Before you write a business proposal, it’s important to conduct research on your customer in order to cover the issues that are most important to them. This background information is essential so you can write a proposal that answers the prospect’s questions and persuades him or her to choose your company to meet a pressing need. Your proposal should demonstrate that you know what is important to the customer instead of containing only selling points. Below are several ways you can conduct this research so you are as prepared as possible when it comes time to write the proposal.
- Schedule an interview with your personal contact
- Research the company online and in print
- Request a meeting with key decision-makers at the company
- Reach out to your contact frequently while writing the proposal
After completing these steps, you should have sufficient knowledge of how the prospect’s company works and how your business can best meet its needs.
Steps in Creating a Winning Business Proposal
According to an article in Chron.com, the majority of business proposals follow a similar format. Unless you have reason to think your prospect would want something out of the ordinary, it’s best to stick with what he or she probably already knows. This includes starting with a cover letter that serves as an introduction to your company. Your cover letter should outline your company’s history as well as its qualifications to serve this particular customer. The next step is to include a title page that lists the company name and address for both your business and that of the prospect. You don’t need a table of contents unless you expect the proposal to be lengthy.
The Executive Summary
It’s at this point in the business proposal that you need to objectively state why your company is the most qualified to meet the prospect’s pressing need. As you’re writing, keep in mind that he or she will likely receive several other proposals and that yours must stand out amongst the competition. In addition to being factual and direct to the point, it’s essential that you keep the business proposal free of jargon. You may know what certain abbreviations or terms mean, but that doesn’t mean your contact person has access to the same information. Using your own company’s internal jargon sends the message that the prospect is an outsider. This is something you want to avoid at all costs.
Provide the Client with the Most Important Details
After you have introduced your company and stated why it deserves the customer’s business, you need to provide additional details that allow him or her to make an informed decision. These details may include:
- Training or meeting schedules
- Technical details
- Your payment terms
- Date by which your company will deliver goods or services to the customer
Should your prospect accept the business proposal, this section may become legally binding. It may also be highly confidential. Including this section last gives you the opportunity to vet whether the customer is truly interested in your company’s products and services or merely curious about them.
Following Up on the Proposal
After working so hard, it’s only natural to want an answer right away. However, you need to understand the customer’s prospective. He or she probably received several proposals at the same time as yours and need time to go through them. At the same time, you don’t want to remain so passive that you lose new business. A good rule of thumb is to wait three to five business days before contacting the client by phone after submitting your business proposal. The call should definitely be friendly and not aggressive.
You may discover at this point that the prospect has not even read the business proposal yet. This is normal and nothing to worry about just yet. Before you hang up the phone, ask when would be a convenient time for you to call back about the proposal. After waiting at least that long, make a second phone call.
During this call, you want to overcome potential objections while answering any remaining questions the prospect may have. A good way to phrase this is to ask, “Is there anything I can clarify on the proposal to help you make your decision?” If so, spend as much time as necessary until he or she feels completely clear on what your company is offering. If not, thank the client for his or her time and wait to hear if the company accepted your proposal. Some clients will let you know at this point while others still need more time.
If you don’t have a response after the second phone call, a quick email inquiry several days later should wrap it up for you. No matter how the client responds, be sure to express gratitude for his or her time as well as extend common courtesy. Should your proposal be accepted, let your contact know exactly what to expect next and continue to keep the lines of communication open. Even if your proposal is ultimately not the selected one, the prospect will remember your friendliness and willingness to answer questions. Both of those will go a long way they next time he or she is in need of the products or services your company has to offer.