They say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and within professional circles the ability to write an effective and striking business proposal can be your ticket to winning one half of a potentially profitable professional partnership.
Formally extending a proposed arrangement of services between a seller and a prospective buyer, business proposals are written documents which outline a unique and mutually beneficial offering (such as a particular product or service) for both of the professional parties involved.
As the seller, the ability to present and write your agreement in an appealing manner which not only persuades prospective buyers that they need your services, but which show you as competent, professional and unique (to best the competition and win the contract), is then essential for your business proposal to be effective.
Adapt your proposal to suit the situation: Know which form you’re writing
In order to write and adapt your offering to best appeal to your perspective client, it’s important to consider which form of business proposal you plan to offer. Generally divided into two main categories, business proposals are normally either formally solicited (invited), or informally solicited/ unsolicited (non-invited).
Formally solicited business proposals/Invited proposals: Written and submitted as a response to needs advertised by prospective buyers/ clients/ companies; solicited business proposals are written and tailored to suit exactly the demands published. A number of different types are available to suit slightly different situations/ offer specific forms of service: Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Quotation (RFQ), Invitation For Bid (IFB), Request for Information (RFI).
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Unsolicited/non-invited proposals: Rather than responding to an outlined set of client needs, these are more speculative and are submitted to potential buyers even though they have not been requested. Often they will demonstrate how your company has noticed a shortcoming in that buyers business; offering solutions to amend those weakness (forming a mutually beneficial service offering).
What an effective business proposal should include
No matter which type you’re writing or for what industry, a few main writing considerations will still need to be addressed.
At the very foundation of your proposal, before you write a single word you should first ensure your business writing skills are strong, and that you are able to communicate using professional language and tone. Remember, the impression your language displays may be the decisive factor in showing your competency; not only in writing, but in actioning the services set out in your proposal. A well-written, error-free proposal may be the only thing placing you above a proposal from a competitor. Once you’re confident in your business writing ability, you can then use those skills to create a winning and effective proposal.
The three main sides of the proposal triangle
Giving your proposal its structure, there are three main aspects to address in any offer of business services.
Outline the problem – Displaying your knowledge of the issues at hand is crucial if you plan to suitably address and propose a resolution later in the document. Your client needs to feel that you understand their business and challenges, and that you can suitably and precisely evaluate and improve upon their current situation.
Suggest the solution – The key part of your proposal and the one which requires specific clarity, without a coherent solution you would simply be listing the faults and shortcomings of a buyer. In order to benefit and win the business, this section should sell your services with detail and intricacy, and should address every need found – proving the evidence of your competency.
Detail the cost – Hopefully, through effectively presenting the first two sides, the third point of cost will be seriously considered, and is likely to be the point of most interest and persuasion for your buyer. This section should clearly present an estimation of fees and payment, and can vary depending on the services offered.
Considerations for all proposals
In addition to your three-point plan, other key points to address for your proposal to have the best effect include:
Research: Especially important if you re submitting unsolicited proposals (as you may not know how, or even if your services are required), gathering as much background information and research as possible can help you to avoid making clumsy mistakes, and will help you offer the best services possible. If a lack of proper research makes you look incompetent, you proposal is likely to fail, so this preparation must be as comprehensive as possible. Researching competitors and clients, in addition to the buyer and the industry itself, can help you identify challenges in more depth, and can make you look authoritative rather than disorganised or rushed.
Question from all angles: To prove you’re the best choice and beat competitor proposals, which will also have recognised the same buyer shortcomings as you, you must prove you’ve considered all problems from all angles. Make sure you answer all the questions which your prospective client would ask such as ‘Are these services worth the cost?’ and ‘How will this be of benefit?’. Proof of past experience and asking additional questions such as ‘What outcome will be achieved, and what obstacles are in the way?’ will also help, as will detailing your own experience, qualifications and unique aspects as a service provider.
Tailor proposals individually: Lastly, always offer a unique proposal, as though it may be time consuming, it relates back to the themes of detail and professionalism. Even if you are providing a service to an old client, or planning to improve on a past project, taking the time to present it as unique and actually putting in the research is still important, as no two proposals are the same, though many may have similar layouts and information.