all the information needed for a prospect to say, "It's a deal" to you and not your competitor.

Writing a business proposal
Source: Unsplash

Here are some examples of business proposals that can also be used as a business proposal template:

What are the different types of business proposals?

All business proposals can be grouped under one of the two primary categories:

Formally solicited business proposals

Formal solicited proposals are when a company requests a written response regarding some aspect of its operations. This can be anything from a request for proposal (RFP) to solicit a price quote, or it could be a request for information (RFI), where the company wants to learn more about what the vendor can do for them.

The key defining difference between an RFP and an RFI is that RFPs typically ask for detailed information about products, services, or technical capabilities.

The buyer may require all vendors to submit their bids simultaneously, or they may allow them to use different submission dates to easily compare the results.

Unsolicited business proposals

Unsolicited proposals are submitted by a company or individual who is unsure if the person receiving the proposal is interested in what they have to offer. 

Businesses that want to do business with another company but don't know how to reach them use these proposals.

Companies may also use this type of proposal when looking for a partner or potential investor and want to gauge interest before making an official offer.

What to include in your business proposal document

In school, we have all learned to write an essay using the three-part framework - the intro, the body, and the conclusion.

Similarly, writing a business proposal can be made more science than art by knowing what structural elements or sections to include and in what order.

It is important to note that we are sharing a structural framework below, not a formula. As the author, you are free to include whatever you wish in your final proposal document to make it as specific as possible for the prospect you want to do business with.

Having said that, our research and observation from analyzing hundreds of business proposal templates have found the following elements to be included in a comprehensively written business proposal.

Elements of a business proposal

  • Cover page
  • Table of contents
  • Cover letter
  • Executive summary
  • Problem statement
  • Proposed solution and deliverables
  • Timeline and milestones
  • Pricing and payment terms
  • Terms and conditions
  • Acceptance call to action (CTA)

How to write a business proposal

Let's break down each element now that you know what a business proposal is and what it looks like. We will guide you through the purpose, best practices, and information to cover under each section in the most compelling way possible to drive your prospect's confidence and close more deals.

Cover page - Tease what's inside in style

A cover page is the first page of your business proposal document. It is used to help your prospective customers understand what they will find inside. This is a vital part of your business proposal as it allows you to attract readers and sell them the idea behind your business proposal.

What should be included on the cover page of a business proposal?

  • A title for the proposal.
  • The prospect's name and company information.
  • The sender's name and company information.
  • The date of submitting the proposal (optional).

Table of contents - Make it easy to navigate

A table of contents is a list of the headings in a document. It is usually found at the beginning of the document and contains all of its sections and subsections.

The purpose of a table of contents is to make it easy for readers to find specific information in your document quickly and efficiently. 

For example, if someone is looking for a specific piece of information about your product or service, they can go straight to that section rather than read through everything else first.

Cover letter - Make a strong introduction

A cover letter is an integral part of your business proposal. It's your chance to introduce yourself and your company to the person reviewing your proposal.

It should be no more than one page, but if you have a lot of information you want to include, try breaking the letter into two pages.

A cover letter is generally sent with all proposals. However, some companies may require you to submit a separate cover letter with each document.

The purpose of a cover letter is to explain why you are submitting the proposal, describe why this particular project is of significance for their company, and show how you will benefit them by working together on this project.

The most important thing about a proposal cover letter is that it needs to be tailored to each specific client or prospect to stand out from different proposals they receive from other vendors in the industry.

Cover letter example.
Credit PandaDoc

Executive summary - Write a TL;DR for your entire proposal

An executive summary is a brief overview of your business proposal document.

A key benefit of having a good executive summary is that it allows your readers to quickly grasp your proposal's main points.

The executive summary should be no more than one page in length and should be written in a clear, concise manner so that anyone can understand it easily.

What elements should be included in an executive summary of a proposal?

  • First, state clearly and concisely what you are offering.
  • Next, briefly explain how you came up with that offer.
  • Lastly, give the reader some idea of what they will gain by accepting your offer.

Problem statement - Show that you understand the prospect's goals clearly

The problem statement section of a business proposal is where the writer describes the problem or need that the proposed product or service will address.

If you don't mention why you're writing a proposal, it is likely that the person reading it won't understand how you fit into their company or what kind of value you can add to their business.

The best problem statements are clear, precise, and unambiguous. They don't leave room for interpretation or confusion about what kind of problem they're referring to; they say exactly what needs fixing without any unnecessary details.

Additionally, make sure it is hyper-relevant to the prospect and back it up with numbers (if possible).

Pro Tip: If you have trouble wording your problem statement, you can leverage AI with CopyAI's "Pain-Agitate-Solution" copywriting tool. 

You need to provide what your service or product is and some key benefits of using it.

Within a few seconds, you will get "problem and agitate" copy text that can be copied and further refined by you.

Here is a quick demo of this tool in action: Video link

Solution & deliverables - Be transparent about what you are bringing to the table.

The solutions and deliverables section of a business proposal is the core of the entire document because it is where you spell out what you're going to do for your client.

There are two main reasons why this section is so important:

  • It shows the prospect how your company can help them solve their problems or improve your product or service situation.
  • It gives the reader confidence in the quality of your work. The more detail you provide here, the more likely they will trust that you can do it right.

What information should be included in the deliverables section of a proposal?

  • Key components of the solution (deliverables).
  • Your process and methodology to implement the solution.
  • Possible business outcomes for the prospect (if possible).
  • Essential resources that would be needed from the prospect to fulfill the solution. Example - software, hardware, content, time, etc.

Tips for writing a good deliverables section

  • Write from the customer's perspective. Describe how your product or service will benefit them and what problems it will solve.
  • Use bullet points instead of paragraphs, making it easier for readers to skim through and find what they are after quickly.
  • Use active language rather than passive so that your sentences read more like an instruction manual than a school essay (for example, "we will develop" rather than "it will be developed").

Timeline & milestones - Share your plan for execution

The timeline and milestones section of a business proposal document is a vital part of the proposal, as it helps you show your prospective client that you have a plan for achieving their goals.

It strongly communicates that you know what needs to be done and when those things need to happen. This helps establish credibility with potential clients, who might not know whether or not they want to work with you unless they see how organized you are.

What information should be included in the timeline and milestones section of a proposal?

  • Project start and completion dates.
  • Project duration.
  • Major milestones that will take place during the project with summaries.
  • Planned dates for each defined milestone.

Pricing and payment terms - Be upfront and transparent about your charges

Providing pricing and payment terms is essential to your business proposal. It is where you explain to the customer how much they will be paying you, when they will be paying you and how long it will take for them to pay you.

What should be included in the pricing and payment section of a proposal?



  • The price of the goods or services being sold.
  • The cost of shipping and delivery (if applicable).
  • Taxes that may apply to the transaction (if any).
  • Payment schedule.
  • Payment account details.
  • Acceptable mode of payments.
  • Payment terms (including discounts and penalties if late payments are made).

Tips for writing the pricing and payment terms in a proposal

  • Keep your pricing structure clear and straightforward.
  • Explain all pricing fees.
  • Describe the pricing model that you will use for the product or service.

Why choose us - Nail the case for choosing you over your competitors

The why choose us section of your business proposal is an opportunity to explain why you are the best choice for the prospect.

You may be thinking, "but we're all different!"

 

Well, yes, but if you don't explain why that's so in this section, then it might as well not be accurate. Clients want to know why they should pick your company over other options; if there is no reason to choose you, they won't.

Key information you should include in your "Why Us" pitch:

Testimonials & case studies

The best way to convince a prospective client that you are the right person for the job is by showing previous successful work.

Testimonials are important because they show that people who have used your services or products have had a positive experience. They also show that your business can deliver results.

Case studies are impactful because they give more detail about how you've helped other businesses. They're also great for demonstrating how your services can benefit different types of clients.

Overall they will give you more credibility than any other marketing material because it shows that you can deliver results.

Tips for making the most of testimonials and case studies in your proposal

  • Be selective about who you quote. Select customers who have used your products successfully and whose comments will resonate with potential buyers.
  • Since case studies are longer, using a testimonial or summary from it and linking to the main document is better.

Your value proposition 

The value proposition is a promise to your potential customers that you can deliver what they want. Including it in your business proposal documents is helpful because it establishes credibility and trust with the person you are pitching to.

The value proposition should be specific to the project or opportunity, not generic like, "we're good at X."

Pro Tip: Adding a slogan to your why us page can be compelling. What is even better is that you can generate one right now without signing up with this AI-powered business slogan generator.

Your team

One of the most common mistakes in business proposal documents is the failure to highlight the team responsible for executing the project.

Why highlighting your team in a business proposal document is helpful

  • First, you get to show prospective clients that you know your stuff.
  • Second, it shows your client that you have the experience and expertise to handle their project.
  • Third, it gives them confidence in your company's ability to deliver quality products or services.

Terms & conditions - Define the course of action for both parties when things don't go as planned

The terms and conditions section of the business proposal document outlines the rules and regulations of an agreement between two parties. 

It helps both parties understand what they are expected to do, what they can expect from each other, and how they should react if anything goes wrong during the project.

It should be clearly written so that there is no confusion about what each party should do or how they should respond in certain circumstances.

What should be included in the terms and conditions section of a proposal?

  • Cancellation/ termination policy.
  • Copyright and IP protection clauses.
  • Project delay clauses.
  • Handling of scope creep.
  • Warranties (if any).

Acceptance CTA - Make it seamless to sign off the deal

Writing a business proposal call to action
Source: Unsplash

It is easy to get so wrapped up in your product or service that you forget that the buyer is not just considering your solution but whether or not they want to do business with you as well. If you don't make it easy for them to make that decision, you'll lose out on sales.

One way to help them decide quickly is by adding a clear call to action at the end of your proposal document.

This can be as simple as "Please contact me if you have any questions."

It can also be more specific, like "If you agree with everything in this proposal and wish to move forward immediately, please sign here."

The key is making sure that whoever reads your proposal understands precisely what they should do next.

Valuable tips to make your business proposal a success

Invest in good copywriting

Creating a successful business proposal involves writing a lot of persuasive copy, which is no small task. 

The good news is that it has been more accessible than ever to generate quality sales copy at scale with the advent of AI and tools that are unlocking its true potential.

CopyAI is a suite of such tools that democratizes AI for copywriting at scale.

All this may sound too flowery to you, and we get it.

That is why we make it super easy and free to try it out for yourself and supercharge the way you write copy for your business proposals.

Invest in good design

It's no secret that people are visual creatures. We are drawn to images and color, and our eyes naturally gravitate toward what's pleasing to look at. 

That's why it's so important to have a well-designed proposal document.

When you send out your proposal, you want it to stand out from the crowd, not only because it will get read more often but also because it will make an impression on whoever sees it. 

A poorly designed proposal can make your company look unprofessional and even hinder the chances of getting funding or investment.

Design tips for a good-looking business proposal document

Make it scannable


Your proposal should be clear and concise. Don't try to fit too many details into one page because it will look cluttered and confusing. Instead, break it up into multiple pages with lots of white space between each page so that the reader can quickly scan through it and find the information they need.

Add non-textual elements

 
Use graphs, tables, charts, and images to make your proposal more interesting, engaging, and memorable for your audience.

Invest time in understanding your prospect's goals

If you are writing a business proposal, it is important to invest time in understanding what the prospect wants.

Why? Because it helps you write a winning business proposal.

When you understand your prospect's goals, you can tailor your proposal to address their specific needs. 

Your goal is to make sure that your proposal meets those needs and produces results for them.

If you don't address their needs, you won't get the sale. And if your proposal doesn't produce results for them, they won't buy from you again.

Start with a template

When you're writing a business proposal, it can be helpful to start with a template. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It will help you organize your thoughts to avoid forgetting any essential details.
  • It helps keep track of what's relevant and what isn't.
  • It saves time to re-write or re-read parts of your document.
  • It allows you to focus on writing rather than formatting or designing the document.

Free business proposal templates for a variety of use cases

Leverage business proposal software

Most of the resources mentioned for proposal templates come in the category of proposal software SaaS. While using software is not compulsory to write a proposal that closes the deal, using one has the proven utility of streaming the entire process.

Such software tools don't just offer free-to-use, well-designed proposal templates. They also help with getting e-signatures, accepting payments, discussions, follow-ups, etc.

Additional questions related to writing a business proposal

Here are some commonly raised questions that you may also have when writing your proposal document.

How long should my business proposal document be?

The length of your business proposal will depend on the type of proposal you are writing.

If you are writing an unsolicited proposal, then the proposal should be concise.

On the other hand, if you are writing a traditional RFP or RFI (request for information/response from information), it is best to write a longer document. It will give the reader more details about what you have in mind and how you plan to proceed with the project.

Who should write the business proposal document?

The person who writes the proposal will be called the "proposer" or "writer."

The proposer should be familiar with the project and its requirements and should be able to answer any questions about it. The proposer must also know how proposals are written and what information needs to be included.

For freelancers or solopreneurs, they are the ones who will be primarily responsible for writing and the overall quality of the proposal.

In most large and mid-sized organizations, the sales rep assigned the deal is typically expected to document the sales proposal. 

They can always delegate copy improvement and design to folks in the marketing and design teams, respectively.

Closing remarks

It is time to put your learning into practice by incorporating them into your next business proposal writing project and close more deals.

We want you to know that your job isn't easy. Persuading others to play in your favor and drive business growth requires several skills.

Hopefully, this guide will help you master one skill -  writing compelling business proposals that initiate profitable projects.

As always, we want to remind you that we are here to make your life writing quality copy a little bit easier with our robust suite of AI copywriting tools.

If you haven't tried them yet, you should. 😎

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