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The Ultimate Guide to Building a Winning Proposal for E-Commerce Businesses

To put it simply, a business proposal is a document written and sent to your client to ensure them you’re the best for the given project. It needs to summarize what you can do for them, the way you can do it and the costs implied.

By approaching the right strategy when writing a proposal, you will increase your chances of closing the deal. In order to do so, you need to understand a few key aspects of the business proposal writing process, as well as gain some insight into the buyer. Keep in mind that each buyer is different. Therefore, an universal proposal for all your potential clients might not be a good idea. The following guide will teach you everything you need to know, in order to deliver the best possible proposal.

Formal vs. informal business proposals

Just like any written document, a business proposal can be either formal or informal. Usually, an informal business proposal only includes a few details about your solutions and pricing. When writing an informal proposal, you can consider submitting it in a short form, with the summarized solution and outlines of the project. A verbal statement or discussion with a potential buyer can also count as an informal proposal.

A formal proposal, on the other hand, includes more details. Make sure to include a cover page before going into the introduction and your comprehension of the issues. Afterwards, you can go ahead and explain your solution to the problem.

Best Proposal Software

Solicited vs. unsolicited business proposals

A solicited business proposal is requested by the client, usually with a request for proposal (RFP) or an Invitation for Bid (IFB). Usually, when a business needs a new product or service, they invite businesses to send proposals they can choose from. This can either be done verbally or through other media outlets. When businesses put out a request, they typically include a description of what the buyer wants, as well as the instructions or selection criteria.

An unsolicited business proposal comes from the proposer’s initiative. Its main goal is to attract the attention of a prospective client. Unsolicited proposals are quite general and revolve more on making the client acknowledge they have a problem that needs a solution. Since the client did not request the proposal, it has to be much more convincing.

Know your buyers

In order to get your buyers’ interest and earn their trust, you need to first understand what their issues are. Making a thorough analysis of the problem before offering any solution shows your level of interest and commitment.

Take the time to research the company’s history and background, before drawing up the proposal. This will show you what their values are, how they conduct business and what approaches you can take in order to appeal to them.

It will make a much better impression if you show them, throughout the proposal, that you know their business and their values. Give small, but meaningful examples that include some of their histories, to build trust. To know more about your customers, you should collect feedback creatively. For example: if you're an e-commerce business, using QR codes on shipped products can be used to collect feedback. These codes are fairly simple to use and can be easily made using the best QR code generators.

Identify the buyer’s pain point and establish how your business can fix it

The proposal should be shaped around solving those problems in the best possible way your company can and demonstrate to the client how your service or products can help them. The document should be focused on their needs and how you can best fulfill them.

Writing the proposal with the client’s needs in mind will help you highlight only the ideas that really appeal to them and will make the proposal feel more personal.

For example, when it comes to product sourcing and distribution, eCommerce businesses often have very unique challenges. A store that sells t-shirts online may have to deal with low margins but low shipping costs. On the other hand, a store that sells handcrafted porcelain cups may have high margins, but may also deal with high shipping insurance costs. If you are a logistics provider, your proposal to a t-shirt seller must talk about being affordable at low margins, while your proposal to a fragile goods supplier must talk about your tie-ups with insurance companies that can bring insurance costs down.

This builds up trust and will make the client feel more important. If you were to send out a general proposal, that would seem centered on your e-commerce activity only. It wouldn’t bring any value to the company and may end up looking more like an advertisement, rather than a proposal.

Start off with a compelling introduction…

The first two pages of the proposal should be the cover page, which includes your name, the business’ name, date and name of the client. Afterwards, you can go ahead and start with the introduction.

In the introduction, you should include a bit more detail about your company and its mission. Make sure it relates to your client’s needs, in order to build trust. Describe what differentiates your company from the competitors. Try to keep the introduction short and straight to the point, only focus on the information that is going to be relevant to the customer. For example, there is no need to mention your ecommerce sold a big number of books and boardgames last year if your client is only interested in office supplies.

…and draft a strategic executive summary

This is one of the most important parts of your proposal, as it includes a brief summary of the project and explains why you are the best option for the client. There is no need to summarize the entire content of your proposal here, but rather highlight the conclusions. Focus on the main outcome, how your company’s values translate on the service you are offering and the client's benefits.

The details should be dealt with in the body of the proposal, where you can include charts, pricing grid, timeline and more compelling reasons for them to do business with you.

Use a killer proposal template

In order to make a good impression and stay ahead of your competitors, make sure to use strong visuals. Focus on key elements, such as font, colour and layouts to draw attention towards the most important points of your proposal.

You can save some valuable time to focus on the content of the proposal, by using a professional proposal template. The main advantage of using a template is the fact that it outlines the most important parts of the proposal. The only thing left is to fill in the blanks.

Professional templates are created based on what clients actually want. For example, did you know that the majority of clients only look at the introduction and the pricing page? Well, professional template creators know that and are focusing on emphasizing the information on those two pages. They give your client exactly what they need in order to keep them interested.

Business Proposal Templates

Adapt the proposal length and style based on the scope of your project

While there is no actual rule regarding the length of the proposal, research has shown that the medium number should be 6 pages. If you are using a professional template, this means 6 sections.

In reality, the length of the proposal should be based on the type of service you are providing. If you are looking for a long-term business partnership, you will need to do a thorough research and include more details in the proposal. For short-term projects, a brief proposal should be enough.

Again, you should not focus on the number of the pages, but rather on including all the important sections. If you make sure to include all the important aspects, the proposal can be brief, yet very successful.

Show, don’t tell

Simply telling your buyer that your products can help solve their issues is not enough. You need to explain, with sufficient details, how you are planning on achieving those particular solutions. Make a point in explaining the steps you are going to take and guide them through the entire process.

Make sure to not over-promise and always set up the right expectations. Overstating can be extremely damaging for your entire business, as it shows you are not able to fulfil your promises. It is always better to under-promise and over-deliver, instead of the other way around.

When explaining the process of achieving a particular solution, make sure to include a few real success stories. What better way to show the client what you are capable of, than a real, successful story that showcases your company’s skills and abilities?

For example, you could show your Woocommerce or Shopify product reviews as well the references you have gathered from your clients through other channels. Enhancing your e-commerce store's appearance is essential. Consider utilizing Shopify theme customization services to make your brand stand out among competitors.

Proofread your proposal

As straight-forward as it sounds, appearance matters just as much as content. Make sure the proposal does not contain any grammatical or typographical errors before submitting it. While nobody is going to judge one small typographical error, several of those are going to leave quite a bad impression.

Make sure to proofread the proposal before pressing ‘send’. Double check every detail, including time lengths, prices and other numbers. Once you create your perfect proposal template, you’ll be able to send a winning proposal in minutes, especially with a proposal software.

Automate business proposal writing

In order to keep a competitive edge, automation has become key in the business world. Just like your ecommerce business probably automates most of the back-office work, the same can be done when writing a proposal.

For example, a platform such as Better Proposals offers a large variety of templates and proposal software that will make writing the proposal much more easy and professional. Their templates can be viewed on any type of device. They will make it easier for your client to read it even if they are not in the office.

The templates are customizable, to allow your business’ colours and values to shine. Plus, to make it look even more professional, you have the option to include your domain name in the proposal link. This way, the proposal looks like part of your website.

Follow-up on your business proposal

If you choose a web-based template, they will have the option to see if and when the client opened the proposal. You'll also be able to see what pages they spent the most time reading. This will help you gain an insight into what caught the client’s interest and include that in your follow-up email.

Make sure to remind them to contact you if they have any question and concerns. Moreover, answer their questions as clear as possible.

Estelle Liotard is a seasoned content writer and a blogger, with years of experience in different fields of marketing. She is a content editor at Trust My Paper and loves every second of it. Her passion is teaching people how to overcome digital marketing obstacles and help businesses communicate their messages to their customers. 

Adam Hempenstall's profile image
Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals. He started his first web design business at 14 and has since written four books and built an international movement around sending better proposals. Having helped his customers win $500,000,000 in the last 12 months alone, he’s launched the first ever Proposal University where he shares best practices on writing and designing proposals. He co-runs a once-a-year festival called UltraMeet and is a massive FC Barcelona fan.