Are you in the business of agriculture, or planning to get into it? If you’re running a big, established farm operation, you may be selling crops the traditional way, through brokers and middlemen, and see opportunities to pitch new ideas. Or you may be selling or servicing industrial farming equipment.
If you’re a small farmer or a specialty operation, or if you’re looking to start up such an organization, you’ll be searching for new customers, or funding, or both.
The best way to begin your quest is to learn how to write a business proposal. Writing a proposal doesn’t have to be hard. You know the business. You know what you want to do. The next question is: how well do you know your potential customer or funding organization? You need to keep that person or organization in mind at all times while writing your proposal, because (of course) your objective is to persuade them to do business with you.
How do you start off a proposal project? By writing a simple Cover Letter. Just introduce yourself and your proposal, explain what you’d like the recipient to do after reading the proposal, and provide all your contact information. Next, create a Title Page for your proposal. Choose a descriptive title, like “Funding Request to Start a Local Organic Farm,” “Plan to Increase Efficiency in the Smith Farm Operations,” or “Fresh Local Produce Delivery for Your Restaurant Chain.”
The next pages should be a description of what your potential customers or funders need and want. Put yourself in their position, and describe the need, as well as any limitations or deadlines you’re aware of. For example, markets may not be keeping up with the demand for kosher beef in your area; or perhaps there are no Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in your county, and customers are driving to the next county to buy produce subscriptions.
Pages in this section will have titles like Needs Assessment, Market Demand, Restrictions, Opportunities, Schedule, and so forth. If you are applying for funding to start or enlarge an operation, you may have received a checklist of items you need to provide, and you can insert that checklist here. Funding topics may include Funding Request, Use of Funds, Repayment Plan, and various financial topics that a lender will want to see.
After you have described the need or opportunity, it’s time to describe the solution by providing all the details about what you propose to do. This section could have any number of pages, based on your plans and ideas. For example, if you want to sell products to restaurants or stores, you’ll want to include pages describing your Products and their Availability, as well as explaining Costs and Distribution or Delivery Details. You might describe different Deals or Options, or tell about your Organic or Environmental practices. If you are starting a farming operation, you might describe your Project Plan and Schedule as well as your existing or needed Real Estate and Equipment. If you propose to provide a service to existing agricultural operations, such as Consulting, Packaging, Transportation, Training, or Services, then you’ll want to describe all the tasks you will do.
After you have thoroughly described the need or opportunity and your proposed solution, it’s time to describe why you can be trusted to deliver on your promises. In the final proposal section, you should describe your Company History, your Personnel or Team Members, your Expertise, and your Experience. If you’ve worked on similar Projects, add a page listing them. Include pages about any special Training or Credentials you have, as well as any Referrals or Testimonials that others have given you. If you’ve won Awards or have a list of special Achievements, you’ll want to put those in this final section, too. Remember that recognition by others is always more credible than bragging about yourself.
That’s it–now you understand that the basic structure of a business proposal is: introduce yourself and your plan, explain the needs/opportunities and requirements, then describe the solutions you propose that will meet that need or take advantage of that opportunity, and describe why you can be trusted to carry out your plan.
After you have written the first draft of your proposal, take the time to proofread and polish the wording and the appearance of all the pages. You want your proposal to represent you at your professional business best.
Want more guidance? Using a proposal kit writing package will give you a big head start on writing a proposal. A good proposal kit will come with hundreds of pre-written and designed topic pages, including all those mentioned above, and completed sample proposals you can check out for ideas.