When it comes to your business, getting sales and new clients are your lifeblood. That’s why it’s crucial to master writing and designing a professional business project proposal. And it helps to know the different types of proposal you may need to create.
A business proposal that's well-written and has a polished design can mean the difference between winning or losing potential clients. But what is a business proposal exactly? What should it include and how do you make sure your business proposal is effective?
In this post, we’ll answer these questions. We'll also share what you need to know about most effective business types of proposals. Plus, we'll explain how to write and design a standout proposal that helps you close more sales.
What Is a Business Project Proposal?
Businesses use business project proposals to convince others to buy their products and services. A business project proposal will identify the buyer’s pain points and present the right solution for those pain points. Different types of business proposals achieve different goals, as you'll see later on.
What Is the Purpose of a Business Project Proposal?
The purpose of the proposal is to inform potential buyers about your goods and services and to serve as a sales pitch that helps close the sale. Business proposals streamline the selling process and outline exactly what the project will entail, eliminating the scope creep later.
For a quick guide on how to write a business project proposal, study this tutorial:
Why Use a Business Project Proposal?
If you and your prospective client are keen to work together, you may be tempted to skip the business project proposal. But that can be a big mistake. Having a written project proposal has several advantages. These include:
- Better planning. Preparing a project proposal forces you to do research, analyze the client’s problem, and think through a proposed solution. Lori Smith, CEO of Acu-Elligent and author of Winning Business Proposal Strategies for Success, says this helps you to plan better:
“You have to put forth the necessary efforts and resources to know client values, what you can deliver, and weaknesses of competitors, to develop a compelling blueprint or win strategy.”
- Rock-solid documentation. A business proposal forms the basis for a contract between you and your client, sponsor, or partner. No matter how much you trust each other, it’s best to have everything you agreed on in writing. This can help prevent or even settle legal disputes.
- Improved project management. The proposal sets the phases, milestones, and steps of the project. This level of detail helps you keep track of progress to ensure the project is proceeding as planned.
Find Great Business Project Proposals On Envato Elements
Writing and designing a business project proposal isn't easy. But the good news is that you don’t have to start completely from scratch. There are many business proposal templates available online.
Professionally designed templates will save you time because they already have everything in place. All you've got to do is drop in your content. Each template also serves as a project proposal example that can guide you in writing a project proposal.
One of the best places to find great business project proposals is Envato Elements. It's a subscription-based marketplace with thousands of modern and professional business project proposal templates.
Download as many business project proposal templates as you want: all for a low-monthly fee. Besides business proposal templates, Envato Elements has thousands of other unlimited-use design assets such as:
- stock photos
- business card templates
- and more
Another place where you can find even more great business project proposal templates is GraphicRiver.
This marketplace is part of Envato Market, a suite of marketplaces catering to various creative needs. On GraphicRiver, buy individual business project proposal templates on an as needed basis.
6 Types of Commonly Used Business Project Proposals
We’ve just covered what business project proposals are and how you can save time with professional business proposal templates. Now let’s talk about what are the different types of business proposals. By knowing the difference between types of business proposals, you’ll know exactly which proposal to send to each client.
There are six different types of business project proposals:
- formally solicited
- informally solicited
Let’s go over each of these below:
1. Formally Solicited Proposal
Use this type of proposal when you're responding to an official request for proposal. In most cases, this will be the easiest type of proposal to write as the potential client or customer will specify what they're looking for. In some cases, they'll even outline what they want the proposal to cover.
2. Informally Solicited Proposal
This type of proposal is the same as the formally solicited proposal, but with one difference. The information in the proposal isn’t clearly specified in an official document or request.
Typically, you’ll write this proposal when a client or customer is interested in what you've got to offer and asks for a proposal. Since the client doesn’t specify their needs, you’ll have to do more research on your part to analyze the client and understand what they're looking for.
3. Unsolicited Proposal
The unsolicited proposal like a cold call. You could send an unsolicited proposal if you stumbled upon a potential client and think that your offer is exactly what they need. This is one of the hardest proposal types to write. You’ll have to do plenty of research upfront and be very convincing in how you present your project proposal ideas.
4. Continuation Proposal
Send a continuation proposal when you want to send a reminder or an update about an ongoing project that’s already been approved. All you’re doing with this proposal is providing an update on the project and asking for approval to carry on with the project. These proposal types are the easiest to write unless the client wants major changes moving forward.
5. Renewal Proposal
Use the renewal proposal after you’ve completed a project and want to make a case for continued support. When it comes to renewal proposals remember to provide convincing proof why it’s beneficial to continue with the project.
6. Supplemental Proposal
Lastly, the supplemental project proposal is reserved for when you need approval for extra resources for the project. Provide reasons and justify why those resources are needed and create an updated estimate of what the project will take to complete.
What Should You Include in a Business Proposal?
No matter what type of proposal you’re writing, there are common sections that should be included in every business project proposal. These include:
- Title and table of contents. This is straightforward. The title and the table of contents provide a high-level overview of the proposal.
- Executive proposal summary. The summary should include the basic information about your company, your history, accomplishments, goals, and milestones.
- The description of the problem. In this section, you’ll provide a description of the client’s problem and provide a reason for them to find a solution.
- The proposed solution. In this section, you’ll outline exactly how you’ll solve their problem and provide them with all the necessary details they need to know.
- Project timeline and resources. After you explain the solution, add a section with the project estimated timeline and the resources you need to complete the project.
- Pricing and legal information. You’ll also need to provide them with the price, outline payment terms, and provide them with any required legal information.
- Terms and conditions. Don’t forget to include terms and conditions that summarize everything you've promised to deliver as well as the client’s responsibilities.
- The acceptance and call to action. The last section should tell the client what the next steps are and make it clear how they can get started on the project. Include places for all the signatures as well as your contact information in case they've any questions.
Your proposal should also make it clear to the potential client why you’re the perfect fit for the project by including this information:
- what your business or company does
- the problem the potential client is facing
- the solution your company offers for that problem
- how your company will implement the solution to solve the problem
- how long the project will take
- the resources that'll be required
- the investment needed for successful project completion
How to Write and Design Great Business Project Proposals in 2021
By now, you know the different types of business project proposals and what each proposal should include. Let’s tackle some writing and design tips that'll help you write a winning proposal in 2021 so you can confidently close more sales:
1. Research and Plan Your Project Proposal
The first step in writing and designing your business project proposal is to make a plan. The plan should include researching your client and their business.
Research helps you understand the problems, the budget, the preferred timelines, and specific industry requirements. This ensures that your proposal will present them with the best possible solution. The tips in this article can help:
After you’ve familiarized yourself with the client and their problems, create an outline for your proposal. Make a note of all the sections you want to include and the points you want to cover.
Learn more about proposals for freelancers and other creatives tutorial:
2. Clearly State the Problem
Once you've got a plan for your proposal, you need to clearly state the problem. This section has to make it obvious to the client what their pain points are and why they need to act on the problem. It should convince them to take action by relating the problem back to them, using their own words and concepts they can easily understand.
3. Present a Compelling Solution
Now that your audience is aware of their problem and they know what happens if they don’t act, it’s time to present them with a solution. You’ll want to back this up with evidence and data. Show the benefits of the solution along with the steps necessary for the successful implementation of the solution. This will make it clear what they can expect throughout the entire project.
4. Give Accurate Estimates
Your potential clients will also be interested in how long the project will take as well as how much it’s going to cost them. Include a section that gives accurate estimates of time, materials, expenses, and other resources needed.
Here's a tutorial to help you figure out what to charge:
5. Outline Next Steps
When you’re done writing out all the necessary sections of your proposal, conclude with a section that outlines next steps. This can include asking them to get in touch with you via phone or email, booking an appointment, sending over a signed proposal or similar.
Be clear and concise here. As we mentioned earlier, include your contact information in case they've got any questions.
6. Use Visuals
When it comes to the design of your proposal, include plenty of visuals. Photos, charts, graphs, icons, and infographics can help potential clients visualize how the project will go. It'll also make it easier for them to understand more abstract or complex concepts of the proposal.
7. Make Your Cover Engaging
Your proposal cover is the first thing potential clients will see. Make it more engaging by including a photo that relates to their project or a photo of your company.
You can also include your logo. Use a bold font for the title to instantly capture their attention.
8. Pay Attention to the Alignment
Your proposal will include both text and visual elements. Make sure they're properly aligned with the help of guides in your document.
Proper alignment will make the entire proposal more visually appealing by adding hierarchy to your design. Your project proposal format is important. Formatting issues like proper alignment make a difference.
9. Save Time With Templates
Save time on writing and designing your business project proposal by using professionally designed business proposal templates. These templates will not only have all the necessary sections, but they'll also have the basic layout and design elements. All you’ll have to do is add your content and then customize the template with your choice of colors and fonts.
If you're creating your proposal in MS Word, consider these templates:
10. Proofread Everything
Our last tip is to proofread the entire proposal several times to ensure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes. Make sure that all the information is accurate and up to date, especially if you’re talking about your company history or about your client’s business.
5 Tips to Make a Winning Proposal in 2021
Business proposals are constantly evolving. I've collected some of the top tips from experts who have either prepared many business proposals, or who review proposals as part of their role. Keep these tips in mind to increase your chances of winning that deal or grant.
1. Make It About Them
A common mistake is to make the proposal all about you. Carl Dickson, founder of PropLIBRARY, a huge web-based resource full of practical advice for how to write winning proposals, shares this advice:
“The biggest mistake people make is writing what they want to say instead of what the customer needs to hear in order to make their decision. They treat it like a brochure sent to unknown readers instead of a specific organization with known requirements. Instead, write from the prospective client’s perspective. Spend more time thinking about, researching, and discovering what matters to the customer than you do writing. Then make your case as to why what you are proposing is their best alternative for achieving their goals.”
2. Customize the Proposal
When you write from the prospect’s perspective, you'll find yourself customizing the proposal to them. People tend to rely too much on templates for content, and that can be another big mistake because it makes your proposal generic. If you begin with a template, it should be tailored to each client so that they feel like their needs and circumstances are being addressed.
Kristin Marquet, owner of a PR and branding firm in New York, has drafted more than 500 business proposals for clients since 2009. Her advice:
“My top tip is to provide a scope of work that is customized for the prospective client. A proposal should outline the project objectives, strategies, tactics, timeline, and budget while being specific to the client. I've seen other agencies use a one-size-fits-all approach when preparing their proposals, and that doesn't work as well as a tailored proposal.”
3. Include a Table of Contents
A practical tip is to include a table of contents. After more than 30 years of experience reviewing proposals for investment properties, real estate marketer Dave Kohl has observed that different prospects are interested in different parts of a proposal.
Even within the same company, if several people will be reviewing the proposal, each one will be reviewing different parts of the proposal. A table of contents helps each one find the section that’s most relevant to them.
“Include a table of contents. This will allow people to get to the information that’s most important to them quickly. Some companies consider the financials to be more important than the execution, while some do not.”
4. Adopt an Editorial Mindset
Keep your proposals fresh by constantly reviewing, editing, and revising them. This is especially true if you produce a large volume of proposals and use templates.
Michael Alexis is the CEO of TeamBuilding, a company that sent out thousands of B2B proposals in 2020 and won over 15,000 contracts. Alexis says:
“These proposal templates can quickly become legacy-documents within a business. They aren’t up-to-date or exactly what your current client needs. I recommend giving every proposal, or proposal over a certain value, a quick read over. A clear and accurate proposal will help you win deals.”
Alexis observed that the most common opportunities for updating a proposal template include:
- outdated terminology, including the name of a product or service
- inaccurate words or phrases, such as references to meeting in person, when it isn’t possible during a pandemic.
- terms or provisions that are not relevant to the current scope of work
5. Follow Up
Don’t just send off your proposal and then cross your fingers and wait. Follow up with the prospective client in a way that shows you can deliver on what they’re looking for.
Jenn Morgan is a brand marketing consultant and founder of Radically Distinct, a strategic brand marketing agency. As such, Morgan writes about six proposals per month and has revamped hundreds of proposals for clients. Her top advice?
“The proposal is only one piece of the customer acquisition process. Don't rely on the proposal alone to win the deal. Go the extra mile and showcase case studies, follow up with happy customers, and make sure you hit every point of your unique value proposition.”
Learn More About How to Prepare Your Proposal
Winning proposals is critical to getting the income or funding you want. Strengthening your proposal writing skills will pay off for the lifetime of your business or organization. As with most things, practice makes perfect. It also helps to track your results and analyze what makes some of your proposals succeed while others fail.
These articles are a good place to begin:
- The Freelancer's Guide to Writing ProposalsThursday Bram26 Feb 2013
- How to Write & Design a Winning Business Proposal in 2021Laura Spencer18 May 2021
- How to Make Great Business Proposals With Microsoft Word Template DocsSharon Hurley Hall27 Jan 2021
Write and Design an Effective Business Project Proposal
Writing and designing an effective business project proposal might seem daunting. But once you know what you need to include and which proposal type to start with, you’ll have a much easier time.
Get a head start on your business project proposal with one of our professionally designed business proposal templates from Envato Elements if you need proposal templates and other creative assets regularly.
Or, if you need a single business proposal template, choose one from thousands of modern business proposal templates from GraphicRiver.
Note: This article was originally published in July of 2020. It's been updated with help from Lexi Rodrigo.