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Here are the six steps to writing a successful business proposal:

1. Gather the Information You Need

When a hot business opportunity becomes available, you may feel pressure to get your proposal sent
over as soon as possible. While you certainly want to send it sooner rather than later, taking some time
to learn about the client and project first will help you craft a proposal that’s more likely to be accepted.
This will inform the key elements to include in your proposal and create a more accurate and effective
proposal that results in a closed deal.

For example, if a potential client has multiple offices/locations, you may need to visit more than one of
them before you can accurately assess the project. In this scenario, timing requires the right balance:
You don’t want to send a proposal prematurely—especially if you can’t accurately estimate costs—but
you also don’t want to send it too late and be beaten out by the competition.

Some of the key questions you need to answer before writing your proposal include:

Who are the buyers? The person you met may not be the final decision-maker. Consider who else may
be involved in the process. If possible, ask a prospect to describe their decision-making or approval

What is the pain point? Research your competition to identify potential weaknesses or gaps in their
offerings. If possible, ask the prospect questions about their past experience with similar products or
services, figuring out their major pain point and how you can solve it with your product or service

Is there a budget? Market studies can be a tool to help identify how much a typical prospect is willing to
spend. However, if possible, ask the prospect if they have a target price in mind or if there is a budget
for the project. Answering this question will also help you avoid wasting time on proposals that have no
chance for profit.

Is there a deadline? Many companies set internal deadlines for purchasing decisions in order to hit
production or launch schedules. Individuals may be more motivated to buy at certain times of year.
Again, ask questions if possible to identify a deadline that might impact their decision.

What is your best solution for their problem? Determine which of your offerings provides the most
benefit based on who the buyers are, what they need, what their pain points are, and their purchasing

What are your costs if the proposal is accepted? Calculate the costs, such as labor or materials, you will
incur as a result of your proposal, and estimate the total projected revenue for your company.
2. Outline the Scope of the Project

The scope of the project is the summary of its deliverables and should take features, functions, tasks,
costs, and schedule into consideration. This step will define the statement of work (or the “who, what,
where, when, how, and why”) as it pertains to your proposal and budgetary costs. While you can answer
these questions in your head, the better idea is to write them down as a separate note or record the
answers in your CRM before starting your proposal.

To outline the project’s scope, answer the following questions:

Who: Who will do the work, who will manage the work, who does the customer call if there is a

What: What needs to be done/delivered, what will be required to do it, what can the customer expect,
what will it cost them?

Where: Where will the work be done, where will it be delivered?

When: When will you start, when will key milestones be scheduled, when will the project be complete,
when is payment due?

How: How will be work be done, how will it be deployed, how will it be managed, how will you achieve
quality assurance and customer satisfaction, how will risks be mitigated, how long will it take, how will
the work benefit the customer?

Why: Why have you chosen the approaches and alternatives you have selected, why should the
customer select you?

Writing these out will give you a head start on your proposal, since these answers will make up the bulk
of your body. It also gives you final confirmation that you have the necessary resources to complete the
project—or it will point out any major snags before you get too invested.

3. Estimate Your Labor and Costs

Early on, you want to consider how much the project will cost—and thus, in turn, how much to charge
the client. As Andy from Science Retail told us, many businesses use a simple formula to estimate their
labor costs: Take a mental walk-through of the project and write down the realistic number of hours it
will take for each task. Add all of this up, and multiply it by 1.5.

In other words, if you estimate a project will take 10 hours, write it down as 15 hours in your proposal
(10 * 1.5 = 15). Why overestimate? Despite how it seems, this isn’t to squeeze any extra bucks out of the
customer. Rather, it’s because projects often have unexpected twists and turns. Adding this extra time
will help account for any potential snags and build in a contingency budget.
Plus, if everything goes smoothly and you wind up below your estimated hours, you can always offer
bonus work, or bill your client a lower amount. Both will make for very happy customers.

4. Start Drafting Your Business Proposal

Now it’s time to dive into the actual proposal document. Proposals tend to follow a loose formula. They
start with an introduction that summarizes your business and the project, followed by a body that
fleshes out all the detail (including a pricing table, photos and charts), and a conclusion that tells the
customer how to proceed.

We have developed a business proposal template you can download to help you get started. Including
the signature page, good business proposals should have between six and seven sections. Download our
template in either Google Slides or PowerPoint to get started.

Delving into this part of your proposal can certainly take a while. If your time is tight, you can always hire
a writer to flesh out your proposal or to just give it a final polish.

The six sections you should address in your business proposal include:

Section 1: Introduction

Start by introducing your company and mission in a way that relates to your potential client’s needs. You
can include a brief story that gives your client a feel for your brand’s character and helps build trust.
Highlight what distinguishes your company, your accomplishments, credentials, and any awards.

The length of your introduction should be a matter of common sense. If you’re proposing a one-day
carpet cleaning job, don’t spend more than few sentences describing your business. If your contract is
poised to last several years, however, you’ll probably need to spend a lot more time describing your
core business values. Nonetheless, try to always keep it under one page.

Section 2: Executive Summary

The executive summary is one of the most important sections in your proposal. This is where you should
present the case for why you are the right company for the job, and give the reader the takeaway
message of the proposal. You should not try to summarize every aspect of the proposal, but rather focus
on the conclusions you want the reader to reach after reading it.
Use direct, factual language that is objective and persuasive. This section should be also be kept under
one page.

Section 3: Table of Contents (optional)

A table of contents can be helpful for longer proposals with lots of details. List each section (and
subsection) with their corresponding page number.

In general, we recommend keeping your proposal as short as possible, so most proposals shouldn’t need
this extra section.

Section 4: Body

Once you have presented your overall case in the Executive Summary, you can outline the specifics of
your proposal. This is where you can answer the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” questions
that you identified in step two. Include information on scheduling, logistics, and pricing. You can use
data charts to illustrate key concepts and can also include testimonials from past clients and a link to
your website.

A good way to start is with the project details, including a pricing grid or breakdown of the timeline. A
pricing grid itemizes the products or services included in the proposal as well as their price and any
terms related to their delivery in an easy to read format.

Section 5: Conclusion

Once you have outlined the details of your proposal, re-emphasize the exceptional results your company
can provide. You should conclude with a call to action that encourages the reader to contact you or visit
your website for more information. Ideally, you want your client to take an immediate action, even if it
is something small.

Section 6: Appendix

The Appendix is an optional section that you can use to include information that might not fit well in the
body of your proposal. For example, you can include resumes or additional graphs, projections, and
customer testimonials.