May 3, 2023
10 min read

Mastering proposal writing: a guide to creating winning proposals

A comprehensive guide to writing a business proposal that impresses clients and closes deals
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An impressive proposal will help you close more deals and grow your business. However, creating one that closes more deals requires an understanding of how to create a good proposal. Unfortunately, many small businesses still operate on .doc files or clunky proposal software that gets them only so far. Repeating the same proposal outline without personalization and rounding up 3 - 4 different tools to get one proposal signed is an everyday practice. In this blog will explore the best way to write a business proposal.

How to write a proposal: A good proposal is essential for professional service providers and businesses to help attract clients, build trust, set clear expectations, and differentiate themselves from competitors.

  • Attract clients - A well-written proposal highlights your value and expertise to the potential client. It gives you a competitive edge to stand out, making it easy for your clients to understand why they must choose you. 
  • Build trust - A proposal represents you on behalf of your business. A well-done proposal can demonstrate your professionalism, attention to detail, and commitment to providing quality services.
  • Setting clear expectations - A good proposal outlines the scope of work, timelines, pricing, the team involved, and deliverables which help you and your client to be on the same page.
  • Differentiators - Showcase your expertise, value addition for the project, experience, testimonials, and approach to the challenge while writing a business proposal.
Pro tip: Create a realistic execution plan outlining milestones with timelines to show your potential clients what they can expect from you. 

Where do we begin? Start with getting your proposal template right.

You might be using a well-drafted proposal template or creating one from scratch - understand that a proposal template needs to be personalized and effective for the client you are sending and not necessarily have to stick to a template. Proposal software will allow you to customize a template on the go. [See how Cone Proposal-to-Payment pre-built templates work.] According to research, 69% of top teams use a dedicated Proposal software.1 So step back and think, "What matters to this client the most?" 

Pro tip: To help you stand out from your competitors, learn about your customer's pain points and expectations, and highlight how you can provide the right services and be aligned with them throughout your proposal.

Once you've got this, it's time to write a brand-new proposal. Even though proposal writing does not follow a format, it is essential to have general information. Let's approach writing a proposal step-by-step here, so you can take advantage of your next opportunity to close a deal! 

Porposal cover letter

What should be included in a business proposal?

A proposal should cover your company and services, explain the challenge and solution offered, timeline, and deliverables. Your business proposal can follow the below format:

  • Cover letter
  • Table of contents
  • Client information and Signing Authority
  • Engagement letter
  • Scope of work and deliverables
  • Services offered with pricing
  • Invoicing and billing
  • Terms and conditions

Let's cover each of the above pointers. 

Cover letter The goal of the cover letter is to grab potential clients' attention and make your proposal stand out from the competition. Research shows that 38.2% of the time is spent on introducing the proposal.2 So you must stop using a boilerplate template for a cover letter and write personalized, eye-catching content. A cover letter has only three components to keep in mind before writing.

  1. An introduction covering the client's challenges
  2. Body of the letter covering why your business is qualified (include testimonials, visuals)
  3. Conclusion covering how clients will overcome their challenges with you.
Pro tip: Highlight how your business is uniquely positioned to solve the clients' problems. Lay out a plan with milestones to solve their challenges, and showcase how you and your team are equipped to do it.

Recommended for writing proposal cover letter

  • Keep the cover letter to one page
  • Use your official letterhead for credibility 
  • Write in a conversational and clear tone, like a conversation
  • Highlight the client challenges and your unique strengths to mitigate the challenge
  • Address the proposal to the relevant people 
  • Make sure you find out the right signatory authority parties (accommodate for more than one signatory)

The table of contents is a self-explanatory page. In longer legal documents, a table will guide readers through the proposal quickly and efficiently. 

An engagement letter is a contract that should detail the scope of work, fees, and responsibilities. In addition, it sets clear expectations for both parties. Cone Proposal-to-Payment software gives you pre-built engagement letters, choose a template, and remember to personalize the content. 

Client information and Signing Authority are standard information (I'm sure) you already follow. However, it is always good to identify and address the decision-makers and signing authorities.

The scope of work and deliverables should be as detailed as possible. Focus on how you can clearly communicate the scope of work to help clients overcome the challenge presented and break down the services into smaller deliverables with timelines paired with the progress expected. 

Pro tip: Be as straightforward as possible when talking about deliverables. Position your deliverables against identified client challenges to make an impact on the reader. Keep the language simple. Technical jargon is a no.