Before we discuss writing a business proposal, we need to look at the terminology and the process. After that will be tips to make your business proposal successful.
A business proposal is simply a written offer from a vendor to a prospective buyer. One of the processes begins with the buyer issuing a RFP, which is a Request for Proposal or an IFB, which is an Invitation for Bid. These are sent to many sellers and the seller who wins the bid is the one who fulfills all the requirements and has the lowest price. If you wind up on the short list of several vendors, you will be granted an interview.
Another process is an unsolicited business proposal. If you are a vendor that has a project or idea that needs funding, support, or a partnership, then your proposal is not part of the bidding process. You would need it to be very concise and straight to the point to make a good impression.
There is no set format or style in writing a business proposal. However, here are some useful tips to help your proposal stand out from the rest.
The purpose of a proposal is to persuade the reader to consider buying from you. Your explanations need to be clear, concise, and to the point. Do not have really long sentences, vague explanations and descriptions, and do not use buzzwords or slang. Your proposal may be reviewed by a committee, so keep technical writing and jargon to a minimum. The same goes for expressions and idioms. There is a global economy now, and your proposal may be read by a person for whom English is a second language. Keep it free of sayings and colloquialisms. Remember that you are not trying to impress the reader with your writing skills, but you are trying to communicate effectively.
Start with a title page that has graphics, the proposal recipient, project name, your company name and address, your copyright symbol, and the date.
Have the occasional table, chart, clipart, or logos throughout your proposal to make it more visually appealing. These can also help make facts easier to understand especially since most people learn visually better than through text alone.
Formatting needs to be visually interesting and make the presentation easy to read. This can be done a number of ways. One way is to leave a blank line between paragraphs. You do not want the page full of text. White space is good and can make reading and navigating easier. Use bullet points and highlight the main points with bold lettering or italics. Vary the font style and size to add emphasis to the work. Some people print the body of the text in the right two thirds of the page with the titles on the left. That leaves space for the reader to make notes.
Remember who, what, when, where, why, and how to cover all the bases when writing a business proposal. Who is doing and managing the work, who is responsible for what, and who does the customer contact if a problem arises? What needs to be done, what are the costs, what is needed, and what can the customer expect? When will the project start and end and when is payment due? Where will the work be done and where is the delivery made? Why should the customer pick you and why did you select certain approaches in the proposal? How will everything be done, how will you assure the customer is satisfied, how long will it take, and how will it benefit the customer?
Make sure your proposal is free of errors. Do not rely on spell check, as many words make other words when they are misspelled. Of course, there are special words to look out for, like to, too, and two, or their, there, and they’re.
Print out your proposal on good quality paper and take it to an office service store for backing and binding. It does not cost a lot, it will look professional, and you know what they say about first impressions.