How to Write a Business Proposal [Examples + Template]
Published: August 09, 2023
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It's finally happened. You've started a new business, and your customer base is starting to expand. But even though you're making progress, you still feel like you could be doing better.
There's a whole world of untapped potential around you — prospects you know would benefit from your product or service. And the issues you're running into are less about your solution's soundness and more about how you can reach your potential base.
That's where business proposals come in. They can bridge the gap between you and potential clients. A solid proposal can outline your value proposition and persuade a company or organization to do business with you.
Here, we'll take a look at the various kinds of business proposals and go over how to write one. We’ll also see some ideas and examples to help guide yours.
Know exactly what you need? Jump to one of the following sections:
What is a business proposal?
Types of business proposals, how to write a business proposal, business proposal templates, business proposal example, tips for writing a business proposal, business proposal ideas.
A business proposal is a formal document that’s created by a company and given to a prospect to secure a business agreement.
It's a common misconception that business proposals and business plans are the same. The proposal helps you sell your product or service rather than your business itself.
Instead of assisting your search for investors to fund your business, a proposal helps you seek new customers.
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There are two types of business proposals: unsolicited and solicited.
- Unsolicited Business Proposals : With unsolicited business proposals, you approach a potential customer with a proposal, even if they don't request one, to gain their business.
- Solicited Business Proposals : Solicited business proposals are requested by prospective clients so that they can decide whether to do business with your company.
In a solicited business proposal, the other organization asks for a request for proposal (RFP). When a company needs a problem solved, they invite other businesses to submit a proposal that details how they'd solve it.
Propose your business as the ideal solution using our Free Business Proposal Templates
- Problem summary
- Proposed solution
- Pricing information
- Project timeline
You're all set!
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Whether the proposal is solicited or unsolicited, the steps to create your proposal are similar. Make sure it includes three main points:
- A statement of the organization's problem
- Begin with a title page.
- Explain your why with an executive summary.
- State the problem or need.
- Propose a solution.
- Share your qualifications.
- Include pricing options.
- Summarize with a conclusion.
Before writing your business proposal, it's crucial you understand the company. If they've sent you an RFP, make sure you read it carefully, so you know exactly what they want. It can also be helpful to have an initial call or meeting with the new client to ensure you fully understand the problem they're trying to solve and their objectives.
Once you've done your research, it's time to begin writing your business proposal. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a business proposal, but let's take a look at some elements proposals often include. (I designed this example business proposal using Canva .)
1. Begin with a title page.
You have to convey some basic information here. Introduce yourself and your business. Be sure to include:
- Your company's name
- The date you submitted the proposal
- The name of the client or individual you're submitting the proposal to
Your title page should reconcile engagement with professionalism. It's a tone-setter, so you need to make sure yours is sleek, aesthetically appealing, and not too "out there."
Here's an example of what a business proposal template looks like when done right:
The executive summary details exactly why you're sending the proposal and why your solution is the best for the prospective client.
Specificity is key here. Why are you the best choice for them?
Like a value proposition, your executive summary outlines the benefits of your company's products or services and how they can solve your potential client's problem.
After reading your executive summary, the prospect should offer a clear idea of how you can help them, even if they don't read the entire proposal. Here's what one should look like:
3. State the problem or need.
This is where you share a summary of the issue impacting the potential client. This is your opportunity to show them you understand their needs and the problem they need help solving.
This section should show your authority in your industry. With this in mind, be sure to include:
- Case studies
- Client testimonials
- Relevant awards
- Industry accreditations
6. Include pricing options.
Pricing is where things can get a bit tricky, as you don't want to under or over-price your product.
The pricing section of your proposal could include:
- A detailed pricing breakdown, including packages, tiers, and add-ons or optional services
- How product features and benefits align with pricing choices
- Pricing for different needs and budgets
- How your pricing compares with competitors
- An FAQ section to respond to anticipated objections and explain your pricing strategy
7. Summarize with a conclusion.
After sharing the above information, simplify it all into one final section.
- First, briefly summarize the proposal. Be sure to share your qualifications and why you’d serve as the best choice.
- Then, to prompt further conversation, confirm your availability to go over the next steps.
- At the end of the proposal, the goal is to have the client ready to work with you. So, be sure to offer your contact information for easy follow-up.
In need of some inspiration before you begin writing? Here are example business proposal templates from popular business proposal software companies you can use to help create your proposal.
1. HubSpot's Free Business Plan Templates
Download these Templates
We know how crucial a great business proposal is to your and your client’s success. That's why we've compiled 2 Free Business Proposal Templates for you to use and customize for any of your projects.
You'll gain access to a concise, one-page template (pictured above), as well as a longer template for you to refine your plan and proposal.
Download the templates now to get started on building your proposal.
2. Web Design Proposal
Companies, big and small, dedicate resources to establishing a noticeable social media presence. With advertising on social networks projected to reach $82.23 billion dollars in 2025 , it's in your business's best interest to have a plan for growing your client's social media presence.
To help you in that effort, the information in this social media marketing proposal includes an executive summary to help introduce your high-level ideas, an assessment of the client’s company to show your diligence, and a breakdown of billing to show how your company charges for posting, content creation, and analytics.
8. Content Marketing Proposal
When pitching your content marketing services to clients, this template can help you organize your ideas. While it walks you through initial objectives and how to communicate your prospected results, one of the most helpful parts of this template is the pricing ideas it gives you when charging for your services.
Business proposal templates are helpful places to get started, but what should your business proposal look like when it's complete? Below, we share an example of a business proposal template that will inspire you.
In the business template example below, Social Portal Consulting (SPC) pitches a marketing proposal to Graphic Bean. At first sight, this proposal appeals to the creative. A nice touch would include designing the layout in your or your client’s brand colors.
Besides the design, the social media icons quickly tell the prospect what platforms Social Portal is pitching. Because we see Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest icons, the client instantly knows that this proposal doesn’t include LinkedIn, YouTube, or other platforms.
While maintaining its design, this example outlines Social Portal Consulting’s plans efficiently. It begins by providing insight into Graphic Bean and its goals before elaborating on how SPC can leverage its expertise to help them achieve them.
This business proposal template includes an easy-to-follow timeframe for goals and objectives while keeping the client abreast of how payment will happen across the project.
Overall, this is an excellent example of how to combine the elements of social media marketing into a creative and concise business proposal. Finally, we'll leave you with some business proposal ideas to get you started on your own.
- Start with an outline.
- Keep it simple.
- Stay on brand.
- Quality control.
- Include data and visuals.
- Add social proof.
- Use a call-to-action.
- Create a sense of urgency.
- Make the decision for them.
- Incorporate video into your proposal.
- Include up-sell and add-on opportunities.
- Clarify your terms and conditions.
- Include a space for signatures to document agreement.
- Create a table of contents.
1. Start with an outline.
If you want to produce a thoughtful, effective business proposal, you need to have some idea of what you're hoping to achieve with it.
So before you dive into writing, outline the major sections of your business proposal and the pertinent information you want to include. This will help you stay focused and make sure your message stays intact as you write.
Use these free business proposal templates to make sure that your outline includes everything you need.
2. Keep it simple.
There's no definitive blueprint for how long a business proposal has to be. Yours should be however long it takes to convey the information you want to get across.
That said, you're best off focusing on quality over quantity. Keep your sentences short and simple, and avoid including too much business jargon.
You want anyone who picks up your proposal to make sense of it. So, be straightforward and don't get too fancy. Aim for substance over flash.
3. Stay on brand.
Don't be afraid to let your company's personality shine through in your proposal. Stay true to your brand and show the client what sets you apart from your competitors.
4. Quality control.
A quick spelling and grammar check before you hit send isn't enough for a business proposal.
Your proposal needs to be clean and airtight. So, as you draft your proposal, and after checking for the basics, keep scanning this document until it's just right.
Check to make sure your proposal:
- Meets client needs and expectations
- Highlights your value proposition
- Is well-structured and easy to read or skim
- Complies with legal, ethical, and regulatory requirements
- Looks professional and engaging
5. Include data and visuals.
You want your business proposal to capture your prospect's attention and help set you apart from any other ones they might have received. One of the best ways to do that is to include hard, quantitative data that helps stress the value of your business.
Use relevant, compelling figures that highlight what you have to offer. This can establish authority and make your proposal more convincing. It also helps to include visuals such as charts and graphs to enhance your proposal.
6. Add social proof.
You can only be so convincing when you're personally talking up how great your business is. Adding social proof lends your proposal another degree of credibility.
Prospects are skeptical. They may not take you at your word. But they'll likely trust peers and fellow customers. That's why including elements like customer quotes and testimonials can go a long way.
7. Use a call-to-action.
Prospects need direction. The best proposal in the world can only take you so far if you don't clearly define the next steps. That's why you have to make sure the reader knows what to do after reading your proposal.
A clear call-to-action is the best way to get there.
Define and highlight exactly what they should do to act on the interest your proposal has generated. Without that guidance, you might leave your reader in limbo.
HubSpot customers : Use this CTA builder to create powerful customized CTAs.
8. Create a sense of urgency.
No one wants to feel as if they missed out on a great opportunity. Without urgency, your prospect might drag their feet and put off making a decision.
So, as you create your business proposal, your goal should be to create a sense of urgency.
When prospective clients read your business proposal they should feel that the best time to sign up for your service is now.
One way you can accomplish this is by stating your short and long-term goals for their business. They'll have to wait for the long-term goals, but you can make the short-term goals so enticing that they'll be ready to begin a collaboration.
9. Make the decision for them.
Craft your copy in a way that seems like saying "no" to the proposal would be stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Your offer should go above and beyond their expectations. Do everything in your power to remove friction and objections along the way.
10. Incorporate video into your proposal.
If you're creating an online proposal using document file formats like PDF, add multimedia elements. This will enhance the proposal experience, make your document richer, and keep them engaged.
Try adding a video at the beginning as an intro to your proposal. Or, put a video in the project breakdown to verbally discuss some of the more confusing parts.
Extras like this can make an impression. This tip works especially well with prospects who are visual or auditory communicators.
Pro tip : HubSpot Video makes it easy to record and embed video into a website or email for a big proposal boost.
11. Include up-sell and add-on opportunities.
They say you won't receive unless you ask. And readers won't explore the upper tiers of your solutions if you don't give them the opportunity.
So, share some upsells and add-ons about your business that they can act on. Call out a specific pain point and how this extra can add value.
With this step, balance is important. Show them everything your business has to offer without overwhelming your recipient.
12. Clarify your terms and conditions.
Your business proposal should include details on your project timeline and payment schedule. This summary is basically what you and the client agree to if they accept your proposal.
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How to Write Winning Business Proposals: Examples & Free Templates (2023)
By Aditya Sheth , May 25, 2023
The great Mark Cuban once said, “Sales cure all.” If a business doesn’t sell, it doesn’t make money and by extension the business fails. That’s why you need to write business proposals .
A well-written business proposal can often mean the difference between winning or losing a prospective client.
In this in-depth guide to creating business proposals, we show you how to close more deals, make more sales and crush your business goals — all by using easy-to-edit professional business proposal templates .
Here’s what this guide will cover (click to jump ahead):
What is a business proposal.
- How to write a business proposal step by step
What should you include in a business proposal?
Business proposal format, what are the types of business proposals, more business proposal examples + writing and design tips.
- FAQs about business proposals
Looking for a shortcut? Watch this quick video for an overview of everything to include in your business proposal:
An effective business proposal is a document used by a B2B or business-facing company (this may not always be the case) where a seller aims to persuade a prospective buyer into buying their goods or services.
A business proposal outlines what your business does and what you can do for your client . It can be general like this business proposal example:
Or it can be more specific, like this business proposal template which focuses on proposing a project for the Newton Center Rail:
Or this business proposal sample, which presents a plan for a social media strategy and campaign:
To design a business proposal that holds the client’s attention, identify their pain points . Then provide your buyer with the right solution to alleviate those frustrations.
Return to Table of Contents
How to write a business proposal step by step
Before you start creating your business proposal template, you need to know what it comprises. At a high level, your effective business proposal should include the following:
- Table of contents
- Executive summary
- The problem statement
- The proposed solution
- The timeline
Pricing, billing, and legal
- Terms and conditions
- The acceptance
Below, you can see business proposal examples that demonstrate how to include these 10 sections.
Business proposal title
A compelling title could mean the difference between someone reading your proposal or ignoring it in favor of a competitor’s.
What makes a good title page? Here are the essential elements to include:
- Your name along with your company’s name
- The name of the prospect (or their business)
- The date you’re submitting the proposal
The gray business consulting proposal template above contains all the details a prospect would want to know. The title also offers a strong tangible benefit to the prospective buyer. Honestly, “Who doesn’t want to grow their business?”
Return to business proposal content sections
The table of contents is a fundamental part of every winning business proposal template. It makes your proposal scannable and easy to read.
The people you will be pitching to are usually C-level executives. These are busy people who don’t have time to read your entire proposal in one go.
That’s why most of the business proposal examples in this list include a table of contents.
Adding a table of contents to your document makes it easy for them to go through it at their own pace. They can also skim through parts of the proposal that they deem more important. You can see how this abstract business proposal template uses the table of contents:
You can also make your business proposal template easier to navigate by adding hyperlinks to the document, particularly in the table of contents. This way your clients can jump to specific sections without having to scroll through the entire document.
It’s easy to add hyperlinks in the Venngage editor. Select the text you’d like to turn into a link, then click the link icon in the top bar. From there, select the page you want to link to! Then download your completed design as an Interactive PDF .
The executive summary is a staple in all kinds of annual reports , leadership development plan , project plans and even marketing plans . It is a concise summary of the entire contents of your document. In other words, write a business proposal outline that is easy to glance over and that highlights your value proposition.
The goals of your executive summary are:
- Introduce your company to your buyer
- Provide an overview of your company goals
- Showcase your company’s milestones, overall vision and future plans
- Include any other relevant details
This gray business proposal example has a detailed yet short executive summary including some social proof in the form of clients they’ve worked with:
Take note of how precise this business proposal example is. You want to keep your executive summary concise and clear from the get-go. This sets the right tone for the rest of your proposal. It also gives your buyer a reason to continue reading your proposal.
Pro Tip: Try to write an executive summary such that, even if your prospective client doesn’t read the entire proposal (with a good executive summary, they most likely will), they should have a clear idea about what your company does and how you can help them.
The point of writing a business proposal is to solve a buyer’s problem. Your goal is to outline the problem statement as clearly as possible. This develops a sense of urgency in your prospect. They will want to find a solution to the problem. And you have that solution.
A well-defined problem statement does two things:
- It shows the prospect you have done your homework instead of sending a generic pitch
- It creates an opportunity for you to point out a problem your prospect might not be aware they had in the first place.
This bold business proposal template above clearly outlines the problem at hand and also offers a ray of hope i.e. how you can solve your prospect’s problem. This brings me to…
The good stuff. In the proposed solution section, you show how you can alleviate your prospective buyer’s pain points. This can fit onto the problem statement section but if you have a comprehensive solution or prefer to elaborate on the details, a separate section is a good idea.
Spare no details regarding the solution you will provide. When you write a business proposal, explain how you plan to deliver the solution. Include an estimated timeline of when they can expect your solution and other relevant details.
For inspiration, look at how this business proposal template quickly and succinctly outlines the project plan, deliverables and metrics :
At this point, the prospect you’re pitching your solution to likes what they’re reading. But they may not trust you to deliver on your promises. Why is this?
It’s because they don’t know you. Your job is to convince them that you can fix their problem. This section is important because it acts as social proof. You can highlight what your company does best and how qualified your team is when you write a business proposal for a potential client.
This free business proposal template showcases the company’s accolades, client testimonials, relevant case studies, and industry awards. You can also include other forms of social proof to establish yourself as a credible business. This makes it that much more likely that they will say yes!
Pro Tip: Attaching in-depth case studies of your work is a great way to build trust with a potential client by showcasing how you’ve solved similar problems for other clients in the past. Our case study examples post can show you how to do just that.
To further demonstrate just how prepared you are, it’s important to outline the next steps you will take should your buyer decide to work with you.
Provide a timeline of how and when you will complete all your deliverables. You can do this by designing a flow chart . Or add a roadmap with deadlines. Pitching a long-term project? A timeline infographic would be a better fit.
If you look at this abstract business proposal template below, even something as simple as a table can do the trick.
The timeline is not always set in stone, rather it’s an estimation. The goal is to clarify any questions your potential client might have about how you will deliver for the underlying B2B sales process.
On this page, you can outline your fees, payment schedule, invoice payment terms , as well as legal aspects involved in this deal.
The key to good pricing is to provide your buyer with options. A pricing comparison table can help with this. You want to give your client some room to work with. Make sure you’re not scaring off your client with a high price, nor undervaluing yourself.
Breaking up your pricing in stages is another great way to make sure your potential client knows what he’s paying for. Look at how this simple business proposal template does this:
The legal aspects can slot right into the terms and conditions section. Alternatively, you can add them to the signature section of the proposal to keep things simple.
Summarize everything you have promised to deliver so far. Include what you expect from your prospective buyer in return. Add the overall project timeline from start to end, as well as payment methods and payment schedule. This way, both of you will be clear on what is being agreed on.
This step is very important as it outlines all the legal aspects of the deal. That is why the terms and conditions section of your proposal needs to be as clear as possible.
I recommend consulting a lawyer or your legal team when working on this section of the business proposal. If you’re a business veteran and understand the legalities of your business, you can use the same terms and conditions across all your proposals.
The final step of this whole process. Your client has read your business proposal and they want to buy what you have to offer.
Add a small section at the end of your proposal to get the necessary signatures. This way, you and your client can sign the proposal and the partnership becomes official.
Be sure to also include your contact information in your business proposal template. It acts as a gentle prompt to your client to contact you in case they have any questions. A professional way of doig that would be to include an e-business card with your contact details, email i.d and any other social links you want to share. You can go through this article for the best digital business cards .
A business proposal usually aims to answer the following questions:
- Who you are and what your company does
- The problem your buyer is facing
- The solution your company offers to alleviate the problem
- How your company will implement this solution effectively
- An estimate of resources (time, money, etc) required to implement the solution
You can see how this sample business proposal template covers the above points.
Notice how this proposal template addresses the same project like in one of the previous templates, but uses a completely different design style (more retro, while the previous business proposal template is more modern and minimalistic).
You can remove or add more sections depending on the goal of your business proposal. Essential, your business proposal can follow this format:
- Pricing, billing and legal
We go into detail on how you can write a business proposal (plus different business proposal templates you can apply the tips to) in the next section . But you can also click on the format items above to learn how you can best write them!
If you aim to create a holistic business proposal, feel free to just edit from the two templates right above. You can also add your brand colors and logo to your design, using My Brand Kit :
Here’s another example of a business proposal template that you can edit:
Generally, there are three types of business proposals:
1. Formally solicited
A formally solicited business proposal is made when you respond to an official request to write a business proposal.
In this scenario, you know all the requirements and have more (if not all) information about a prospective buyer. You simply need to write the business proposal for your buyer to evaluate so you can begin the sales process .
2. Informally solicited
Informally solicited business proposals are written when there isn’t an official request for a proposal. A prospective buyer is interested in your services and asks for a proposal so they can evaluate it.
An informally solicited proposal requires a lot more research from your end. These types of proposals are usually created out of informal conversations. They are not based on official requests which often contain more detail.
Think of this as a marketing brochure or a cold email . Unsolicited business proposals will often take a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to business proposals. Unsolicited proposals lack any understanding of the buyer or their requirements.
But with additional market research , personalization and identifying customer pain points , you can propose a customized solution based on your buyer’s needs. This can be a very persuasive approach, such as in this business proposal example:
Now that you know how to write a business proposal, let’s look at how you can optimize your proposal to deliver results!
Below you’ll find some winning business proposal templates and examples to get you started. I’ve also included some design tips to keep in mind when you’re creating your next business proposal:
1. Know your audience
If you have some clarity on who your ideal buyer is — their pain points, their budget, deadlines, among other things — you’ve already won half the battle.
If you are a business that helps clients with everything from running giveaways or helping grow their blog , identify which customers to pitch. This is a sure-shot way to close the deal.
Mapping user personas for your ideal buyer can help bring some clarity. It will also help you position your business proposal correctly. This improves the chance of your buyer moving your business proposal to the “Yes!” pile.
2. Put your brand front and center
If your company follows certain brand guidelines, incorporate them in your business proposal templates. Consider how business proposal examples like the one below highlight brand identity :
From the color palettes to the company logos , everything follows their brand guidelines. The result: a business proposal that’s consistent across the board.
Pro Tip: Switching this template to match your brand assets is actually pretty easy. Venngage’s My Brand Kit feature allows you to import your color palettes, logos as well as font choices. Any Venngage template can now be your template.
You can also consider this sample business proposal template:
Design companies sure do know their design. They did a phenomenal job keeping their brand colors consistent while opting for a black design. This unique color scheme also makes their white logo prominent throughout the proposal.
3. Try less text, more visuals
Have you ever read a proposal and thought to yourself, “Wow, this is all text and has no images, I love it!”? Yeah, me neither.
The free business proposal template below is a perfect example of the “less is more” principle. It does a phenomenal job of communicating what it needs to. By substituting some of the text with icons and visuals, you get a clean business proposal that’s much more scannable.
Want to keep things strictly professional? Instead of icons, you can always add your team’s headshots. This shows your buyer exactly who they’ll be working with.
Check out this formal business proposal format for some inspiration:
4. Switch up your business proposal designs
It doesn’t hurt to go above and beyond once in a while. Jazz up your business proposal template with some extra colors. This helps make your business proposal more engaging. It also helps your buyers retain information faster.
The business proposal example alternates between black, white and grey backgrounds. It still manages to maintain consistency in its branding . Just switching up your backgrounds once in a while can also bring in some variety to an otherwise standard business proposal.
This SEO business proposal sample proves that it’s possible to switch up the colors in every other page. But it still maintains the same color scheme across the entire proposal just like a professionally designed website :
Pro Tip: Not a color expert? Our guide on picking colors can help you pick the right color scheme for your proposals.
FAQ about business proposals
What is the purpose of a business proposal.
A business proposal aims to streamline the B2B sales process (which is often complex ) between you as a seller and a buyer.
It does this by serving the dual purpose of acting as a source of information. The proposal also acts as a sales pitch aimed at convincing your buyer why they should buy what you have to offer.
What are the best practices for business proposal design?
- Do a thorough spell-check. The goal of your business proposal is to convince your buyer why you’re the perfect person for the job. A proposal with typos or grammatical errors communicates the opposite. A thorough spell-check before you send your proposal is a must.
- Keep things clear and readable: Clarity is an important aspect that you have to ensure in your business proposal. If you want your proposal to hit home and make an impact on the buyer, you have to write it in an understandable way. To keep things clear and readable, there are a couple of things that you can do. You can, for one, take care to use easy wording and segmented sentences from the get-go. You can also try paraphrasing the hard parts of your proposal once you are done writing it.
- Let your brand shine. As discussed before, writing a business proposal is all about knowing your ideal buyer and focusing on their pain points. But that doesn’t mean your business proposal template has to be boring. Demonstrate how different you are compared to other companies. You can do this through your brand guidelines , by using more visuals, switching up your proposal design or showing off your personality in your writing .
- Create a business proposal PDF. Downloading your business proposal in PDF format allows you to attach other collaterals with your business proposal. These can include a company explainer video or case studies showcasing the work done with past clients. Also, who doesn’t love saving paper?
How long should your business proposal be?
The length depends on the scope of the work as well as the complexity of the project. Here is a one-page business proposal template:
Can your business proposal template really be one page? Yes, as long as you understand who your buyer is and their pain points. You should also have the ability to communicate everything your ideal buyer needs to know about your business in a succinct manner.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous how about just two pages? Often, clients prefer if you go straight to the point and avoid all the fluff.
For example, this green modern marketing proposal template wastes no time in getting down to brass tacks:
Need more inspiration? Check out this blog on the 5 marketing proposal examples that’ll help elevate your business.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to deciding how many pages you should include in your business proposal template. And at the end of the day, “the only rules are the ones you set for yourself”.
At the end of the day, writing winning business proposals that sell is all about you understanding your buyer, their potential pain points and positioning yourself as someone who can alleviate those pain points.
Now that you know how to write compelling business proposals, what are you waiting for?
Take action and start creating your own business proposals to close more deals and grow your business today!
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Create a well-structured proposal to win new clients and business.
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1. Research and outline the parts of your business proposal
2. Build the title and table of contents
3. Write your executive summary
4. Get into the project details
5. List deliverables, milestones, and budgets
6. Craft the conclusion and appendix
7. Edit and professionally polish your proposal
What is a business proposal?
A business proposal is a written offer of a product or service to a prospective customer. Winning business proposals help secure funding, expand projects, and grow your business.
What should be included in a business proposal?
There are a few key questions that should be answered in your business proposal:
- Who are you? What does your company do?
- What problems are your buyers facing?
- What solution does your company offer to solve the problem?
- How will your company successfully implement the solution?
- How much money, time, and other resources do you estimate will be required to implement the solution?
Types of business proposals.
Before you can decide how to structure your proposal, it’s important to understand what type of proposal is most appropriate for the situation. While there are different types of proposals in different industries, they usually fall into one of these three categories:
Informally solicited business proposal.
This type of business proposal is for when no official request has been made for a proposal. Informally solicited proposals stem from spontaneous, informal conversations with a client or vendor — unlike official requests that contain much more detail. You might write one if a prospective buyer is interested in your products or services and asks for a business proposal so that they can analyze it. With these types of requests, prospective buyers will not normally ask for competing proposals. This type of proposal will require a decent amount of additional research on your end.
Unsolicited business proposal.
An unsolicited business proposal is for when you wish to approach prospective customers with a proposal, although they didn’t request one, in hopes of securing them as customers. These proposals are more generic and act like a cold email or marketing brochure. This type of business proposal is created without the understanding of the potential customer and their requirements. By conducting market research and identifying customer pain points, you can create a personalized solution based on each individual buyer’s needs.
Formally solicited business proposal.
Formally solicited business proposals are created upon official request for a business proposal to be written. With this type of proposal, you will have most (if not all) the information required to understand a prospective buyer’s needs. All you have to do is write the proposal for the buyer so that they can analyze it and you can start the sales process. Formally solicited proposals are typically written as a response to published requirements from the business that is searching for proposals. These will be created because of a public posting asking for proposals. These clients are likely looking through multiple proposals to try and find the best fit.
Why write a business proposal?
Business proposals are huge for new businesses looking to expand. Whether you’re an established small business or one looking to grow, a business proposal can help you with everything from securing funding to growing an existing project.
A business proposal is a document that helps you:
- Document realistic plans and projections
- Attract new clients and new business
- Bring in investors for funding
- Outline additional structure for growth
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of your current business model
- Showcase new pricing models and other relevant metrics
Sound like something that might be useful? Here’s how you create one.
How to write a business proposal.
Business proposals can vary in formatting, but there are some key elements that any business proposal should have. Some of the most essential elements include a title page, table of contents, details on your company’s “why” in the executive summary, a problem or need statement, a proposed solution, qualifications, a timeline, pricing, billing, legal information, clarification of terms and conditions, and the acceptance section where your potential buyer can sign the document.
You will want to make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of the business before composing your proposal. It can be helpful to set up an initial meeting or call to gain insight into what the client wants from your business. If the business has shared an RFP with you, be sure to give it a thorough read-through. After your research is complete, you can create your business proposal. Detailed below are the key elements to begin.
1. Research and outline the parts of your business proposal.
You likely know what you want to do to expand your business already, so you have probably done plenty of research. If you haven’t, it’s important to come into the process well prepared and informed before you outline. Make sure that you have case studies, pertinent data, and compelling examples of how your proposal will lead to benefits for your client before you begin.
Building a business proposal is a highly structured process, which means that an outline is essential. An outline can be as simple as a one- or two-page document, with bullet points breaking key areas down into quick summaries that you can then expand into full sections.
For a basic outline, writing a small section for each step that follows in this guide is a great way to organize and set up your proposal. You can use steps 2–6 here as the framework for your outline. You can even build out the entire document in a PDF editor . You’ll be able to drop pages in and comment to your proposal on the fly.
2. Build the title and table of contents.
The introduction to your business proposal is always the title. Creating a strong, solid title page gives a prospective client an idea of the value proposition, as well as what is going to follow within the proposal. This is the first step in getting eyes on your work. Especially if the proposal is unsolicited, you have to make sure to excite your audience, assuring them that your proposal is going to solve their pain points.
The table of contents summarizes the remainder of the proposal and helps readers reference where different sections start and end, but it can also be a way of providing additional small summaries of each section — it’s up to you. There are many types of proposals — from sales proposals to marketing proposals — and the table of contents can give clues to your audience about what you’re selling and how it benefits them.
3. Write your executive summary.
The executive summary functions as an introduction to your reader. In some ways, it’s like a cover letter — a concise introduction and summary of your proposal. You’ll want to introduce your company (especially if the proposal is unsolicited), give an overview of your business goals and objectives, show off some milestones you’ve already hit, lay out what the future path is, and explain how the proposal you’re writing is the first step of that path.
You’re talking to decision makers and potential customers, so you want to make sure that you’re reeling your audience in as much as possible with snappy writing that outlines what they can expect in the following sections of the proposal.
4. Get into the project details.
Problem, solution, qualifications. These three words are the mantra of this section. Your proposal needs to identify the client’s problem and immediately follow up with a proposed solution. Problem statement plus solution equals a happy client who is excited about coming to work with you.
And, during all of this, you must demonstrate your expertise through qualifications. If your company or business is certified and has a track record of success solving this particular problem, showcase it. If you need additional capabilities to achieve what you need, identify that as well. At the end of this section, your target audience should walk away confident you can meet any client’s needs.
5. List deliverables, milestones, and budgets.
After you outline project details, identify specific deliverables this proposal will produce. For instance, if your proposal is to open a new branch of your business in a new region, identify all the steps that will happen in that process, what they’ll cost, and what the timeline is. Striving for accuracy and professionalism in this section is key, as it demonstrates that you’re serious about what you’re trying to do. Coming in with examples of previous successes can also demonstrate proof that your process works.
While a proposal can be a formal document, it doesn’t have to be stodgy. A winning proposal has eye-catching headings, is free of typos, and outlines the time frames, scope of work, and payment schedules that a client can expect if they accept.
6. Craft the conclusion and appendix.
End with a strong call to action that lets the reader know what they should do next. That can be a salesperson’s number or a contact form online to discover more. An appendix that contains reference materials, definitions, methodology, and other relevant items can also be effective.
7. Edit and professionally polish your proposal.
A business proposal is bolstered by two things: solid writing and elegant design. If you are writing a Request for Proposal (RFP), you will want to include the following elements:
- An introduction to your company and background information on the project
- The project goals and scope of services needed
- A deadline for receiving bids
- A timeline for when you expect to select a winning proposal
- Which specific elements you would like included in the proposal
- Any specific challenges you’d like the contractors to solve
- Your estimated budget range for the project
Whether you’re creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) , a solicited proposal, or a series of case studies, Acrobat Pro gives you the tools to design beautiful and eye-catching proposals — and you don’t even have to start from scratch. There are dozens of free business proposal templates available to start working from, and Acrobat makes it easy to add graphics, images, and creative formatting to your proposal.
Plus, if you’re sharing your proposal digitally, you can easily add graphs, pricing tables, links, and attachments to enhance the overall experience for readers. Your table of contents can be hyperlinked throughout the document, and you can send readers to supplementary documents elsewhere.
Creating a compelling proposal and tidy cover page with Acrobat Pro is only a few more steps away . You can start learning how with helpful guides and tutorials, and soon you’ll have a business proposal that will grow and enhance your business.
How to Write a Business Proposal — 2022 Guide and Template
A business proposal can make or break your chances of securing a new client. Write a great one, and you’ll likely snag their business.
Write a poor one, and you might lose out—even if you’re offering the best service out there. So, how do you write a business proposal? What is the proper format? What do you need to include?
While it all depends on your industry, and whether or not you’re offering a product or service, writing a business proposal is pretty straightforward. We’ll answer all those questions and more throughout the course of this guide.
What to expect with this business proposal guide
Whether you’re starting fresh or need to look at a specific section, here’s what we’ll be covering in this guide.
- What a business proposal is
- The differences between a business proposal and a business plan
- The format of a business proposal
- How long to make your business proposal
How to write a business proposal
You can download a free business proposal template here to start writing up your own proposal as you work through this article. By the end, you’ll be prepared to develop a well-written business proposal that can explain your business clearly and win more clients. Let’s get started.
What is a business proposal ?
A business proposal is a document you’d send to a prospective client, outlining the service you’re offering, and explaining why you’re the best person for the job.
It’s a pitch by a business or individual to complete a specific job or project, to supply a service, or, in some instances, to be the vendor of a certain product.
What are the different types of business proposals?
A business proposal can be either solicited or unsolicited. With a solicited proposal, the prospective client will put out a request for proposals; with an unsolicited business proposal, you are approaching a client in hopes of attracting their business, even though they did not explicitly request a proposal.
While both are commonplace, a solicited proposal is an easier sell, as your prospective client has already decided that they want to make a purchase or use a service, and they’re evaluating possible vendors or businesses.
With a solicited proposal, your prospective client might have issued an RFP, or “request for proposal.” This is exactly what it sounds like—they want you to send over a business proposal so they can take a look at it.
Differences between a business proposal and a business plan
A business proposal is not the same as a business plan . This is the most common misconception, but while there are areas of overlap (like your executive summary ) the two are different.
That being said, you can certainly pull information from your business plan while writing your business proposal—in fact, that’s a great way to start.
But don’t confuse the two; they are distinct and separate. In short, a business plan represents the cohesive strategy of how your business operates and makes money. A business proposal is an official pitch to clients selling your products or services.
A business proposal outlines a particular product or service offered by an established business to a prospective client.
You’re trying to sell your prospective client on your product or service, not on your business itself. You’re not after funding, as you are with a business plan, you’re trying to make a sale.
A business proposal is also not an estimate; although you’ll likely touch on costs and pricing in your business proposal, an estimate is much more informal and just a quick look at the costs, not the whole picture.
What goes into a business proposal?
Your business proposal should address the three Ps:
- Problem statement: What your customer’s current problem is
- Proposed solution: How your business solves that problem better than other solutions
- Pricing: How much that solution costs compared to alternatives
If you’re stuck on how to start, maybe try brainstorming first; start with these three points, and you’ll have a rough, bare-bones version of your business proposal.
Once you’ve done that if you’re ready to go more in-depth, here is a step-by-step look at how to format your business proposal.
Your business proposal should start with a title page, which should include your name, the name of your company, the name of the person to whom you’re submitting your proposal, and the date submitted.
Table of contents
Depending on how long your business proposal is, a table of contents is a nice touch. Include it after your title page, and before you launch into any details. If you’re delivering it as a PDF, including anchor links down to each section, so it’s easy to get to specific areas.
Introduce your proposal with a great executive summary, one that really sells your business and the products or services you provide—it’s about why you’re the right company for the job. You can draw from your business plan’s executive summary here, too.
Statement of problem, issue, or job at hand
Following your executive summary, go on to discuss the problem that the client is currently facing. Think of “problem” or “issue” loosely; after all, their main problem may just be finding the right person to complete their project. But be sure you understand why they want the product or service they’re seeking. If the proposal is for developing a brand new website, make sure you understand what they want to get out of the site—better sales, more content management flexibility.
This is the place to show your new client that you understand their needs , and fully grasp the issue they are trying to solve. Take this opportunity to restate the issue they are facing in your own words so that they know you understand what they are looking for.
Approach and methodology
This section shows how you plan to tackle your potential client’s problem, and the steps you’ll take to carry out your plan.
This is where you’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how you actually plan to fulfill your client’s needs. While earlier sections might have been a bit surface-level, this section of the business proposal is where you’ll go into detail about what steps you’ll take to solve their problem.
Be careful of going into too much detail, though—keep the jargon to a minimum. Your client should be able to follow along and get a clear sense of your plan, but you don’t want to drown them in minutiae.
Go ahead, brag a little—this is the section of your business proposal where you get to convince your potential client why you are the most qualified person to take on the job.
You can mention any relevant education, industry-specific training, or certifications you have, your past successful projects of a similar nature, years of experience, and so on.
Schedule and benchmarks
Be clear with your potential client: How long will your proposed project take?
Making sure you and your prospective client are on the same page from the outset will help make sure that the relationship stays positive for both of you, and that you don’t set your client up with unrealistic expectations.
While you might be tempted to underestimate how long it will take you to complete the project, don’t. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver!
If you’re offering a product, this section might not be applicable to you, so feel free to omit it. The business proposal format is flexible, so tailor it to suit your business and industry.
Cost, payment, and any legal matters
Here is where you get down to brass tacks and state the cost, and payment schedule if necessary.
How you structure this section will largely depend on the particular project or service you are offering. A section entitled “Fee Summary” may be sufficient if one-time payment is required; otherwise, a “Fee Schedule” list or pricing table might be more appropriate. Always refer back to the client’s RFP whenever possible, to make sure you’re supplying them with all the information they need to help make their decision.
If there are any legal issues to attend to, such as permits or licensing, include this information here. Feel free to add a section entirely devoted to handling the legal side of the project if need be.
This is your final sell—don’t be afraid to detail for your prospective client all they have to gain by choosing you to complete the project.
Impress upon your clients why you are the best choice, and all the ways in which their business will benefit from choosing you and your business as their solution.
How long should a business proposal be?
When it comes to the format of a business proposal, this is the million-dollar question without an answer. Remember in school, when you’d ask your teacher how long an essay should be, and they’d reply, “as long as it takes to answer the question.”
The same applies to your business proposal. It ultimately depends on your industry, the scope of the project, and the client’s specifications in terms of detail and elements included.
That being said, the tighter your initial proposal can be and the more directly you can make your point, the easier it will be to pitch it to clients. Start by following the business proposal format above as a guide, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a winning business proposal—and securing new clients.
Editor’s note: This article was originally written in 2018 and updated for 2021.
Briana is a content and digital marketing specialist, editor, and writer. She enjoys discussing business, marketing, and social media, and is a big fan of the Oxford comma. Bri is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and she can be found, infrequently, on Twitter.
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Business Plan and Proposal: Everything You Need to Know
A business plan and proposal are two different documents with two different purposes and functions. 3 min read
A business plan and proposal are two different documents with two different purposes and functions. A business plan is a document that clearly spells out how a business intends to realize its objectives and goals, while a business proposal is a sales document that a business entity uses to request a contract from a client.
Business Plan vs. Business Proposal
A business plan and a business proposal are different from each other by content, goals, writing style, and structure. The major difference between both is that a business plan is a document that presents facts, while a business proposal is a request for a deal and a quotation of prices.
A Business Plan
You can think of a business plan as the documentation of a company's grand vision. Business plans are naturally tactical. It's like stating where and when you want to start, when you want to get to the next point in view, and how you intend to accomplish that progress. A business plan includes descriptions of how the business is intended to run, the details of financial goals, possible business rivalry, marketing strategy, executive summary, and other factors that affect a company's planned business growth.
A business plan is particularly effective in making potential investors interested in a company (especially a startup company that's yet to make a name in its industry). Additionally, a business plan can provide an idea of what a company requires for professionals such as attorneys, accountants, and potential employees. A business plan distinctly describes the scope of the business, and in so doing, clears your thoughts as a business owner.
The business plan should be honestly made because it's the outline of the company's vision. It indicates whether or not the business goals of the company are realistically achievable. Experts say an effective business plan would take approximately six weeks of thorough research and groundwork to create. In other words, you typically can't create an effective business plan in one day, present it to potential investors the next day, and achieve desired results.
A Business Proposal
A business proposal goes to a prospective client directly from an established business. It's an attempt to sell a business entity's service or product to a client, and not an attempt to sell the business itself. Also, a business proposal isn't an estimate. Though costs and certain other details will be provided in the business proposal, an estimate is a lot more unofficial and simply a provision to skim over the costs. It doesn't present the entire picture.
Basically, business proposals show a particular idea, such as a new, profitable undertaking. The proposal is intended to get investors to support the particular business endeavor being suggested. For instance, a well-known eatery chain may wish to extend its business to a nearby state. Such an eatery would have to compose a business proposal in order to get the financial support of its target investors.
Though the business proposal provides an overview of what the company does (similar to a business plan), its major objective is to provide the details of the suggested business idea, including providing answers in advance for any concerns that could be raised by potential investors.
Components of a Business Plan
Basically, a business plan has three components: business model description, sales tactics, and financial goals. However, more elaborately, it has the following sections of information:
- Executive summary
- Description of products and services
- Industry analysis (analysis of possible business rivalry)
- Marketing strategy
- Operating plan
- Structure of leadership
- Internal analysis
- Built-out plan
- Introduction of management
- Financial goals (deliberations on monetary concerns, and how to address them and achieve expected results).
Solicited vs. Unsolicited Business Proposals
A solicited business proposal, when presented in response to a request for proposal (RFP), should be in the format requested by the client in their RFP. The same format may or may not be used for an unsolicited business proposal. Its purpose is to suggest and develop a business idea. Therefore, it's recommended to use the same format or some other format that's well-known in the field of endeavor.
An unsolicited business proposal offers a business entity the flexibility to choose what structure they deem appropriate. However, the proposal is expected to meet industry standards, no matter what format is used. For instance, it should emphasize major areas of interest, be thoroughly researched, offer a proposition of value, and feature a call to action.
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How to write a business proposal (The modern way)
Yauhen Zaremba Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc
Nothing speaks to a customer’s direct needs like a well-written business proposal.
But how do you make sure that your proposal is engaging to every potential client?
This year, we analyzed nearly 570,000 proposals sent in 2021 through the PandaDoc platform for insights on what works best and what doesn’t.
Here’s what we learned about writing business proposals.
→DOWNLOAD NOW: FREE BUSINESS PROPOSAL TEMPLATE
The basic structure of your business proposal
Building a business proposal is like building a house.
While there are certain elements that are always necessary — like the foundation — a house varies based on location and the architect or homeowner’s preferences.
In the same way, the components of a business proposal can vary based on industry, company size, and many other factors.
Just like writing anything else, a well-written proposal begins by gathering information and assessing the problems that your potential client is trying to solve.
With that in mind, the following items are what readers are looking to glean from your proposal. Think of these as the roof, walls, and foundation of your document:
- Information about your company. Your background, your qualifications, and why you’re a better fit than the rest of your competitors.
- Demonstrated knowledge of the problem. Proof that you’ve listened and done your research. You know what the client needs and you have a viable solution.
- Pricing and methodology. How you plan to solve the client’s problem, information about your proposed solution, and how much it’s going to cost.
In the next section, we’ll take you through how to draft a business proposal using our social media proposal template as an example.
If you’re not a social media company, don’t worry.
While the template we’re using is an example of a simple project proposal, the basic structure applies to nearly every business proposal — no matter how complex they might be.
You can download this proposal example and hundreds of other business proposal templates on our website.
Here are the nine elements of a business proposal , and what to include in each section.
Before you start, a quick note on length
Based on our analysis of proposals on our platform, we found that the average proposal length is about nine pages.
But, as several of our own account executives and sales team members were quick to point out, longer doesn’t always mean better.
“Short and sweet has a high conversion rate,” said Josh Gillespie, from Upmarket Sales . “Fewer pages and less fluff is better. Ideally, a proposal should be fewer than 10 pages for transactional proposals below $10,000, and never more than 50 pages.”
Artyom Voronetskiy, Account Executive with PandaDoc, agrees:
“Keep it short, on-point, and eye-catching. Do not write more than six to ten pages unless your product is extremely complicated.”
While you should make sure to include all relevant information that prospective clients will need in order to make a decision, take care to avoid overcrowding them with irrelevant details.
01. Cover page
This section includes basic information like your company’s name and contact information, your company logo, your client’s name, and contact information, the date, and a title.
A strong title page makes the project proposal look neat, organized, and well put together.
It’s also the very first thing that your prospective client will see when they open your proposal, and everyone knows how important that first impression can be.
Studies have shown that you have as little as 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression when designing visual content like websites.
The same holds true for your cover page.
Unlike the rest of your document, a cover page is a place where you can place graphics and visual content to set the tone before the reader dives into the meat of your proposal.
But don’t go overboard with complicated graphics and logos on this page. According to a study by Google , users love simple and familiar designs , especially at a first glance.
This is also a great way for you to stand out. Based on our data, only about 13% of proposals we see use cover pages . Take advantage of this missed opportunity and use it to stand out from your competitors.
02. Cover letter
You wouldn’t walk up to your potential client and dive into project specifics without introducing yourself, would you?
A cover letter is that introduction.
Include a one-liner about your company, short background information about how your company came to be, and a brief overview of what makes your company better than the rest.
Make it friendly and encourage your reader to reach out with any questions. Close it with a thank you and a signature.
Cover letters don’t have run on to the point of exhaustion. They can be simple, short, and sweet. In this example, the text is just over 100 words, but you could make it even easier to read by using bullet points.
Check this out:
Thank you for considering [Sender.Company] for your social media marketing needs.
Enclosed, you’ll find a proposal based on our understanding of your social media expectations. Briefly, we propose:
- An expanded social media strategy across currently unused platforms and channels
- A comprehensive distribution strategy designed to generate original and unique content
- Improved post automation for increased audience engagement during peak times
Our methods and procedures are based on extensive analysis, an intense study of social media trends, and the application of specifics unique to [Client.Company].
We are confident in delivering effective results within your social media channels.
Thanks again for considering us, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions.
My contact information is below.
Your cover letter can take on many forms, and you can use those formats to make your proposal stand out from the crowd.
In our proposal example, note that we’ve also used an image to keep things fun and interesting.
This is critical throughout your proposal. In our research, we found that a proposal with media like photos and videos included is 34% more likely to close.
As you’re designing your proposal, don’t be afraid to add graphics and images to keep readers engaged. A winning business proposal is more than just black text on a white page.
As you’re designing your proposal, don’t be afraid to add graphics and images to keep readers engaged. A winning proposal is more than just black text on a white page.
03. Table of contents
Unless your proposal is very brief, include a table of contents that outlines the basic structure of your document.
A table of contents is an important, but often overlooked, part of any longer document because it helps the reader know what they can expect to find in the proposal.
Most word processors generate a table of contents automatically using the headings in your document . As you’re writing, take the time to set the formatting for your headings and then simply generate a table of contents from those headings.
A table of contents isn’t always necessary, but it can make any proposal much easier to parse as your document is passed around to all appropriate parties.
Remember: Proposal documents may not be read chronologically. Different decision-makers will care about different things and will check your proposal to see how it addresses their unique pain points.
Don’t lose a deal just because stakeholders couldn’t find what they were looking for!
04. Executive summary
Your executive summary sets the scene for the rest of your proposal by providing a high-level overview that summarizes the contents of future pages.
If you provided a few of these details in your cover letter (like the bullet-point example shown above) this is your opportunity to go into greater detail and summarize your overall strategy.
Using our example, our potential clients are primarily realtors in the greater Chicago area looking to reach new clients through social media marketing, so your executive summary might read like this:
This proposal outlines a coordinated plan crafted with the intent of building John’s Real Estate social media presence, primarily including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, and Twitter.
By engaging an audience through social media channels, our team will demonstrate the ability to generate awareness, widen your company’s potential reach within your target market, and contribute to driving more website traffic, which will ultimately result in top-line growth.
We help realtors identify, target, and communicate with their ideal clients through each of the following:
- Creating Engaging Social Content
- Posting Company-Related Updates
- Promotions & Social Campaigns
- Integrating Social Media Activity into Other Marketing Plans
While our competitors work to serve multiple industries and target audiences , we specialize in the real estate industry. Our co-founder Tom Lancaster also has a background in both social media and real estate , giving him a unique perspective on the needs of the market.
Your own executive summary will shift depending on the duties you’re performing for the client, and what kind of industry they’re in.
Your tone might also change. If you’re targeting a young travel startup run by college graduates, you might use a more casual tone peppered with industry jargon and humor.
Jump Social Media Marketing offers full-service social media services for the real estate industry. Our team ensures area realtors are targeting their core market with an authentic message across the best channels possible.
Jump Social Media Marketing will work to identify, target and market to your ideal customer through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, and Twitter channels. Our team estimates we will grow your social media followers from your combined 214 followers to over 5,000 in the next six months and generate additional leads for your business.
We know that today’s realtors are also tasked with marketing homes and their own real estate firms. With a background in real estate and social media , Jump Social Media understands the unique needs of your industry.
While writing, keep in mind that your executive summary isn’t designed to explain every detail or sell your entire RFP response by itself!
Don’t get lost describing deliverable logistics or strategic plans. Focus on the client’s needs and the outcomes they specifically wanted to address in their request for proposal.
Let your executive summary present a high-level overview and leave the other pages of the document to explain the details. This will prevent your summary from getting overcrowded or bogged down with specifics best handled elsewhere.
05. Proposal and solutions pages
The proposal section is a general overview of the custom-made solution your company has devised for your potential client.
This section gets into the specifics.
Anticipate their questions, and take them through the process so they know what they’re signing up for when they hire you.
As Josh points out, this section of the proposal is critical because it demonstrates the relevance of your product or service to a specific product.
“Quick delivery and relevance to your specific prospect are two of the most important items in any proposal,” he said. “Prospects need to know what you’re selling, how it will help them, and how long it will take them to get it.”
Describe exactly what deliverables they can expect and when they can expect them.
A timetable that pairs deliverables with their expected date can make your document more visually appealing, and your information more digestible.
You might also break down your main objectives even further by describing how you plan to execute a given strategy.
In our example, we touched on six key goals during our executive summary. Let’s expand on those here.
1. Creating engaging social content
Beginning with quick and thorough planning/preparation, our team will plan out a dynamic, ongoing social content calendar to guide you to your goals.
We will grow an increasing social audience and follower base using each of the following techniques:
- Hashtag campaigns
- Strong use of keywords
- Sharing/retweeting relevant news
- “Liking” posts
- Staying updated within the industry
- Contributing our own unique content to broaden reach.
2. Posting company related updates
Our plan is to engage your social media audience by sharing company news, press releases, events, employee spotlights, and more.
We will also pay attention to industry trends, and share them. This will help to gain exposure to your target market.
3. Promotions and social campaigns
We will utilize social channels to connect with your follower base and engage them with promotions to get them excited about both current events and the brand itself.
These campaigns may be as short as a day or run up to six months. We’ll analyze the results from each campaign, and then we will provide a report of its success.
Results of campaigns can be compared so the most effective promotions, offers, or contests can be replicated.
4. Integrating social media activity into other marketing plans
With clear communication and monthly brainstorm meetings, we’ll be able to consolidate the marketing initiatives to fit your goals and promotional material.
Campaigns via social media are more important than just sharing about giveaways, sales, contests, and/or promotions. We will agree on a schedule for a series of posts to keep up the exciting momentum for all prospective customers.
It is important to regularly maintain marketing activity for maximum growth.
We will continually monitor each channel and will respond to any questions, comments, and posts within a two-hour time period. Two hours will allow us to confirm that accurate information is relayed back to the person asking.
We will provide you with each of the following:
- Daily and weekly analytics. Follower growth, reach, demographics, comments, “likes”, shares, retweets, and additional metrics as provided by each platform and our own internal tracking data.
- Reporting. Summarizing various results and activities over each quarter.
We will also set up a monthly meeting to go over the results and then tweak our approach accordingly.
Your own content may look different than this depending on your proposal writing skills and services, but you can still use the example as a framework. Add in more details as needed.
For example, a cybersecurity company would need to include information on penetration testing and how often it would be done to look for possible intrusions and hacks.
Breaking up this section
While writing your proposal content, keep in mind that this section is both the most important and the most flexible section of all.
Your entire proposal doesn’t need to be bundled into a single, long section. It can easily be broken down into smaller sections such as:
- Strategic Assessment
- Goals & Outlook
There are other combinations you can try, depending on your proposal and how your solution should be explained.
If you’re offering a complex solution to a client problem, breaking your proposal into bite-sized chunks is a great way to ensure that readers understand your solution.
The importance of good data
Leveraging good data is critical when creating an effective business proposal.
Use details surrounding impact and ROI around your products and services to prove your worth and add value to your proposal.
Consider these two phrases:
“Our customers love us!”
“To date, our products and methodologies have helped more than 700 companies increase their sales by 35%!”
Which sounds better? Which is more compelling? Numbers and figures catch the eye and help readers build trust. By demonstrating a proven record of success, with numbers and data, you’re adding tangible details that help to justify your costs.
This is especially useful when competing with other solicited proposals, especially if you can include these data points as visual representations (charts, graphs, etc.) of your success within your proposal document.
This is the section where clarity and specifics are key — and nearly every member of our sales team agreed.
Create a pricing table that clearly identifies each product or service, and pair it with the most accurate pricing information you can provide.
Jump Social Media Marketing operates on a monthly billing cycle. Here’s a layout of the pricing and services for John’s Real Estate.
While building the proposal, all you’d need to do is set the price for the item and the quantity of distribution.
If you were sending an hourly contract, the quantity becomes the estimated number of hours invested at a predetermined rate.
For recurring payment schedules, you’ll need to structure the document in a way that reflects your monthly workflow.
Transparency is critical in this section. Potential customers want to know how you’re charging them, what they’re being charged for, and over what period they should expect to pay.
Be sure to include all details in a clear and accurate way.
07. About us
While you already said hello with the cover letter, this section is where you get to explain what makes your company unique.
If you’re a small business or a new company, get personal and give your potential client a chance to get to know you and your team members. Include brief bios and photos of the people they’ll be working with.
If your company has a unique backstory, a mission, or a cause that your company stands for, share that with readers. For example:
Too often in social media , good things come at a price. At Jump, paying for followers or favorable reviews of products is tantamount to criminal activity.
Authenticity is important in today’s online world, and Jump Social Media Marketing makes this our No. 1 priority in your social media space.
The information included on this page doesn’t have to be a stodgy company boilerplate or a cleverly designed sales pitch.
As the old saying goes: People buy from people — so don’t be afraid to let your team’s personality shine through.
08. Testimonials and social proof
No sales proposal is complete without information about your past successes, awards, and jobs well done.
Often, this comes in the form of social proof, such as client testimonials and short case studies.
Why do you need this? Because social proof matters!
According to data, 92% of customers are more likely to trust earned media, like recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
By including recommendations from satisfied customers and industry awards that prove your expertise, you can earn additional trust from prospective clients.
Here’s a good example of how Jump Social Media Marketing might leverage the accolades they’ve received:
Jump Social Media Marketing has received major public recognition for our work.
We’ve been named as Chicago’s Best Social Media Agency for Small Businesses by the Chicago Tribune for the past three years and have been recognized as a recommended partner by the National Association of Realtors .
We also grew the Chicago Real Estate Solutions Facebook page from 0 to 5,000 in six months , secured 250 new leads in that time frame , with 25% converting to sales .
You can also provide testimonials from past clients who can speak to your approach and how it worked for them, like so:
Lively and humorous testimonials like these can add additional personality to your company while building trust and rapport with potential clients.
However, keep your industry in mind when compiling testimonials and do your best to find user feedback that fits the mood.
If your industry has serious clients, a humorous approach may not be appropriate. If you’re working with a 3D manufacturing company with B2B clients, the messaging and tone they take with their own clients — and what they expect from the businesses they work with — may follow different expectations.
Be sure to plan accordingly.
09. Agreement and CTA
Depending on your business proposal, you may include an agreement, a call to action, and terms and conditions at the end of your document.
Your signature below indicates acceptance of this social media marketing proposal and entrance into a contractual agreement with Jump Social Media Marketing beginning on the signature date below:
Depending on your goals and your sales process, you need to be very careful in this section. In many jurisdictions, proposals are considered legally binding contracts if they meet the criteria for a contract.
By adding legal language and/or an electronic signature request at the bottom of your document, you might be entering into a contract earlier than expected.
This may not be ideal if your proposal is only intended to provide a rough estimate of costs or bring the client into further negotiations.
If you don’t intend to create a legally binding contract from your proposal, be sure to note that in your document and prompt the reader to contact you to move the process forward.
On the other hand, well-built proposals can double as complete contracts with all the terms and conditions necessary to start work immediately.
If you’re confident in the scope of work and you’re ready to take on the additional work, let the client know by promoting them for a signature.
How does a business proposal look?
First things first: We’re well past the turn of the century. Nobody likes getting thick envelopes in the mail.
Modern business proposals are sent electronically, and this is more convenient for both you and your potential customers.
While it’s possible to email a proposal created with a word processor like Microsoft Word, platforms like PandaDoc are a better fit. Our tools help you create a collaborative environment for negotiation, feedback, and electronic signature .
Regardless of how you choose to send your proposal, be sure to pay close attention to the look and feel of your document. Especially because your proposal may be your first impression with several key stakeholders, it’s essential that you follow expected formats and make a good impression.
If you search for business proposal examples online or take a look at our template library , you’ll find that most proposals rely on the structure described above to emphasize their value propositions.
Taking care to create a visually appealing proposal will help you communicate your ideas more easily. It’s also something that your competitors are doing and something that many clients are beginning to expect.
In our research, we found that roughly 80% of proposals included an image and 20% included a video. We also saw higher close rates when these multimedia tools were used compared to when they weren’t.
Exactly how a proposal is designed still has some flexibility, depending on your brand and what you’re trying to achieve, but keep in mind that it can have a big impact on success.
Proposals with pages of blocky text are much harder to navigate than proposals with charts, graphs, images, and bullet points.
It’s important to spend time beautifying your proposal,” points out Jared from PandaDoc Sales .
“A proposal that are can draw the eye directly to relevant content and keep the reader engaged is a powerful tool when trying to close a deal.”
Rather than writing a 1000-word About Us section, consider including team member headshots and a brief bio.
Rather than adding highly technical language about operational processes and leaving stakeholders to figure it out, provide visual aids that summarize the information in a clear and easy fashion.
Clearly defining your milestones isn’t the only reason to pay careful attention to how your proposal is written.
While there can be legal ramifications to poorly written proposal content, perhaps the most important consideration is the impression that your proposal leaves behind.
Your proposal introduces your client to the quality of work they can expect from your business. If it’s full of typos, spelling, and grammatical errors, or just seems sloppy, you’re unlikely to close the deal.
Read and re-read. Be sure to proofread every passage for errors before you send it to prospective clients or save it as a template.
You can also offset some of this tedium, especially on smaller deals, by focusing on creating a concise offering rather than a long-winded document.
As Quincy Berg, Enterprise Account Executive for PandaDoc points out,
If these aren’t assets that you have on your staff, consider hiring that skillset onto your team or hiring a freelancer to assist with proofreading and correction.
While many clients will overlook a stray typo or a misplaced comma, too many errors will land your proposal in the discard pile.
A word about costs
When you’re creating proposals, it’s easy for costs to add up. Costs for customized professional business proposals can take hours of research, consultation, and preparation — all with no guarantee of success.
That’s why savvy companies do everything they can to lower the cost of proposal preparation. Typically this is done by generating a template for business proposals — an outline or skeleton that someone can fill out quickly to save time and expedites internal company processes.
It’s an effective way to keep overhead low. Based on our research, an average of 20 documents are generated from each template you create .
That’s a huge time saver for any business.
After you hit ‘Send’
Once you’ve sent your proposal, your next step will depend on the process. Based on our information, about 65% of proposals containing a signature block close within 24 hours.
However, your mileage may vary. RFPs tend to be competitive processes, so you may have to wait until the submission window closes before you hear a response.
Don’t forget to follow up and ask your potential client if they have any questions. Based on the proposals we looked at, you are 30% more likely to close a deal if you send a series of reminders to keep your proposal top of mind.
PandaDoc and other proposal software tools can help you monitor your proposal using document analytics so that you know exactly when to reach out.
These tools let you know when your potential client viewed your proposal, how many times they opened it, and which sections they spent the most time on.
With these insights, you can anticipate their questions or objections and have your responses ready to go.
Free business proposal templates
Ready to get started but don’t know where to begin? PandaDoc can help with some great examples of business proposals.
In the proposals that we looked at, those created using our templates regularly created high-performing results for customers with minimal editing time.
Take a look at some of the metrics around the top professional business proposal templates currently in our template library .
Once you’ve fitted an existing template to your personal needs, you can save it as a fresh template in your content library for even faster reuse.
In doing so, you can slim the entire business proposal design process down from hours to minutes or spend more time refining your proposal for maximum appeal.
To see the true power of the PandaDoc editor, be sure to check out our community gallery for expertly designed templates from real PandaDoc customers.
If you’re a PandaDoc user, you can eve swipe these proposals and load them directly into your PandaDoc editor with a single click.
It’s just that easy.
Social Media Marketing Proposal Template
Used 13721 times
Legally reviewed by Yauhen Zaremba
Ultimately, your business proposal should be focused on your client’s needs and how your business plans to fix them.
No matter how you choose to build your proposal, never lose sight of that goal.
The RFP you receive will have most of the information you need to build a great proposal.
Take things step-by-step, and use the opportunity to show your client that your business is the right fit for the job.
Originally was published in October 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness in February 2022
Frequently asked questions
What’s the point of a business proposal.
Typically, the point of a business proposal is to describe in detail how your product or service will meet a client’s needs. Depending on those needs and the industry that you occupy, the content included in a standard proposal will fluctuate.
For example, at PandaDoc, many of our proposals are customized to fit the unique needs of enterprise-level organizations that are too big for our smaller plans.
If you were to compare our sales team to that of a construction company submitting a proposal to construct a building, the difference in requirements becomes clear. The proposal required for building construction is probably longer and may include far more business proposal topics than what our sales representatives would include when closing a deal.
However, despite the differences and industry requirements, each proposal will still follow the standard proposal format depicted above.
What is the format of a proposal?
The traditional format of a business proposal is as follows:
- Cover letter
- Table of contents
- Executive summary
- Proposal & solutions pages
- Testimonials & social proof
- Agreement & CTA
Based on our research into over 566,000 proposals created on our platform, most proposals are around nine pages in length .
To get a closer look a how to get started and how to bring your business proposal ideas to life using these sections, check out each section of this article.
What should be included in a business proposal?
Your business proposal should include everything you think you need in order to sell your product or service.
This includes all of the basic headings and subheadings you’ll see in a traditional proposal, as well as any supplemental documentation to justify your costs and reinforce your proposed approach to solving the client’s problem.
In addition to basic information about your product, you should also consider including the following:
- Contact information
- Value statements
- Pricing tables
- Client testimonials
- Examples of past work (case studies)
- Images, graphics, and related multimedia
If you’re sending your proposal electronically, you should also consider including an electronic signature block so that decisionmakers can quickly and easily seal the deal when they’re ready to proceed.
What types of business proposals are there?
All business proposals are essentially the same, but your submittal method may vary depending on the type of business proposal you need to send.
Solicited proposals are proposals that a company has asked you to provide for their consideration. The potential customer has reached out to your business and requested a proposal. This usually falls into one of two categories:
Formally solicited proposals are typically competitive and follow a standardized (formal) process. The prospective client sends out an RFP detailing the scope of work and requests that your business formally submit a bid to complete that work.
Informally solicited proposals are typically created based on conversations between a prospective client and a vendor that they want to work with. There might not be any formal documentation, and there may be no competitive process. This work can often lead to a sole-source, non-competitive contract.
Unsolicited proposals are documents that your company sends to a prospective client who hasn’t asked for one. They are not submitted in response to an RFP or an information request. Such proposals are typically created based on a market opportunity — often one that the client is either unaware of or hasn’t yet acted upon.
Proposals 14 min
Proposals 12 min
Document templates 15 min
How to Write a Great Business Proposal
You’ve finally started your business, selling a service or product to other businesses. How exciting! Perhaps you’ve received a request for a proposal, or maybe you’re ready to start doing cold outreach. Either way, you’ve realized you won’t be able to get clients to sign on to your services without a formal business proposal. You might be wondering what a business proposal is or how to write one.
A business proposal is a document sent by a business to a potential client. It’s a way for business-to-business companies to sell their services. While that might seem daunting, it’s actually pretty straightforward.
Thankfully, once you’ve written your first business proposal, you can duplicate it with variations and customize it as much as you want to save time in the future. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to writing your business proposal, and we’ve outlined an example. Say goodbye to overwhelm! Let’s start with the basics.
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What is a business proposal?
A business proposal is a document that presents one company’s products or services to another company in detail. Business proposals are often customized for the potential client. It’s a way for the company to market its product and get on the same page as its potential client before they agree to work together.
With all of this business jargon flying around, you might be wondering, “Is a business proposal different from a business plan?” The answer is yes. A business plan is a structured document that outlines a company’s objectives and how it plans to achieve them. A business proposal is a document that companies use to pitch and sell their products or services to other businesses.
Business-to-business companies (also called B2B) primarily use business proposals to sell their products to other businesses. Business-to-consumer, or B2C, companies use marketing to sell their products and services.
When do you need a business proposal?
If you’re a business-to-business company, a business proposal is the best format for soliciting new customers. Business proposals can be unsolicited or solicited. An unsolicited proposal is one that’s uninvited, submitted out of the blue. Unsolicited proposals are sent to drum up interest in a product, similar to a marketing brochure or cold email.
A solicited proposal is sent in response to a request for proposal (RFP); solicited proposals are typically customized for a project or to fit parameters created by a potential client.
Guidelines for writing a business proposal
A business proposal can be as short as a one-page letter or as long as you need to explain your product or service. However, your potential clients are likely busy, so keep it tight and focused.
A business proposal is typically formatted in a PDF document. You can add your brand’s colors, logos, figures, and more to the proposal to make it shine. The business proposal can be printed or delivered digitally in PDF form.
It’s recommended that business proposals be customized for both your business’s brand and each potential client. This shows your clients that you care about them, which is typically more persuasive than a generic, cookie-cutter proposal.
A business proposal should include the following information.
- Who you are and what your company offers
- The problem your potential client is facing
- The solution your company is offering
- How your company will execute the solution
- An estimate of the cost and time required to implement the solution
How to write a business proposal
Before you write your business proposal, you must get to know the potential client. You want to know what their pain points are so that you can speak to them throughout your proposal.
If they’ve sent you a request for proposal (RFP), read it thoroughly so that you understand their expectations. Additionally, you may want to schedule a discovery meeting to get to know their problems and objectives in as much detail as possible.
Once your research is complete, it’s time to create your business proposal. Every company and client is unique, so there’s no set way to write a business proposal. Despite that, there are some essential items you should include and a general format you may want to follow. Here’s a step-by-step approach to writing a business proposal.
1 Title Page
The first page of your business proposal will be a title page. This can include colors, images, and fonts that match your brand. The title page should include your business name, your name, the date you submitted the proposal, and the name of the potential client who will receive the proposal.
2 Table of contents
Your potential clients will likely be in a rush. To help them save time and navigate your proposal, it’s courteous to include a clean table of contents. Format your table of contents in an enumerated list. If your proposal is electronic, make the table of contents clickable so that it’s easier for your clients to find what they’re looking for.
3 Executive summary
An excellent executive summary will give the potential buyer a clear overview of what your company does and how you can serve them, even if they don’t go on to read the rest of the proposal. Aim to convey your executive summary in two to three thoughtful paragraphs.
This section should be a succinct overview of what your company does, what sets you apart from your competitors, why it’s the best solution for your potential client, and your company’s qualifications.
Less is more when it comes to the executive summary. Be clear, concise, and persuasive. You’ll know your summary is complete when you’ve answered the five W’ s—who, what, when, where, and why.
While this section is about you and your company, you should always consider the customer. Show them that you understand them and their needs . Consider this portion as a combination of an elevator pitch and a cover letter for your business.
4 Project details
The project details section is where you persuade the potential customer that you’re the right fit for them. You’ll outline the problem statement, propose a solution, and explain your qualifications.
First, lay out the problem statement. Your product or service is designed to solve a problem they’re having. Describe that problem. Be as specific as possible. Use your previous research to customize this section for the potential client you’re creating the proposal for.
Next, show them why you’re the perfect fit to solve their problems. How do you plan to deliver the solution? Detail the estimated timeline for your solution and any relevant details about deliverables, products, or services.
Last, explain why your company is qualified to deliver these solutions. What makes your business stand out ? If you can convey to the client that you’re bringing a unique or custom offer to the table, it can be more persuasive than an off-the-shelf option. Why should they trust you? If possible, quantify this with numbers of customers, awards , qualifications, or other relevant success.
5 Deliverables and milestones
This section is optional but can help as a visual aid for your potential client. Within the project details section, you can nest a chart that breaks down your deliverables and timeline. This will help set expectations for what you’re offering and when.
While it may feel uncomfortable, pricing your project within your proposal is necessary. There’s no way around it: Your clients have budgets, and they will be comparing prices. Break down each aspect of the project into individual components within the budget. This can make the pricing feel more manageable to the customer.
You may also want to include optional additional costs. Consider these add-ons. If you recommend specific services or products that you know would benefit that client’s specific situation, including these can showcase your expertise.
At the end of the budget portion, list the overall complete cost of the scope of work you’ve outlined. Include the payment schedule and payment terms as well.
The conclusion is the last chance to make a brief, compelling case . Distill the information you presented in the rest of your proposal into one final section. Describe how your client will find value in your service or product. Briefly mention your qualifications again. Then, prompt the client to take action by confirming your availability. By now, your proposal should have the client ready to work with you.
If this is a standardized proposal, make sure your contact information is easily available. If your proposal is customized, you can add the following few sections to encourage the client to accept your proposal and start working with you.
8 Terms and conditions
This section is optional. If you wrote a custom proposal that you expect your client to accept, include a section where the client can sign and date the proposal, accepting the terms you’ve presented. If you didn’t include it in the conclusion, you should list a brief overview of the project, including the overall timeline, payment schedule, and terms, so that the client understands what they’re agreeing to.
The appendix is a section for additional information. You don’t have to include an appendix, but if you have any supplemental information that doesn’t fit within the rest of the proposal, you can include it in the appendix.
You can even reference the appendix within the rest of your proposal to avoid disrupting the flow of other written sections. This is useful for statistics, figures, illustrations, information about your team, or other reference materials you want to share.
If you don’t have any additional information, omit the appendix.
Business proposal outline example
Below, you’ll find a succinct business proposal sample. This outline is designed so that each numbered point should fit on one page. But your business proposal can be as long or as short as you need it to be. You can put two items on one page for a short business proposal or use three pages for just one item; that’s up to you!
Your name, your business name, the name of the potential client’s company, and the date you sent the proposal.
2 Table of contents
An enumerated list of what’s inside your proposal.
3 Executive summary
A brief two to three paragraphs introducing your business and your proposed solution.
4 Project details
A persuasive section outlining the potential client’s problem, what you offer to alleviate the problem, and what your business’s qualifications are to solve that problem.
a. Problem statement b. Proposed solution c. Qualifications
5 Deliverables and timeline
When you plan to deliver each aspect of your solution plan, at a glance.
How much each aspect of your proposed solution will cost, and when payment for each will be due.
A brief summary of your proposal.
8 Terms and conditions
A clear and concise overview of your summary, payment structure, deliverables, and timeline that your potential client agrees to.
Any supporting items you want to include that didn’t fit within the body of the proposal, like facts, figures, testimonials, or case studies.
Business proposal FAQs
A business proposal is a document that presents a company’s products or services to another company, in detail.
What is the purpose of a business proposal?
A business proposal is a way to market a product or service to acquire new customers. A proposal also allows the providing company to get on the same page as their potential client before the two businesses agree to work together.
What should a business proposal include?
- An estimate of the cost and time needed to implement the solution