A killer business proposal can be the difference between a brand that rakes in new clients and one that’s left twiddling its thumbs. A huge part of running a successful business is using your initiative, with a business proposal allowing you to go out and actively search for new clients.

We all know how powerful organic marketing, PPC, and building our brand visibility are for pulling in leads. But we also know that those things take time. If you want to generate leads for your business as quickly as possible, it’s time to find them yourself.

If you’re one of the 60+% of marketers struggling with generating leads, this guide is for you. We’ll dive into the craftsmanship behind writing a business proposal, documenting everything you need to know.

By the end of this article, you’ll be a business proposal expert.

Bar graph to show top marketing challenges, proving a need for a business proposal

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61% of marketing teams quote lead generation as their top challenge to overcome

What is a Business Proposal?

A business proposal is a document that clearly outlines how your products or services would benefit a specific user group. By researching what a user demographic needs, you can produce a business proposal covering their main pain points.

The final document will give potential customers an overview of your business, clearly documenting why your services could help them go forward.

Typically, there are two forms that you’ll find when creating these documents:

  • Unsolicited – If you find customers or businesses that you think could benefit from your platform or services, you can send them a cold message proposal and hope for a response.
  • Solicited – If a customer reaches out to you directly for more information, you’d respond by sending over a business proposal.

Although landing a new lead is almost always more probable when dealing with solicited business proposals, don’t overlook unsolicited ones altogether. Especially if your business is still young, it’s likely that you don’t have much brand visibility or a large online presence. Without this, it can be hard for new customers to find you.

Spreading the word via some well-placed unsolicited business proposals will help to get your services out there. While you’ll have a lower engagement and conversion rate, cold pitches can really work in your favor.

What To Include in a Business Proposal Outline

A strong business proposal is vital for generating new leads. If you want the best possible chance of capturing new customers’ attention, you will have to have a proposal that they can’t say no to.

Captivating, exciting, and thorough are the qualities you should aim for. Structurally, it should be fairly short; very few people will sit down and read a 25-page document. That’s especially the case if your proposal is unsolicited.

According to PandaDoc, the average proposal comes in at around nine pages. With that in mind, your business proposal outline should have the following structure:

  • Title Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Pain Points
  • Solutions
  • Pricing and Billing

Let’s break down each one of these sections.

Title Page of a Business Proposal

A business proposal will always start with a title page. This is a one-page spread that shows your company’s name and logo and contains light graphic design elements. You want to create an eye-catching document, helping to interest your audience right from the get-go.

To increase the sense of personalization, businesses will often include a ‘Presented by’ and ‘Presented to’ section on the title page. This is because 80% of customers prefer a tailored customer experience. Simply by amending these small details, you can create the sense that you’ve customized the entire proposal specifically for this person.

Graph to show the appeal of personalization for consumers, 90 finding it very_somewhat appealing]

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If you’re looking for a phenomenal platform to design your title page in, we can’t recommend Canva enough. With a range of intuitive tools, you’ll create a powerful first page in no time.

Table of Contents

Accessibility is key when delivering a great business proposal. You want to reduce friction wherever you can and create a seamless customer experience. A table of contents page is an effective way of doing this, helping clients to skip to the parts that they find most interesting.

As we suggested before, there’s only a small chance that your customers will read through the entire document. A well-structured TOC page allows your customers to navigate as easily as possible.

Executive Summary in a Business Proposal

Your executive summary should describe what your business does, what products and services you sell, and why you’re the very best candidate for the job at hand. Although that might seem like a difficult task, the key is to not overcomplicate things.

Summarize the ‘why’ behind your business. What problems did you notice in the world that your business now solves? After moving through this section, the reader should have a good understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and how you’re going to make their lives easier.

Many people believe that the executive summary is the most important part of a business proposal. While it’s definitely up there, we’re not so sure. In our era of low-attention spans, most readers just skip to the part that impacts them most, the solutions. Even so, it’s always good to nail this section.

Pain Points

The pain points section, also known as the problem areas, is where you explore the main issues that a client typically faces. Here, you’re showing that you understand the consumer and demonstrate that you clearly recognize their problems and know how to help.

This section is the one that will vary most across different business proposals. As you’re pitching to different user segments, you’ll change this part to reflect the specific pain points of that group. Understanding your audience is vital here. Without a thorough knowledge of what your customers need, you won’t be able to suggest the right solutions.

Pain points require the most research out of all the proposal segments. While the following section, solutions, will be equally as long, you’re already an expert in your own products and services, so you won’t need to spend time gathering information.

The lead generation process starts by finding out where your target market ‘lives’ on the web

– Wayne Davis

Solutions

Solutions are most people’s favorite part of a business proposal. First of all, you get to provide a creative solution to your customer’s problems. Beyond that, you can also show off your product and demonstrate exactly why people should partner with you.

Responding to the pain points you’ve already described, break them down one by one. For each problem, provide a concise product or service that you can offer. Remember to get to the point here – you don’t want to waste people’s time.

You can structure this section in one of two ways:

  • Problem by Problem – Move through each problem you’ve outlined, documenting exactly how your company will help a business overcome them.
  • Solution by Solution – Describe your solution and then explain the scenarios where the customer would benefit.

No matter how you decide to structure the solutions section of your business proposal, make clarity a priority.

As a bonus, using a graph or a table to bring your solutions to life can really hit home. Humans process images in only 13 milliseconds, around 60,000 x faster than reading text.

If you can use imagery to bring your solutions to life, this is the section to do it in. Most business owners will skip directly to this section, so it needs to be your very best section.

If we are going to be part of the solution, we have to engage the problems

 – Majora Carter

Pricing and Billing

At this point in your business proposal, you’ll have addressed the what, the why, and the how. Your clients should feel fairly convinced and confident in your business. The final hurdle is to list your pricing offers for them to select from. It’s time to make the sale.

Depending on the structure of your business, you might have anywhere from 1-10+ price packages. We recommend that you distill your products and services down into a few core options for them to choose from. Every business will have a different budget available. You might price some people out of a sale if you only have one package.

Having around three options allows people to select a package that works for them. You can then offer a range of add-on features for clients that want a more executive experience. A study done by Harvard Business School revealed that this strategy of price bundling can increase revenues by upwards of 20%.

Example of product bundling and offering a tiered system for driving sales in a business proposal-1

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What’s the Difference Between a Business Proposal and a Business Plan?

Business plan and business proposal are two terms that people commonly mistake for one enough. While they both involve your business and how it operates, they focus on different areas.

A business plan details the behind-the-scenes operations that go on at your business. In this document, you would include an overview of your revenue, how you make money, and the internal structures you follow. Most of the time, you’ll present a business plan when trying to secure funding or early investors.

On the other hand, a business proposal is a document that focuses on your services or products. This document will help you sell to clients by demonstrating how useful your offerings can be. It’s a sales document, intended to generate new leads and recurring clients.

Final Thoughts

You’ll need the best business proposal possible if you want to actively hunt for new leads. This guide gives you all the tools and structures you need to make a phenomenal final document.

Be sure to include everything we’ve detailed here, and you’ll routinely make perfect business proposals every single time. Best of luck with your pitching!