How to Write a Business Proposal: A Basic Guide

Follow some key strategies to wow your clients

Businesswoman giving presentation in meeting
••• Morsa Images / Getty Images

Good business proposals are essential if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. Outlining what you can do for business prospects and why you can do it better than anyone else is a critical step in the sales process. The proposals you write must be clear and compelling. If your target audience doesn't understand why they should hire you or buy what you're selling, there's no chance of a "yes."

Write proposals in a way that make them worthy of your client's attention. Indicate how the proposal will solve your client's most vexing problems. This means you first need to clearly understand the issues your clients are facing and why they should do business with you.

Accordingly, there are three basic sections you should always address when writing a business proposal: the client's needs, your solution, and administrative details.

Client Needs

Before writing a proposal, research the client's business and the challenges in the industry. This should include broad industry-wide challenges as well as challenges specific to your client. Other key questions you need to answer before starting include:

  • When did the client first determine a problem existed?
  • What has the client done in the past to address the issue, and what was the outcome?
  • What areas of the company are affected, and is there a quantifiable need?
  • What is the best outcome a solution could achieve?
  • When does the client want the project completed?
  • Does the client have a set budget for the project?

One of the most common mistakes business proposal writers make is failing to seek and find the answers to these questions. Without this knowledge up front, solving the problem at hand is next to impossible.

Once you have your answers, use the first section of your proposal to lay out the problem as you understand it and to help set up the solution you'll be proposing in the second section.

Business Solution

This is where you address the solution you are proposing. In detail, include the steps in the process and the value of each step. Explain the intended results you plan to deliver and those results will impact the needs outlined in section one.

Think about how your client expresses needs and use similar language when writing your proposal. This helps the clients to recognize that you think and communicate on a similar level.

This section also needs to explain why you can do the best job. List the benefits of doing business with your firm as opposed to other firms that also may be pitching their services. Provide examples of work you've done on similar projects and the successes that you've had. Your goal should be to convince the client of your depth of understanding as it relates to the problem at hand. Include relevant industry research and benchmarks to support your arguments.

Administration

To wrap up your business proposal, you'll need to address the administrative aspects of your plan. This should include a preliminary timeline for the project, including any relevant milestones. For example, a proposal likely will involve multiple steps, and some may need to be completed before others. The timeline would indicate when step 1 concludes so step 2 can begin.

The proposal also needs to include a budget. If you expect your proposal to be more expensive than what competitors are offering, you'll need to address why in the second section of the proposal. What you're offering might be worth the additional price, but you'll need to convince the client.

Also use this final section to address any other specific terms and conditions relevant to the proposal.