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8 Ways to Make Your Business Proposal Stand Out
by Marc Prosser
June 13, 2024
Senior Black man presenting to group

When it comes to winning new customers, the proposal you put in front of potential clients is key. If you’re using the same template for each business proposal that you send out, you’re missing the opportunity to customize each one for maximum engagement and impact.

With a few tricks and tips, you can ensure that all of your business proposals knock the socks off of your soon-to-be customers!

1. Use Positive, Engaging Words

Most business proposals are incredibly boring. Yes, they cover the scope of a project and deliverables, but what stands out? What makes the potential client sit up and take notice?

It’s all about the words you use. Think about what the client wants to achieve with this project or in general. Maybe you talk about how you can help the client become a “trailblazer” or ”thought leader.” Maybe your solutions are “exclusive” or “innovative.”

Find those words that spark interest, and use them throughout your proposal.

Also, make sure you aren’t wasting space with filler words and phrases like “in total” or “very.” Stick to what you need to say, and keep it simple.

2. Keep It Short and Sweet

You might feel like the longer the proposal, the greater the likelihood that you’ll get the sale, but the opposite is true. If your business proposal can’t be read in eight minutes or less, it’s too long. Covering the basics (what the project is, what you will deliver, time and financial estimates, milestones, etc.) shouldn’t be more than a few pages. Any longer and your audience might glaze over while reading.

3. Know Your Audience’s Problem

You’re here to solve a problem for a potential client, so keep that problem at the center of your business proposal. Rather than focusing on all the cool things your product or solution can do, frame it in terms of how it will remove a headache for the client.

How will this solution make the client’s life or job easier? Will it save time or money? Streamline operations? Help them make more money? These benefits are more important than any features of your product, so leverage them.

4. Shine the Light on Your Process

Sorry to say, but you’re far from the only company who can solve this client’s particular problem. Your competitive advantage is in how you solve it. Outline your approach in the business proposal so your audience can understand why it’s unique and why it’s the best choice for them.

If you work with a highly-trained team, outline their experience and why it’s a boon for the client. If you turn work around lightning-fast, say so. Whatever makes you stand out in your industry, that’s what needs to be highlighted in this proposal.

5. Be Realistic

If you say you can complete the project in a week, you better be able to do that. It’s better to give yourself and your team a time buffer in case something comes up (sometimes it’s the client who actually causes a bottleneck, and yet you’ll still be blamed if you miss a deadline).

Build a few extra days into your deadlines in the proposal. That way, if you’re able to finish the work early, the client is surprised and delighted.

6. Detail the Costs

Many clients will balk at seeing large figures on the estimated cost without explanation. If you say the project will cost $5,000, what does that include? How do the numbers break down?

If you are estimating based on an assumed number of hours, say so. If you have fixed costs (website design: $2,500; website template: $100), itemize those to provide clarity to your potential client.

7. Make the Proposal Visually Appealing

While there’s no need to go overboard in the design department, a nice template with a colored header and subheaders can make your business proposal more enticing to read. If charts or graphs can support the information you include, feel free to add them. Always print in color!

8. Have Three People Read the Proposal Before You Send it

While certainly you should proofread the proposal, you may not catch errors or confusing points since you wrote the proposal. Ask three other people (employees, if you’ve got them; friends and family, if not) and ask them:

  • Is what I’m proposing clear?
  • Are there areas that need clarification?
  • Are there errors (spelling, grammatical, formatting, etc.)?
  • Would you say yes to the proposal?

Make edits as necessary and put your ego aside. Your objective is to make this proposal reader-friendly and compelling.

With the right verbiage and presentation, your business proposal can open doors to new business. Customize for each potential client to ensure you hit the mark with their need

About the author
Marc Prosser
Marc Prosser is the co-founder and publisher of Fit Small Business, a rapidly growing website that reaches over 600,000 small business readers a month. Started in 2013, Fit Small Business serves as the “Consumer Reports” for small business owners.
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