writing business proposals


By Maple Dappa.

The question of whether you should write a business proposal or not is one that only you can ultimately answer, but I hope that the thoughts shared in this article will provide insights to guide you.

Let me first share an experience with you to lay the foundations and framework for my thoughts.

In 2020, a potential client requested a meeting with Mapemond Brand Consulting

They have been into oil & gas services and chemicals but wanted to diversify into the FMCG and e-commerce space.

They got a sole distribution deal with a foreign company to import certain products into Nigeria.

The task was to create a strategy that will be fully and seamlessly integrated into the parent company.

When we arrived at the meeting, the CEO handed over the proposal document of another competing firm to us. He said we should study it and come up with our own proposal of what we could do better. Due to the body language, we knew what was at play.

Typically, there are three different reasons why a client may request a proposal:

1. To get an articulated breakdown of what you can do for them and the cost implication.

2. To get you off their back.

3. To steal ideas from multiple sources and attempt to solve the problem by themselves.

This client belonged to category number 3.

The other firm did a great job with their proposal even though we had a far better edge when it came to distribution strategy, market penetration, access to resources, existing network, and brand strategy.

We asked the client what was his concern with the firm’s proposal, he was evasive with his response.

We wrote the proposal but withheld the key details and quoted higher than the other firm.

We were not keen to work with the client because the harmony needed between us and the client was already questionable from what we perceived and other pointers I can’t mention for confidentiality sake.

By the way, the other firm spent huge funds to do awesome graphic designs and top-notch printing of their proposal!

Several months have gone by and the project is yet to take off since the last we checked.

Anyway, if you have to submit proposals, don’t be desperate, read between the lines and protect your ideas.

Now to the question of whether you should write business proposals, note the following and decide for yourself.

1. Proposals are best for situations where you already have some form of contact with the client or you have an insider or a strong referral (except for instances where the procurement/contracting policy abhors such contact).

2. Unsolicited proposals are time wasters to a large extent, it’s best to invest more time in networking your way to the people you want to submit the proposal to.

3. If you are seeking sponsorship, get started with the project on your own first and gain significant traction with some level of media exposure. This is especially for NGOs and social impact ventures.

It works the other way round too, but give thought to these and apply as you deem fit.

Yes, we didn’t really answer the question, but if you ponder on the thoughts, you will decide what is best for you and your business.