The business proposal stage is a crucial phase of your agency’s relationship with a potential client. It’s also one of the toughest parts of winning new projects. Without a good bid, all your sales team’s efforts can easily end up in vain.
While it usually belongs to the list of un-billed hours, preparing a business proposal is a rigorous task. It takes intensive coordination between departments, thoughtful preparation of the scope and timelines, and placement of all data into an appealing visual form. All of this in record time, so that you can ship the proposal to the client as soon as possible.
Since crafting a winning proposal takes considerable time and effort, optimizing your process is key to success. Instead of starting from scratch each time, it’s best to work with a structure matched to your business. Using a template you can tweak for each new proposal will save your team precious hours.Since crafting a winning proposal takes considerable time and effort, optimizing your process is key to success. Click To Tweet
Whether you’re just creating your first proposals, or looking for ways to improve your bidding process, here are the most important tips that will help you secure clients with powerful proposals.
P.S. And the best part: Choose among 10 awesome templates to inspire your own business proposal format.
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Craft the structure of a winning business proposal
Creating a reusable template for your proposals starts with outlining the most important elements it should always contain. By carefully considering the specificities of your business, you can ensure that your client offers reflect them. The structure is crucial for your ability to present your suitability for the project to the prospect and to underline your agency’s know-how and skills.
What are the most important sections your proposal should have? They will vary from one industry to the next and will depend on the criteria of your clients. Still, there are elements that belong in a powerful proposal. Here they are.
Title page with visuals
First impressions count for business clients just like they do for consumers. The cover page of your proposal might not be the most important element in terms of logical arguments, but it definitely has an emotional impact. Make sure the design and visuals are captivating and match the style of your prospect. Show them from the first moment that your common work is all about them.
The summary should be short and to-the-point. It has to contain the preliminary information you gathered from meetings with the client. Typically, you need to provide an overview of the project’s goals, budget and timeline. You have to offer a quick description of your solutions, as well as your motivation for delivering services to this exact prospect.
The challenges and needs of your client
Just like the executive summary, this section is also based on your discovery meetings with the client. It should provide them with a succinct definition of the challenges they face. You should also focus on why the issue needs to be addressed now rather than later, as this can underline the sense of urgency.
This is a good place to include any statistics, interview quotes, and competitor comparisons. The more hard facts you can point out, the more solid your arguments will be. That’s how you can portray to the client the high relevance of their need in a persuasive form, and how easily they can reach optimal functioning with your help. You need to show them you understand the challenges they face even better than they do.
The solution and your approach to achieving it
The goal of a proposal is to show your solution to a problem the prospect wants to tackle. That’s why you should use extra care when crafting this section. Make sure you address every client’s need you have identified. Provide clear statements of how you will approach different aspects of the work.
If you’re bidding for a project, this is the place to define the different stages of the work you’ll undertake. In case it’s a proposal for an ongoing partnership, you can set a roadmap for the first few months and outline the services you will offer on a monthly basis.
Deliverables, timelines and metrics
Depending on your industry and the prospect’s needs, this section may be separate or may be combined with the solution in the previous part. In any case, you should provide a detailed list of the work that will be performed under the contract. The deliverables can be set out for the different project stages or on a monthly basis. Don’t forget to underline the benefit each deliverable will bring to the client.
You should also define a realistic timeline for completion of the work. Make sure you account for any potential pitfalls that can slow down the process. Outline any resources you will need from the client at different points in time so there are no slowdowns because of missing input from their side.
If you already have a good idea of how the process would look, you can also include metrics that will indicate the success of your work. It’s good to have an idea oh how much time spend on each task. That’s where an agency time tracking tool such as Hubstaff comes into play.
If you are aware of the financial restraints of your prospect, you will be better able to craft a budget section. But even if you aren’t, you need to include pricing information, as finances are a significant factor in the purchasing decision. Depending on the type of the project, you can include a fee summary, or you may need to break down the costs in a fee schedule.
Description of your agency
This is the place to showcase your company’s achievements, work ethics, style, and culture. While you can use the same text across proposals, it may pay off to craft this section with the specific client in mind. What part of your know-how are they interested in? Make sure to also describe practical aspects, such as what it is like to work with your agency. That’s how you can persuade the prospect with even more reasons to choose you as their business partner.
Testimonials and case studies
You will have to judge on a case-by-case basis whether you can include testimonials and case studies in a proposal. For some clients, such content may prove beneficial. In other cases, it might make your bid unnecessarily long.
Terms and conditions
Depending on the business, it may be useful to include a section with terms and conditions. Here you can outline any details about confidentiality, intellectual property, payment agreements, and contract statements. You may need legal help for drafting that section, but then you can reuse it for numerous proposals.
You can include a quick summary in the end as a courtesy to the prospect. They can easily use it as a reference for their decision-making process. It can include the scope of the proposed work and the main points the client should remember.
Get the right tools
If you’re running a design agency, the visual preparation of your business proposals will be a huge part of your success. But if you’re in a different industry and don’t have design talent in-house, or you’re short on time, here are a few useful tools that will help you craft a beautiful proposal. Besides offering great templates, they can also make the contract signing process easier.
Bidsketch is a top choice for a proposal tool that you’ll find seamless to use. It offers a number of different templates depending on your business field. You can easily change and rearrange the elements in the proposal. The clients can sign electronically, so the post-bid phase is also taken care of. The plans start at $23 per month with a 14-day free trial.
Proposify promises to help you close deals faster. You can choose among templates in six different industries. The tool offers metrics that show you how prospects have viewed your proposals, which can help you improve them over time. You can keep all relevant resources in Proposify, so crafting a proposal becomes faster and more efficient. The pricing starts at $25 per month.
With Proposable, you get a smart platform for creating and tracking proposals. You can use the drag and drop builder to switch around sections and take ready-made content from the library. You also get flexible estimates, analytics, and sales pipeline reporting. Customers can easily sign electronically. The plans start at $39 per month with a 14-day free trial.
Another great option for proposal software is Paperless Proposal. You can store all relevant content in a cloud repository, so you can create your proposals faster. The tool allows you to track the performance of your offers too. You can embed visuals and video to make them more interactive, and it’s fully integrated with your CRM tools.
With Qwilr, you get web-based proposals that truly catch the eye. You can easily embed all kinds of content from different platforms. The tool gives you detailed analytics, so you can see which sections of your proposals perform and which need improvement. You also get a quote tool for seamless pricing. There is a freemium limited to three projects, for which Qwilr keeps 1.5% of your transactions. The premium plans start at $39 per month and come with a ton of perks. You get unlimited projects, improved branding options, integration with a number of other work tools, and transaction fees as low as 0.25%.”
Besides being a great proposal tool, Osmosis also lets you create client questionnaires for the pre-proposal stage. You can then craft an offer in the form of a webpage that can be exported as a PDF by the client. Osmosis integrates with a number of other work tools, so you’ll find it easy to embed it in your workflow. Pricing starts at $19 per month with a 14-day free trial.
7 smart tips for making your proposal stand out
Using handy tools and following proven tactics about your proposals’ structure is great. But what can truly catch the attention of your prospects? Here are a few tips to go the extra mile.
#1. Design your own template structure
Learning from the ways other businesses are structuring their proposals is priceless. Yet it’s important that the structure of your business offers corresponds to your industry, the specificities of your company, and the needs of your clients. Don’t take any template as it is. Instead, make sure to build on it and truly make it yours.
#2. Research the prospect
Don’t forget to do your homework. Learn as much as you can about your potential client before you start crafting the proposal. Understand their business in as much detail as possible. Then your knowledge can shine through in the content of your offer and impress your prospect.
#3. Focus your proposal on the client
Make sure you don’t create a proposal that’s all about how good you are at what you do. The proposal should be tailored to your client. Instead of bragging about your accomplishments, talk about their needs and how your solution will make their lives better.Make sure you don’t create a proposal that’s all about how good you are at what you do. Click To Tweet
#4. Shed light on your unique strengths
While the advice about client-centricity holds true, don’t miss a chance to showcase that your solution is the most appropriate one for your client’s case. Demonstrate the unique powers that make you stand out from your competitors – whether it’s experience in the industry, a highly qualified team, or a great quality-to-price ratio.
#5. Include all important details…
Your prospects need to receive enough information to make a wise buying choice. Make sure you evaluate which aspects of the proposal are key to a client and elaborate sufficiently on the content there.
#6. …But still keep it short and sweet
At the same time, don’t go overboard with the length of your proposal. A 90-page offer may be off-putting even to the most seasoned business people. Keep your language succinct and eliminate repetitions. Focus on what’s truly important for sealing the deal.
#7. Triple check your proposal
Nobody likes to look unprofessional. Even if you’ve put a ton of effort into a proposal, one typo can ruin a good impression. Run your documents through more than one pair of eyes, even if time is a constraint.
10 awesome business proposal templates
Need some inspiration for your proposal template? Here are 10 great templates targeted at different industries and niches. They can fuel your own template creation so that you don’t miss a chance to impress your prospects with visuals and content.Here are 10 great templates targeted at different industries and niches. Click To Tweet
Start crafting great business proposals
Your agency’s business proposal process doesn’t need to be a drag. You can do your homework in advance by crafting proposal templates to give you a head start. Optimize your proposal workflow with a proposal tool. If in need of inspiration, make sure to check out some of the awesome templates shared above.
What’s your top tip for creating a successful business proposal? We’d love to hear about your insights! The comment section is all yours.