Writing effective proposals: A step-by-step guide for beginners

November 21, 2014

Writing a persuasive business proposal is always a daunting task, even for well-seasoned professionals. Still, with some careful planning and with the help of this practical, step-by-step guide, even beginners can devise a winning business plan that is workable, convincing and engaging.

Market analysis

An effective business proposal has to be supported by relevant data obtained from a thorough market research. The market climate is competitive and constantly shifting, which why conducting market research should always be the first step when writing a new business proposal. There are many ways to gather data for market research – surveys, interviews, focus groups, web resources and observation. The methods that you’re going to use depend largely on your target market, but as a general rule, you should focus primarily on the market size and current trends. This will help you make a better estimate of how the target market will grow and prepare a financial forecast that will convince the clients that your business proposal is worth the investment.

Outline and structure

Once you have collected and analyzed market data that will support your business plan, it is time to draw up an outline and figure out the structure of the proposal. Even for experienced business people, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated by the sheer amount of information that has to be taken into account when writing a proposal. This is why you should never skip this step and start writing before you have a skeleton framework for your business plan. Come up with an outline by noting dawn the main ideas of the proposal and then expand each one of them with additional points. Decide how to arrange the key points by using numbers to help you make an organized structure, and make your proposal benefit-oriented by focusing the most on those points that discuss your client’s needs.

Language and tone

Using the right language and getting the tone of your proposal just right is a crucial ingredient of a convincing proposal. The key thing to keep in mind is that an effective business proposal has to be unambiguous and easy to understand. The language should be clear, precise, and to-the-point. Avoid overly technical lingo and long-winded descriptive paragraphs, but also don’t use slang or make sarcastic jokes. Try to find a balance between a formal and informal tone to establish a conversational, but professional rapport with the client. Finally, check your proposal for any grammatical and stylistic errors or discriminatory language. No matter how good the content of the proposal might be, even one of these careless mistakes can leave a very bad impression on your client.

Executive summary

The executive summary is the most important part of a business proposal as it is the first thing the client will read. This is an introductory section of your proposal where you have the chance to grab your audience’s attention and spark their interest in reading the rest of your plan. Even though the summary is the first thing that comes after the title, it is best to leave it for last when writing the proposal. It is only once you plan is finalized that you can summarize it effectively and decide which main points are most likely to draw the clients in. Make the language of the summary clear and concise, and be as specific as possible. The focus of the executive summary should be on identifying the problems and giving a short overview of proposed solutions. Just like the rest of your proposal, the summary needs to show that you understand your clients’ needs and are prepared to meet them.


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