The Seven Habits Of Successful Business Proposals

Most businesses choose to hire contractors based on three things:

  • Their experience;
  • Their credentials (i.e. education);
  • Their business proposal.

Of these three key job-landing elements, only the proposal is completely within your control the minute you decide to bid on a job. The other two factors can only be built up gradually, over time.
So, if you want to land more gigs, the most obvious thing to start doing today is to begin writing better business proposals. But how?

Obviously, a lot of what makes a good proposal depends on the context (who you’re pitching too, what skills you have, etc).

But in my business career, I’ve noticed approximately 7 characteristics that almost all outstanding proposals share in common with each other. Not ALL winning proposals have ALL these characteristics, but most have at least 3; and by writing your business proposals to include all of these elements, you’ll increase your chances of landing a gig significantly.

It never hurts to work on improving your proposal writing skills, even when you are using Quote Roller by your side, and any investment in better proposals is guaranteed to pay off in the long run. So, here are the “7 Habits Of Successful Proposals,” as I’ve been able to identify them from my years of experience as a business owner:

1. Lead With Qualifications And Credentials

One of the biggest mistakes people make with business proposals is opening with some kind of branding statement like “I’m Joe, the Rastafarian web designer, making websites with SOUL since ’99.” The problem with these proposals is that they don’t explain what makes you qualified. It’s much better to open with something like “with a PhD in computer science from MIT, Joe is the best programmer in…” because this kind of statement conveys real value.

2. Show You Can Improve The Client’s Bottom Line

Most business clients hire outside contractors for one reason: to make money. Obviously, if you’re a carpenter or interior decorator, this might not apply as much, but for most professions it stands to reason that explaining to a potential client HOW you can help them increase revenues and profits, is the most effective way of landing a gig.

3. Include A Specific Quote If Possible

Most business owners don’t like to beat around the bush when it comes to money. If you spend 1000 hours describing how life-changing and innovative your services are without ever stating a specific quote, the client might think you’re priming them to raid their bank account down the line. Better to offer a specific quote up front, and also state that you’re willing to negotiate. As a side note, Quote Roller business proposal templates come with the option of including a quote along with your proposal, and working with Quote Roller proposal software will help you out tremendously with all the tips on this list.

4. Talk About The Client As Well As Yourself

Business Proposals: Talk About The Client As Well As Yourself

A business proposal that ONLY talks about you and your skills is going to sound pre-scripted, like you’re just mass-mailing the same message to everyone. If you take time to discuss the client’s business, and the details of their project, you will sound like you are more earnest, and more willing to work hard for your pay.

5. Highlight Any Relevant Experience You have

It goes without saying that if you’re bidding on (for example) a web design project for a school district, you would mention any experience you have designing websites for schools and related organizations. But this doesn’t mean you need to have school websites in your portfolio to play up your experience; just the fact that you took a course on web design for schools can be a huge asset.

6. Include Samples Of Relevant Work You’ve Done

It’s always a good idea to include a work sample along with your business proposal; the more closely it matches what the client is asking for, the better. Do not submit your entire portfolio unless it is specifically requested, however; most clients would rather just see one targeted piece that really matches exactly what they are looking for.

7. Close Your Business Proposal With A “P.S.”

Closing with a “P.S.” note is a classic sales writing technique to remind the reader of some key piece of information. When writing business proposals, it’s good to include a “P.S.” that reminds the reader to check out the samples you have attached, or to remind them of your contact details (e.g. “I’m available by phone at XXX-XXX-XXXX or by e-mail at”).

Check out more writing techniques in my Mastering the Art of Presenting Business Proposals: 4 Ingredients to Win post.

If you follow these general guidelines, you can’t go wrong with your business proposal writing. But remember, the best proposal is ultimately the one that’s written from a place of interest and expertise, and your own ability to tell prospective clients how you can add to their bottom line is ultimately what will make or break any pitch.

How do you make your proposals win? Please share with us in the comments.

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