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What should be included in a business proposal?

What’s the hardest part about winning new clients? Some might say it’s lead generation, while others will say it’s prospecting. However, there is one part of the sales process that very few people like to do: write and send out sales proposals. Instead of being happy about having a new client that’s about to sign on, a lot of people stress for hours trying to write a compelling offer suited for a particular client.

Since we know how difficult writing a good business proposal can be, we have come up with tips on how to write proposals that will convert and turn prospects into customers. These insights are based on real facts we have gathered from researching how to write a business proposal, based on more than 189,000 signed proposals.

1. Don’t write from scratch every time

If it’s taking you hours to write a single business proposal because you approach it like you would be writing an essay, thinking each word and section through, you’ve made your first rookie mistake. While this may be a nice, thorough approach, it’s far from practical.

Instead, focus on creating a template that you can simply edit each time you pitch a new client. The template should contain all of the most important elements, along with a few sections (a type of service, pricing, terms, etc.) that you would edit and personalize for each client. Instead of spending six hours on a proposal, you can spend half an hour editing a proposal template and send it out. Easy work.

2. Get the most important details, then write an introduction

The reason why most proposals fail to get signed is not because they are poorly written (although that happens), it’s because the salesperson does not know the client well enough and their pain points. Before sitting down and writing your proposal, have a meeting or a call with the client. Find out what makes them tick and use that knowledge to write an introduction. Here you should state who you are, what you do, and how you will solve the client’s problem. The introduction is the first and most important part of the proposal, so make sure to spend enough time on it to make it compelling.

 

3. Get into the details

The second part of your proposal contains detailed specifications. This is where you get into the nuts and bolts of how you will solve the client’s problem. Presumably, the introduction got them hooked, and this is where you will show them you really know how to solve their pain point.

Next, your third section should contain timelines. Too many business owners get this part wrong and end up losing the deal or fighting deadlines they can’t manage, simply because they failed to include a timeline in the proposal. Be sure to clearly state what you will be able to do and by when. This also can be beneficial later in case there are disagreements.

 

4. Show them you can really get the job done

What’s the best way to demonstrate to a client you can create and design a great website for their restaurant? Show them examples of restaurant websites you’ve done before. And this should be your fourth section. In your template insert examples of work you’ve done before that are similar to what you’re proposing.

 

5. Ask for the money (and make an offer they can’t refuse)

Pricing is the fifth section of any good proposal, and it’s the part of the proposal that gets the second most attention. Pay attention to how you name this section. While calling it “price” is nice and straightforward, it will get your clients thinking of paying, instead of investing. To avoid this, call this section “investment” or “return on investment.”

While your price is dependent on the product or service you’re selling, according to our research, up-selling and options aren’t good for conversions. To reduce friction and make it easier for clients to sign, your pricing and offers should be simple and straightforward. Offering just one option is enough, and the client will have an easier time making a decision.

If you want to take it up a notch, you can include a section about guarantees—simply make a promise your client won’t be able to refuse. For example: “If I can’t build your restaurant website in two weeks, I will also design your menu and calling cards.” For the guarantee to work, you need to be aware of the workload and timelines.

6. Don’t make them guess what they have to do

If you can imagine the restaurant owner at the other end, he or she is probably thinking, “I have the details. I have proof they’ve done it before. The price is right. I even have a guarantee. Let me sign and then go play some golf while I wait for my new website!”—that is if you’ve told them exactly what to do.

In your sixth section, clearly, communicate what happens next if the client chooses to do business with you. For example, it could be sign the proposal, pay the first part of the invoice, arrange a kick-off call, send in the necessary materials, etc.

 

7. Get the legal stuff out of the way

You may think that a “Terms and Conditions” section is unnecessary, but it’s a great way for you and the client to know what happens if things don’t go exactly as planned. Having this section won’t hurt your conversions, and it won’t require too many changes in your template.

 

8. Send it out ASAP

Your proposal is done, and now it’s time to have the client read it and sign it. If you’ve had the meeting and written out your proposal (which hopefully didn’t take hours), send it out as soon as possible. As our research has shown, sending out the proposal within the first 24 hours makes it 14% more likely to be signed, compared to sending it out three to four days after your meeting.

In conclusion

Proposal writing doesn’t have to be a chore. Instead of taking hours to write a proposal to win a single client, prepare a template with the sections we have mentioned and you’ll hopefully win lots of new clients.

 

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