No matter whether you’re in charge of the whole chain or just one link in it, the success of your business depends on a steady flow of goods and a list of dependable, steady clients. Which means that, sooner or later, you will need to secure new contracts to maintain or—even better—to grow your business.
You can probably attract the attention of potential clients with basic brochures and a good website. But to actually land a contract or pitch a project, especially a big one, you will need to write a business proposal explaining how your operations can benefit the client or your company.
Writing a proposal is not difficult. You have one goal—to persuade your potential customer or partner that you can fulfill their needs or help them take advantage of an opportunity. The best way to do that is not to start off by bragging about yourself, but to frame the discussion in terms of your client’s needs or goals, and explain how you can meet them for everyone’s benefit.
Let’s work from the front to the back of a typical proposal. First, you need a Cover Letter to introduce yourself and explain why you’re sending a proposal now, and to provide your contact information. Then you need a Title Page to go on top of your proposal. Choose a descriptive name, like “Warehousing Opportunities for FGH Corporation,” “Proposal to Streamline Supply Chain Operations,” or “Efficient Packing and Shipping with ABT Services.” Next, you may need a Table of Contents or an Executive Summary (a list of your most important points), but you can come back and insert these after you’ve written the first draft if you like. These few pages form the introduction section of the proposal.
In the next section, you should describe the needs or the opportunity, as well as any requirements. To do this, put yourself in your potential client or partner’s position. What do they want or need? The ability to move goods from manufacturers to customers without intermediate warehousing? An efficient inventory control system that automatically orders products as they are sold? What are their goals or their problems? Do they have a backlog of orders they can’t fill fast enough? Do products get damaged in shipping because of shoddy packaging or incompetent handling? Or are they missing an opportunity to make operations more efficient or to expand their product line?
Whatever your potential client’s problems, needs, or opportunities, state them up front. Do a little research if you need to; it will pay off with a more successful proposal. Pages in this section will have titles like Needs Assessment, Opportunities, Challenges, Goals, and so forth.
|Proposal Pack Transportation #1|
If you're in the shipping business, you might need more specific pages with titles like Handling, Shipping, Import/Export, Global, Transportation, Routes, Warehousing, Logistics, Supply Chain, Channels, Vessels, Reverse Logistics, Delivery Details, and so forth. If you're in the warehousing business, you might have pages describing your Facilities or your Inventory Management system. Others might need topics like Purchasing, Procurement, Receiving, Requisitions, Returns, Customer Service, or Scheduling. Just pick all the topics you need to explain in detail what you propose to do and how it will benefit your client.
After you’ve described what you can do for the client, you need to convince the client that you are the right party to do for the job. In the final proposal section, you’ll describe your Company History or provide an About Us page, highlight your Experience and other Clients Served, explain any special Certifications or Training that are important, and include any Awards or Referrals or Testimonials you have received from others. If you offer a Guarantee of satisfaction, add that, too. Your goal is to conclude your proposal by convincing the reader that you can be trusted to follow through on all the promises you made in the earlier section.
So now you can see the structure of a business proposal—1) introduction; 2) statement of needs, problems, or opportunities; 3) description of how your services will meet those needs, solve those problems, or take advantage of those opportunities; and 4) a description of why you are the best pick for the job.
After you’ve written the first draft, hire someone to proofread each page. If your proposal contains a lot of punctuation and spelling errors, the reader may conclude that you are just as sloppy in your business practices. Take the time to make the pages look attractive, too. Consider using splashes of color in page borders or logos, and/or using special fonts or bullet points. These graphic touches can help a proposal stand out from the competition. When your proposal is perfect, send it out, and then be sure to follow up in a few days to make sure your potential client received that package and ask if there are any questions.
Using a product like Proposal Kit can make your proposal writing project go much more smoothly. Proposal Kit comes with hundreds of professionally formatted topic pages, including all those mentioned above. Each topic page has suggestions and examples of information to include for that topic—that’s a big head start over a blank page, and it helps to ensure that your proposal will be thorough.