How to write an effective business proposal

It takes a lot more than a good idea for a proposal to be successful.

  • Personalize your proposal. Our free business proposal templates will shorten writing time so you can focus on what you’re selling rather than how you’re selling it. Make sure to customize our proposal examples for your client to avoid sounding generic or impersonal.
  • Follow instructions. If you’re responding to a request for proposal (RFP), make sure to follow every guideline you’ve been given. Double-check that you’ve met all requirements to prevent being dropped from consideration.
  • Focus on the client, not yourself. The client wants to know how you can help them become a better business, not how your company got started. Talk about your products or services only in the context of the client’s needs. They don’t need all the details — just the most relevant ones.
  • Speak to the client, not at them. Research their company to get a better understanding of what they’re looking for. Use their language, such as any company-specific keywords or acronyms. Try not to alienate the client with overly technical language or jargon. If you must use abstract terms, define them.
  • Be realistic. Set a reasonable timeline that you can actually stick to. Account for any obstacles that could potentially slow down your process. As much as you’d like to meet every expectation, don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
  • Stay true to your brand. Even though a successful business proposal is written for the client, your proposal should also reflect you and your company. Misleading the client into thinking your company is something it’s not will only lead to disappointment.
  • Be a good writer — or find someone who is. A proposal needs to be as persuasive as possible. Write in a professional tone that engages the audience while maintaining your brand. Use positive instead of negative words and active verbs instead of passive ones. Don’t confuse the client with complicated words or long sentences that you wouldn’t want to read yourself.
  • Keep your proposal short. Clients are less likely to read a long proposal, especially if they’re busy executives. Include nothing more than the information the client needs. Delete anything that doesn’t add value.
  • Proofread. Any typos or grammatical errors will tell the client that you didn’t take the extra step to give them a polished proposal. If you couldn’t do that, how can you deliver the best results when working with them?
This article is originally published on Jun 27, 2019, and updated on Jul 05, 2021.
Alannah is a copywriter at Jotform. When she's not writing about the easiest online form builder, she enjoys watching old movies, visiting art galleries, trying new beers, and petting as many cats as possible. You can get in touch with Alannah through her contact form.

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