document-428331_1280The Business Proposal is an essential document not only for salespeople but also for anyone who wants to submit a serious proposition for internal or external approval.

The process starts with a thorough understanding of the client’s needs, problems and priorities.  If a Request for Proposal (RFP) document has been issued by the client then it must be read carefully.  The key elements in the RFP must be addressed in the proposal and some of the client’s phrases and terminology should be reflected in your response.  This seems elementary yet many weighty business proposals have been rejected because they did not address the specific requirements in the RFP.  The more understanding you have of the client’s needs, philosophy and decision making criteria the better placed you will be to submit a winning proposal.  So if possible meet the client face to face and ask many intelligent questions.

The proposal should contain the following main elements:

1. Management Summary.  This is aimed at a busy senior executive and in less than one page it condenses the main elements of the proposal.

2. The Background.  This describes the current situation, the problem or the requirement.  It shows why a solution is needed and why action should be taken.  It might summarise the main goals of the proposition.

3.  Your Proposal.  You now lay out in detail how your proposal would work and why it would specifically address the needs of the client.  This section explains the methods, partners and processes you would use.

4. The Costs.  This section includes details of the costs together with any projected returns.

5. The Benefits.  You now spell out the benefits of the proposal for the clients.  This might include hard benefits such as a profitable return on investment and soft benefits such as improved image and reputation.

6. Why You?  This essential element gives the reasons why the client should select you and your proposal over the others that they will receive.  What makes you and your proposal better and different?  Refer to case studies and testimonials (which if numerous should be detailed in an Appendix.)

7. Draft Action Plan.  It is often helpful to suggest a timeline of actions – starting with the client giving the go-ahead.  This is a subtle call to action and also shows that you are thinking ahead to the implementation.

8.  Appendices.  Any detailed research, tables or data should be included in separate appendices.

After you have written your proposal ask yourself whether it answers these three questions in the mind of a client:

A.  Why change?  Often your biggest competitor is not another supplier.  It is the client doing nothing.  Have you demonstrated that action needs to be taken?

B. Why us? Does your bid clearly show what differentiates you and your proposal from other bidders and their offerings?

C.  Why now?  Does it provide a reason to choose you now?

Do not just write your proposal and send it off.  Get someone else to read it and spot any inconsistencies or errors.  Put it on one side for a day or two and then re-read it.  Your revisions will improve it.

In many cases the client’s decision is based on the proposals they receive.  Maximise your chance of success by making your proposal professional, accurate, timely and focused on the client and their needs.

Read more: How to Write a Proposal and Get What You Want