Proposals of every type can be intimidating. However, business-to-business, or B2B proposals, are particularly high pressure. Think about it … You’re sending a presentation, encouraging someone to choose you and hoping that they will see the value and why you’re the best fit for a particular job.
Writing a business proposal requires, first of all, an understanding of the potential client’s problem. If you are responding to an RFP, you have a head start. However, that’s not always the case. If you’re creating a proactive proposal, creating personas based on the type of business you want to win can be helpful. When you find the pain point of the business you want to work with, everything becomes more manageable.
However, keep in mind that even the most well-presented solutions can get rejected due to several reasons. Today, our job is to explore the strategy to write proposals that get ‘Yes” as an answer. We’ll start with the basic structure of a B2B proposal, then I’ll offer 8 easy steps to help you build a perfect proposal as well as quick tips. So, let’s begin.
To start writing a B2B proposal, begin as you would for any other writing project — gather all the necessary information. When I say information, I mean anything you can find about the client and the industry.
It can be rewarding for you to solve problems in their industry or discuss current trends as this will paint you as an authoritative industry expert. Another element to add to your toolbox is what separates your company from the market competitors. Keep these differentiators in mind throughout the proposal process to ensure the buyer knows why they should pick you. Finally, you may find it helpful to create a business proposal outline to guide your efforts.
3 things your buyer wants to know
Building a business proposal can vary based on industry, company size, and many other factors. In any case, certain elements are always crucial. The following three factors are what the recipient will focus on when receiving your proposal:
Information about your company: Who are you, your testimonials and what makes you different from your competitors.
Expertise on a particular problem: Show that you’ve done your research, but you are also open to listening.
Methodology and pricing: How exactly are you going to solve the client’s problem, and how much will it cost?
We’ll take a look at an example of a social media agency proposal below, but remember that the basic structure applies to just about any B2B proposal.
Here are the 8 steps of a business proposal
Whether you create your proposal manually or automate the process with RFP software, following these 8 steps will ensure you cover all your bases in your B2B proposal.
Step 1. Title page
This includes necessary information, like your company logo, your company’s name, contact information, a title and your client’s name. It should be organized and have a simple design.
For example, your title page could look something like this:
Step 2. A cover letter
Introducing your business is the first priority after the title page. Your potential customer can’t dive into project specifics without knowing who you are and what you stand for.
Use the proposal cover letter to introduce yourself, your background and highlight why you’re the right choice.
Encourage your recipient to reach out with any questions and make it friendly. Keep it formal but personal and close your cover letter with a thank you and your signature.
B2B cover letter example
To better understand what a cover letter should look like, here is an example:
Thank you for considering “your_business” for your social media needs. I’m excited to have the opportunity to connect so that my team and I could clearly understand your social marketing plan and expectations.
We specialize in working with automotive companies in the Delaware area and got started when an agent asked us to come up with a social media campaign back in 2002. It was a huge success, and the owner was able to double his sales in two months.
Unlike our competition, we approach social media marketing by looking at your target market, core values, and best practices to craft a compelling message that resonates directly with your audience.
By implementing social media tactics and using procedures based on a study of social media marketing trends and extensive analysis results, we are confident in our ability to achieve great results through your social media.
Our proposal provides the complete social media marketing package to help your business grow and meet its digital world goals.
Let me know if you have further questions. I would be more than happy to discuss them with you. My contact information is below.
Including a table of contents can help with your proposal’s overall structure and provide a more concise result. It helps readers understand what to expect and where to find it in the document.
If you send the B2B proposal electronically, you can have a clickable table of contents to make the user experience better. This step applies when you have a proposal on multiple pages. In any other case with smaller proposals, a table of contents is not necessary.
Step 4. Executive summary
Here is your chance to shine by setting the proposal’s tone and purpose. The executive summary gives the customer key information — why are you reaching out, and why should the client be interested in reading it? Make it relevant, engaging and highlight the client’s problem you are about to solve.
Let’s see a brief example:
This proposal outlines a detailed plan with the intent of building your social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Our team creates brand awareness through these social media channels, drive more traffic to the website, and increase your company’s reach.
Our team helps automotive businesses come closer to their ideal customers through:
Creating an engaging content marketing strategy
Posting industry-related updates
Social media campaigns and promotions
Your executive summary shifts depending on the industries and the customer’s needs. You can have a different approach in the tone of your summary based on the recipient.
The sales proposal itself is an expanded version of the executive summary. By that, I mean that here you detail the solution you are offering and the outcome you expect from this project. Focus on the benefits to the customer. Remember to address their specific needs and highlight how you solve their problems.
Always provide a timeframe and next steps so the customer knows how to move forward with your business. Follow this structure and address once again why you are the one for the job.
Step 6. Services and methodology
The proposal section is an overview of the solution your company offered for the potential client. This section gets into the specifics of how you will execute your plan. Take them through the process so they know what they’re signing on for when they hire you.
Describe precisely what the deliverables are and have a timetable that pairs deliverables with their expected date. This can make your proposal more visually appealing.
Example of services and methodology section of a B2B proposal
To better understand this crucial step, here is an example using our social media service scenario:
Creating an engaging content marketing strategy
Beginning with content marketing plan planning, our team will plan out a dynamic, ongoing social content calendar to achieve your goals.
We will grow a loyal audience with: use of keywords, hashtags, sharing/retweeting relevant news, “liking” posts and contributing content to expand reach within the industry.
Posting industry-related updates
We will monitor industry trends, share them and engage with your audience by sharing press releases, company news, events and more. To further improve conversions, we will create a newsletter to ensure that we grow a loyal audience base via email.
Social media campaigns and promotions
Social channels connect with your follower base and engaging them with promotions so they get excited about current events and the brand itself.
Depending on the campaign, they can last from one day up to six months. Then, our team analyzes the results from each campaign and provides a report of its success. All the campaigns’ data are compared so the most effective promotions, contests or offers can be replicated.
It is essential to maintain marketing activity for maximum growth. We monitor each channel and respond to any comments, questions and posts within two hours. This window of time allows us to confirm that we have accurate information for any question.
Our team provides you with daily and weekly analytics, such as follower growth, demographics, reach and more. We combine all these elements with reports summarizing all the results over each quarter. Subsequently, we hold a meeting with you to optimize our approach accordingly.
There are many ways you can craft your proposal. In fact, it may be totally different from this example. Certainly it will depend on your writing skills and the services you provide. Having this as a framework will ensure that you are on the right track to add any necessary details for you specifically.
Step 7. About us
The about us page is the section in which you can humanize your business. People trust people, and although we covered most of our business capabilities in the cover letter, here we can expand on the team members. Here’s an example of what that might look like.
Add brief bios and photos of the people in your team that will work on this project. Include information about past successes, social proof or even awards. In addition, include testimonials from other clients or even case studies.
Step 8. Pricing
This section is self-explanatory. Create a pricing table with all the products and services you offer and pair them with a price.
If you send your proposal electronically, a great way to take it to the next level is to have an interactive pricing table. This table will calculate the total cost depending on the products or services that a client chooses.
Bonus quick tips to improve your B2B proposal writing
A well-crafted proposal needs to engage the potential client and guide them to find all the crucial information easily. Here are some tactics to help you:
Use visuals to help the reader understand quicker what you are trying to say. It can be infographics, pie charts, or even headshots of your team in your About Us section.
Include quantitative data that can encourage the client to diminish possible objections. Social proof is a great way to add value and create a proposal that converts. Also, figures catch the eye and help build a better relationship and trust.
Send your proposal electronically to leverage the power of the digital world. By doing this, you can include clickable links, videos about your product or service, or even help your client sign electronically.
Always check your proposal before you hit send. You want your first impressions with a new client to be ideal so avoid typos or grammar mistakes. Typos send the wrong message that you don’t pay attention to details.
B2B proposals are essential to get your message across to other businesses. A well-crafted proposal needs to follow specific guidelines so that the recipient has a clear understanding of what you are offering. Visuals, data and structure play a vital role in the effectiveness of a proposal.
Follow the steps above and start improving your next B2B proposal to build the best relationship possible even before the first meeting. Remember that depending on the industry you are in, you may change different elements to make your proposal more specific to your niche.