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Business Proposal Writers

Updated on January 17, 2018
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Stephen Bush is the founder and CEO of AEX Commercial Financing Group. Steve obtained his MBA from UCLA and is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Business Proposal Writing
Business Proposal Writing

Writing Business Proposals

Business proposal writers should start with a practical realization that the process of business proposal writing is one of the best marketing and business development strategies available to any company. Despite this potential advantage, writing business proposals is overlooked by many small businesses.

Writing and communicating are both critical business skills that will contribute to overall business success. Effective business proposals provide perhaps the best possible example of these two skills blending together.

The current business and economic climate continues to provide immense challenges for most companies, and this seems particularly true for small businesses. Business proposal writing is one of several practical business solutions that small business owners should consider when confronting a practical need to develop additional sales and business opportunities.

Writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted.

— Jules Renard

Reduced Use of Writing Business Proposals

The art and science of business proposal writing has apparently suffered from attrition among many small businesses. Why?

Perhaps it is because of a perception that writing business proposals is a "low tech" strategy in a "high tech" environment. While this perception might be an accurate depiction of what some small business owners believe, the conclusion is incorrect. If anything, proposals are now viewed as more effective and popular by the companies and government agencies requesting them. As a society we might also tend to value something in writing more highly than a verbal claim because of an increasing frequency of fraudulent representations in both media and personal interactions. As many products and services sold by small businesses become more specialized and technical, a written business proposal can communicate the needed elements of detailed information and credibility.

Possibly it is due to more cost-effective business development strategies emerging during the past few years. It is true that proposal writing is labor-intensive and involves upfront expenses before a final sale is made. But when evaluating what needs to happen before finalizing a sale, for most companies there are fewer and fewer examples of no-cost transactions. Most marketing techniques have "hidden" costs in addition to the obvious costs. In comparison, writing business proposals has very few (if any) hidden costs and is generally ranked among the most cost effective methods for improving business development results.

Another possibility is that proposal writing is viewed as involving significant costs, time and effort in order to produce tangible results. Can this really be justified in today's cost-cutting climate in which downsizing efforts are constantly reinforcing an apparent goal of cutting payroll while simultaneously increasing sales? Yes! Tom Peters once wisely said that "No company ever downsized their way to greatness." Small businesses should spend as little time as possible emulating the cost-cutting labor practices of giant retailers and others. Do small businesses really have a long list of alternative business development techniques that do not require meaningful time, costs and effort?

Preventing Common Business Writing Mistakes

Small Business Owners Should Ask This Question

If our company does not use business proposals (or does not employ them effectively), what business development strategies will serve a similar role in increasing sales?

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

— Peter Drucker

Preparing a One-Page Proposal — and More Strategies to Increase Net Revenues

For many years I have advised my clients to use an executive summary that is limited to one page whenever possible for even the longest proposal. For unsolicited proposals, small businesses should plan on preparing a one-page proposal as the preliminary stage for a longer version.

Of course, one page is not enough in response to formal Requests for Proposals. But there are many instances in which "simpler and shorter" is in fact the best way to go.

An abbreviated approach is especially effective for unsolicited business proposals. In many cases, an unsolicited proposal will be the most successful strategy for new business development.

The business development strategies discussed above are not the only practical solutions when companies of all sizes need to increase their net income. While I strongly believe that business proposals (Plan B in this case) are among the most cost-effective alternatives, I am also a firm believer in multiple solutions to any business problem. Here are two additional approaches to consider. Both can be implemented most effectively in a dedicated business training strategy, but there are other realistic implementation options as well. Both of these suggested approaches should ideally be used together as they are highly connected to each other.

First (Plan C) is an aggressive expense and debt reduction strategy. While proposals can increase sales and operating revenues, reducing debt and expenses can have a similar impact by cutting cash outlays. While it is somewhat normal for many small businesses to react to a business slowdown by seeking additional working capital financing to bridge the cash flow gap, I strongly advise commercial borrowers to resist this temptation and to instead reduce business debt rather than increasing it.

Second (Plan D) is an equally aggressive emphasis on more effective business negotiating. For most companies of all sizes, there are usually eight to ten key areas that are prudent candidates for immediately reducing cash outlays by strategic business negotiations.

For either of these alternatives (expense/debt reduction and business negotiation), expert help can facilitate more timely results.

Improving Business Proposals
Improving Business Proposals

The Importance of Dealing With Zombie Business Problems

One More Thing: A Closing Observation

While the discussion above focuses on business proposals, the bigger question involves how much attention small business owners are currently devoting to business writing. My point is this: written correspondence of all kinds continues to have a monumental impact on how current and potential clients as well as suppliers, investors and business colleagues view your company. The all-important "first impression" of your business is often formulated after someone reads a case study, press release, white paper, blog post or extended article about your organization — frequently before seeing a solicited or unsolicited business proposal.

The "foundation" of any company's business writing efforts is represented by the "other" written content that precedes more formal documents such as business proposals. In your rush to do a better job of proposal writing, don't overlook the quality of business writing contained in these other public sources. If you fail to do so, you might unintentionally reduce your chances of being awarded new work via the proposal process.

Effective Business Proposals Can Help Improve the Bottom Line

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.

— James Michener
Improve Business Writing
Improve Business Writing

© 2013 Stephen Bush


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