You’re sitting at your computer, struggling to type. You’ve been offered a brilliant opportunity to pitch your business proposal to a business partner that could help to grow your business, but you have no idea how to write a business proposal. At this point in your career you can’t afford to make mistakes, and ultimately – this is a once in a lifetime offer. Like pitching to a music label, if you’re first few sentences don’t hit the right chords, the rest of your business proposal won’t be read. If you don’t present a professional proposal, you won’t be taken seriously – and there are no second chances. Also, what if there are specific expectations to these documents that you don’t know about so can’t add.
If you have no experience in writing professional proposals, then don’t start trying when an opportunity for your business comes up.
The first thing you need to do is not beat yourself up. It’s very rare for a business owner to be able to write professional business documents. Just because you run a business doesn’t mean you know the first thing about professional writing – let alone the financials that need to go with it.
If you have the skills, you may not have the time. Whatever the reason you may need to hire a professional to help you, there is nothing to be embarrassed about and there’s certainly nothing unprofessional about it.
If you do want to have a go at writing the proposal yourself. Here’s some advice from our professional writers.
Introduce both parties. Make sure that the reader understands who the proposal is targeting and from. Ultimately other business owners are like investors. They invest and partner with people – meaning they need to get a feel for you and your business.
Describe the partnership aim Sound silly? Well, you’d be surprised how many business proposals we review where even by the end we have no clear idea of what the actual offer at hand is. It’s very easy to get distracted whilst writing a document that is for your own business, try your best to keep it concise and clear.
Intended Impact The most important part of the proposal. Describe the benefits to the second party and make sure you highlight 1 – Why the partnership will work for them 2 – Why they should work with you on the partnership and not go elsewhere
Professional, correct English. A proposal should be constructed with the same rules as any other business document. Make sure you use terminology that is relevant to your industry and be careful not to use terms that you are no clear off yourself, ultimately the proposal will lead to questions and you don’t want to be caught out not understanding your own business proposal. A winning proposal communicates a core mission to its audience professionally and simply.
Format The business proposal is a formal document and needs to be both structured and delivered that way. Do not write it as an email and if you’re going to add pictures make very sure that it is laid out professionally. Hire a designer if you need to. (Our business proposals come fully branded, in case you wondered!)
Communication Have you already got a contact? Had a meeting? What we’re asking is – are they expecting this proposal? If no, it’s effective to make a phone call first and find out who to send it to. Imagine that the key person you need to reach is also receiving other business proposals, so make sure that they expecting yours.
All the details Make sure that the intended reader has everything they need to make an informed decision. Try and summarise everything in the introduction of the business proposal as the potential client may not read further if he is not impressed by the beginning chapter.
The numbers Of course the proposal benefits you, that’s why you’re writing it. Don’t shy away from that but ensure that the benefit to the client is as obvious as possible. The best way to do this is to include a supporting financial projection of how the clients business is set to grow through the business partnership.
Case studies If your proposal to this client has already been implemented for someone else, make sure you highlight it (assuming it has been successful). This enforces that you are capable of making it happen and are not all talk. It also showcases experience which is sought after in business partnerships. Most importantly, it means you have knowledge of their business and how it works in different industries.
Credibility, testimonials and qualifications. Make sure you explain how, if your proposal is accepted, you can deliver the results. Have you and your team got the right qualifications and insurances? Over what time frame will the proposal become real-life? Ending the proposal There is no point sending out a proposal that has no call to action. This is the signal to your client to get in touch with you and take things to the next step. It can be a link to your website or portfolio or contact details. Follow up After a week if you have not heard anything, send an email reminder for a response. If you get nothing after a few days, make a phone call. Do not do this religiously, it will annoy the potential client and make them question whether they want to work with you - your business proposal will thus be ignored.