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Crafting a Quality Business Proposal

The quality of a business proposal can make the difference between a new customer and someone who was almost a new customer. Knowing how to write a knock-out proposal is an art form, but it's an art form that you can master with the right information.

Know thy customer

"Know thy customer" is the first commandment for small businesses. You will never be able to meet your clients' needs until you understand what those needs are. When writing a business proposal, it is absolutely imperative that you have a solid understanding of how your clients think and what they need to accomplish their goals.

It's also important to have a clear understanding about the problem that needs to be solved. It's not enough to know that a prospective client needs to buy a color copier, you also need to know why they need to buy a color copier. Understand the situation and summarize it in the proposal to communicate to prospective clients that you know what you're talking about.

Know thyself

If "know thy customer" is the first commandment for small businesses, then the second is "know thyself."

Once you have identified your clients' needs and thought processes, you need to know exactly how your company is prepared to meet the needs.

What can you offer your client? How long will it take you to do it? How are you different from the competition? These are all questions that need to be answered in the proposal.
You should also plan to provide a brief history of your company in the proposal as well as other pertinent information about your business. This doesn't need to be long — in fact, it should be as succinct as possible. If you don't yet have a written "about our company" statement, then now may be the perfect time for you to get acquainted with your business and write one.

Use the client's language

The proposal is your chance to make a connection with a potential client. To do so, you will need to learn to speak your clients' language rather than assuming they will learn how to speak yours. Just like your company, your prospective client's company uses a specific corporate and industry lingo to communicate. As you assess the client's needs, you will learn to understand and even speak their "tongue." Use it in the proposal to give your client a sense that you will fit right in with their business.

Be professional

The highest level of professionalism needs to be maintained throughout the proposal. Spelling and grammar might not count in a company memo, but they do in a business proposal. The proposal can be formatted in a variety of ways ranging from a bound document to a loose-leaf folder. Whichever form you choose, just make sure it is appropriate and that it represents your company with dignity, poise and respect.