How To Write A Cover Letter For Project Proposal

While most people put a lot of effort into crafting their business proposal, often only a few minutes are spent on the cover letter, which is often relegated as a pesky formality. Unfortunately, people who dismiss the importance a business proposal cover letter are essentially missing out on a great opportunity to create an immediate connection with the potential client they are communicating with.

The cover letter is the hook of your business proposal

Since a business proposal (whether it is solicited or unsolicited) is essentially meant to sell a service/product, or at least lead up to a sale, your cover letter should be crafted for the express purpose of getting the buyer excited about the solution you are offering them (your product and/or service).

This is what your cover letter should accomplish:

1. At the very minimum, you want it to create enough curiosity to make the reader want to read your executive summary and your full business proposal. This way, your business gets enough facetime to convey and convince your prospective client why you have the best solution for their job/issue and that they should do business with your company.

It should be noted that creating your cover letter (and your business proposal) as a text document is quickly becoming out of date. If you really want to impress a prospective client and make your company stand out, create a digital multi-media business proposal using Paperless Proposal Software and have your cover letter be a personalized video from a top executive at your company, preferably your CEO or President.

2. You simply cannot discount the fact that many times it’s only your cover letter that gets read before the proposal is tossed aside. So, apart from the hook, your cover letter should also offer a summary of the information stated in your main business proposal.

However, remember that you have to be frugal with your words when drafting your cover letter. It should be short, to the point, and highly persuasive. You don’t want to bore the reader.

To ensure that you impress your reader instead of bore them, we recommend that you create a digital multi-media business proposal and use a short 1-2 minute personalized video instead of a cover letter. With Paperless Proposal Software, adding a personalized video to your digital business proposal is fast and easy.

The Business Cover Letter Mindset

Before you start writing the cover letter for your business proposal (or creating a cover letter introduction video), put yourself in the right mindset. Ask yourself what would you say to the reader/recipient of your business proposal if you only had 1-2 minutes of time to talk to him or her and win their business?

In this brief amount of time you have to get across the most important points about their requirements, the solution you can offer, and the end-result benefits your solution will provide to them. Write these down and you are ready to begin drafting your cover letter.

The nuts and bolts of a business proposal cover letter

  • Your cover letter should be written on business stationery in electronic format, or better yet, create a video. Note that printed, paper-based cover letters and business proposals are a thing of the past, so don’t use them. Instead, use a high-quality digital format business proposal such as the format used by Paperless Proposal Software.
  • If you are writing your cover letter instead of creating a video, the header should include the name of your company, your address, and your contact information.
  • Start by writing the name of the recipient (possibly with their designation), followed by the name and contact information of the recipient’s company.
  • Add the date.
  • Address the recipient as Dear Mr/Ms. if your communication with that person in the past was on formal terms and if your business proposal is unsolicited. On the other hand, if you know this person well, you can use their first name.
  • Close the letter with “Regards” or “Sincerely” depending on your association with the reader.

So, at this point, your cover letter should look something like this:

Your Company Name
1234, Bentree Complex, Addison Pkwy
Addison, TX 97692

(123) 555-1234  |  yourcompany.com  |  youremail@yourcompany.com

To,

Mr. Peter Coleman, CEO
Receiver Industry,
Carmichael Street.
Dallas, Texas 75248

March 1, 2018

Dear Mr. Coleman,

Sincerely,

Susan Davis

With the formatting out of the way (which was our step 1), you can now start working on the body of your cover letter. This is the information that you need to include in it (note that if you create a personalized video instead of a cover letter, these are still the items you should discuss):

Step 2: The Requirement/Problem

Why have they sought your help/service, or what is the problem that they have which you can help them solve? If the buyer has asked you to send them a business proposal, you can start the first paragraph by simply stating this. So, start with, “As per our discussion on so and so date…”   or, “As we discussed in our last meeting…” and then go on to state the issue/requirement in a single sentence.

If you share a good rapport with the recipient, you could also start with something like this, “We at Our Company are thrilled to have the chance to submit a proposal that will help your company solve XYZ problem.”

If you are sending an unsolicited business proposal, forego the formalities and use a hook right away. You need a truly explosive statement that will make your reader sit up and take notice. Nothing works better than a question or the monetary implications of a problem they have to evoke strong emotions. For example:

  • How would you like to lower the energy expenses of your manufacturing unit by 60% in 90 days?
  • An average company loses $1,000 every day on power wastage! Our solution eliminates that power waste.
  • How would you like to increase your sales by 40% in the next 6-months while lowering your marketing expenses?
  • Your costs your business 3 times more to acquire a new client than to keeping an existing customer. Our solution helps you increase your client retention by over 80%.

This should be the first paragraph of your cover letter. You can also introduce your product/service here in one sentence and quickly add a few words about how you have helped other companies in their industry achieve outstanding results. Here is an example of what we are going for:

Solicited proposal first paragraph: As per our discussion on February 12, we know that you are interested in moving to a more energy efficient manufacturing environment. Our company has over 15 years of experience in installing energy efficient manufacturing systems across a range of industrial sectors, and we have helped many of our clients reduce their energy costs by as much as 35%.

OR

We at Our Company are pleased to have the chance to submit a proposal to help your company lower its marketing costs while greatly increasing your marketing ROI by at least 30%.

In the accompanying proposal, we have outlined how we can help you progress from simply trying to acquire new clients to a powerful new dual approach that would help you increase the retention of your existing customers by over 80% and keep them loyal, while at the same time helping you to target and acquire new clients at a cost that is 30% less than your current new client acquisition costs.

Unsolicited proposal: How would you like to reduce yourmanufacturing energy costs by up to 35% within 60 days? For the last 15 years our company has been helping manufacturing companies in your industry significantly lower their use of electricity, saving them millions of dollars.

Step 3: Solution

Tell the reader what you can bring to the table here. Talk about the analysis that you conduct to gauge the problem and the solutions that you provide. The best formatting is to use a bullet list after a sentence or two of explanation on the analysis of their problem. This list should explain the goals that you intend to achieve through your product/service. This is what step 3 looks like:

We will analyze/have analyzed (as may be applicable) the complete marketing and sales process of your company and we have found that through the use of our service, your company will:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Increase marketing ROI by over 40%
  • Streamline your pre-sales and post-sales process
  • Target new client segments, including the untapped local client base, and lower your new client acquisition costs by over 20%

Step 4: The Benefits

Answer the all important question of why the recipient should be spending his/her precious time reading your proposal. Remember, this is not about highlighting the features of your product/service. In this section, you very clearly state what the recipient business will receive if they purchase your solution. Use something like:

By using this novel approach to marketing and sales, we can help your company increase revenue by over 40% while at the same time creating an optimal environment for the direct marketing of your future products.

So far, you should have no more than 2-3 paragraphs and a bullet list.

Your Qualifications (optional)

In the fourth paragraph, briefly state why and how your company is the most qualified to handle the issue that the receiver’s company has. For example, you could tell the reader that together your team has over 50 years of cumulative marketing experience, or that you have world-renowned industry experts on your team who have worked with leading marketing companies or Fortune 500 companies. However, don’t make lofty claims here. State the facts of what you can do, and don’t lie.

Step 5: A Call to Action

Finally, end your proposal cover letter (or video) by telling the reader what you want him/her to do next. This may be verbal encouragement to continue reading your full proposal or to get in touch with you to answer any questions they have or to request additional information. You could say something like this:

  • After you have reviewed the enclosed proposal, contact us at (123) 555-1234 so we may answer any questions that you have.
  • Our business proposal has in-depth information on what we have done to help several of our other clients in your industry, and the results we have achieved for them.
  • I will call you on Monday to discuss any questions you may have and the possibility of us working together. We are confident that we develop a personalized plan that perfectly suits the requirements of your company.

A few more thoughts about how to write a winning business proposal cover letter

1. Typically, you should not mention the cost of the service/product in your cover letter. There are two exceptions to this rule:

  • If your lower cost gives you a distinct advantage over the competition.
  • If your favorable pricing can sway the buying decision in your favor.

However, remember if you are using cost in your marketing strategy, it has to either be the lowest cost or offer the absolute best value (highest ROI). The last thing you want to do is tell the reader that you are the company with the most expensive solution/product as that may immediately get your company eliminated from the selection process.

2. Edit, and then edit again. There is simply no shortcut to this step. Read and reread your cover letter. Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors in your cover letter will project a bad image of unprofessionalism, which you don’t want, and is the kiss of death.

3. Keep your cover letter to one page.

4. Your cover letter should not be about your company. It should be about the client’s company and how you can solve a major problem they have or fulfill a major need they have. So, write from the perspective of the biggest benefit you will provide to them.

5. Do not make any claims that you cannot back up with proof in your business proposal.

The End Result

This is what your business proposal cover letter will look like after going following the above 5 step approach

Your Company Name
1234, Bentree Complex, Addison Pkwy
Addison, TX, 97692

(123) 555-1234  |  yourcompany.com  |  youremail@yourcompany.com

To,

Mr. Peter Coleman, CEO
Receiver Company,
Carmichael Street.
Dallas, Texas 75248

March 1, 2018

Dear Mr. Coleman,

We at XYZ Company are thrilled to have the opportunity to submit a proposal to help your company significantly lower its marketing costs. In the accompanying business proposal, we have outlined how we can help your company transform from simply trying to acquire new clients to a powerful new dual approach that will help you increase the retention of your existing customers by over 80% while at the same time targeting and acquiring new clients at a client acquisition cost that is 30% lower than you are spending now.

After a thorough analysis of your end-to-end marketing and sales process, we found that by incorporating our proprietary Dual Approach marketing System, we can help your company:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Enhance and leverage word of mouth marketing
  • Increase your marketing ROI by at least 40%
  • Streamline your pre-sales and post-sales process
  • Target new client segments, including an untapped local client base, and lower your new client acquisition costs by over 30%

By using this novel marketing and sales system, your company can increase revenues by almost 40% and create an optimal environment for the marketing of your future products.

The enclosed proposal includes in-depth information detailing how we have helped other companies in your space achieve their branding and marketing goals. You will also find examples of work we have done within your sector.

Call us at (123) 555-1234 if you have any questions or require further information. We are confident that we can create a personalized plan that suits the requirements of your company.

Sincerely,

Susan Davis

 

How to support your cover letter with an amazing business proposal

Now that you have a great cover letter or introduction video, you need to back it up with an impressive digital multi-media business proposal that helps you beat your competitors and win the client. With Paperless Proposal Software, you can easily add the following elements to your business proposal to help you win more clients:

1. Use a personalized video introduction instead of using a written cover letter. A personalized video introduction is much more impressive and effective at winning a client than using a written cover letter. When you use a personalized video introduction at the beginning of your business proposal instead of using a written cover letter, you will see that you will win far more clients.

2. Use client testimonial videos and client case study videos instead of using written testimonials and case studies. Again, video is a much more powerful and effective medium for grabbing the attention of your perspective clients and persuading them to hire you.

3. Paperless Proposal Software provides you with advanced business proposal analytics and tracking tools so you always know when and how many times your client opens your proposal, what pages they read, what videos they watch, how long they spend reading each page or watching each video, and who and how many times they share your business proposal with other people in their organization. Compare that to just sending your pdf proposal via email and not knowing if your client received it or even read it.

4. Paperless Proposal Software provides you with real-time notifications and alerts for immediate follow-up with your prospects so you know exactly when to contact them instead of guessing and not knowing when you should contact them.

5. Paperless Proposal Software provides you with Esignature, making it fast and easy for your prospect to sign and approve your proposal instead of them having to print, sign, scan, and email or fax your accepted proposal.

Click here to schedule a FREE Demo of Paperless Proposal Software

 

Want more?

Check out these sample business proposal cover letters from all over the Internet. Some of these follow the 5 step plan perfectly while others have skipped a step or two in keeping with their specific requirements/situation.

How to Write an Effective Grant Proposal Cover Letter

Make It Brief but Inviting

Although the guts of your grant proposal will take up most of your time and energy, don't short change your cover letter. Attention to the finer points of putting the proposal package together can make or break a funding request. Don't turn off your funder with a sloppy cover letter.

Mim Carlson and Tori O'Neal-McElrath, authors of Winning Grants, Step by Step, point out that the cover letter should:

  • introduce your organization to the correct person;
  • assure the funder that this project has the support of your board of directors;
  • and state what you are asking for...how much and for what.

When Do You Include a Cover Letter?

Use a cover letter for proposals to corporations and foundations, but not for federal or state grant applications. Those funders only want what they ask for. They rarely ask for a cover letter.

Attributes of a Good Cover Letter

Your cover letter should be:

  • brief
  • get to the point quickly
  • should not only repeat the information that is in the proposal
  • should tell the reader how well you understand the funder and how your grant fulfills the funder's requirements

Beverly A. Browning, the author of Grant Writing for Dummies, suggests that you write the cover letter after you've completed the entire proposal, and when you are in a reflective mood. Browning says:

"As you consider your great achievement (the finished funding request), let the creative, right side of your brain kick in and connect your feelings of accomplishment to the person who will help make your plans come true."

Formatting Your Cover Letter

Follow these basics, and you can't go wrong:

  1. Use your organization's letterhead. Put the same date on the cover letter that is on the completed grant application. That is the date you will send the grant proposal to the grantor. Using the same date makes all the documents in your proposal package consistent.
  1. For the inside address (goes at the top of the letter) use the foundation or corporate contact person's name and title, followed by the funding source's name, address, city, state, and zip code. Double check this information with a telephone call or an email. Such information changes frequently, so make sure you have the current name and address. Also, when you submit an electronic grant application, you may not know a particular name. 
  2. In your salutation, use "Dear" plus the personal title (Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., Messrs., etc.), followed by the last name. It is critical that you address the letter to a particular person. Call the foundation or corporate office to make sure you have the right person and the correct personal title. These details may seem unimportant, but they do matter.
  3. Your first paragraph should be short and focused. Introduce your organization (its legal name) and tell the funder how much money you are requesting and why. Include a sentence or two about what your organization does, and then include one research-based point that shows there is a need for what your organization does.
  4. Write one or two more brief paragraph. State your project's purpose and how it fits with the funder's mission or funding priorities. Include the fact that your board of directors fully supports the project.
  1. End your letter with a summarizing paragraph. Add what this funding partnership can mean for your project's target audience. You might want to include an invitation for a site visit as well.
  2. Use a closing such as "Sincerely."
  3. The letter should be signed by the executive director or the board president, or both. Below the signature, type the signer's first name, middle initial, last name, and job title. Although the ED or board president should sign the letter, do include the contact information for the best person to answer questions at the end of the last paragraph.
  4. At the bottom of the letter, include the word, "ENCLOSURE" (in all caps).

How Long Should the Cover Letter Be?

Most experts suggest that you limit your cover letter to one page with three or four paragraphs. Since the reader has an entire proposal to plow through, you don't want to make him or her impatient by having to read a long cover letter.

The tone and specifics of your cover letter may vary depending on whether you've been invited to submit a full proposal after sending a Letter of Inquiry (LOI), or if this project is your organization's first approach to this particular foundation.

Sample Cover Letter

Mary Smith, PhD
Program Officer
Community Foundation
4321 Common Lane
Some City, YZ 55555

Dear Dr. Smith:

The Some City Senior Center respectfully requests a grant of $50,000 for our Senior Latino Community Outreach Pilot Project.

As the largest senior center in Any County, serving over 450 seniors every day, we are aware of the changing demographics in our service area. And we are committed to growing and adapting our center to meet emerging needs. The Senior Latino Community Outreach Pilot Project will allow us to pilot a one-year effort to determine if our center can effectively:

  • provide comprehensive access to health and social services to seniors in the Latino communities served by our center, and
  •  raise and fully integrate the cultural competency of the board, staff, and volunteers of the Some City Senior Center.

Our board of directors is enthusiastic about this program and eager to launch it so we can become the most inclusive and culturally competent center for seniors in all of our communities that need these services. Should we find at the end of our pilot year that this program is, in fact, successful, our board has committed to including a portion of the project's yearly expenses into our annual operating budget so that the program becomes an integral part of our core services.

Through this project, the Center will become the primary referral given by Health Access Latinos, Families of Any County, and three community clinics within a fifteen-mile radius of our center. We will also accept referrals of Spanish-speaking seniors from any other community agency in our immediate service area.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. I will follow up with you in the next week to answer any questions you might have, as well as to learn whether we might meet with you to discuss the merits of our proposal. Meanwhile, should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Connie Jones, our Director of Development, at (555) 555-5555, x555, or cjones@scsc.org.

Sincerely,

Jane Lovely

Executive Director

ENCLOSURE

*Letter reprinted (with modifications) with permission from Winning Grants, Step by Step, Second Edition, Tori O'Neal-McElrath, Jossey-Bass, 2009.

3 Ways to Mess Up Your Cover Letter

  1. Writing too much.  A cover letter is not a dissertation, nor is it a full proposal. Keep it short and to the point Tip: Have someone else read it. Do they understand it? 
  2. Using big words. If you've been to graduate school, you learned to write in a complicated way.  Don't do that here. You're not trying to impress someone with your erudition. You only want to state your case as naturally as possible. If you don't know when you're overcomplicating your writing, use an app such as Hemingway. It will tell you when your sentences are hard to read and when you are too wordy.
  3. Making Grammatical Mistakes. If you're not sure of your grammar, don't take chances. Use the grammar check in WORD, and, also run your draft through an app such as Grammarly. There is a free version, but the paid version goes well beyond the typical necessary grammar check.

How Can You Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out?

Sad to say, but your grant proposal may be among hundreds or thousands that a typical foundation will see during an average year. Your cover letter can make the difference in making the cut to the next step towards funding. But how can you make it stand out?

Well, don't try anything "cute."  Foundation officials will not be impressed.  But you can include a paragraph about why your organization is the one that can best accomplish this mission. Survey your competition organizations and assess just how and where you excel.  That may be in the strength of your staff and volunteers, your experience with this particular problem, or the community support you enjoy.

You don't need to mention the names of competitors or criticize them.  Just highlight your strengths. This would be a good time to consult with others around the office. Pull a few people together and brainstorm how your nonprofit excels. 

Resources:

Storytelling for Grantseekers, Second Edition, Cheryl A. Clarke, Jossey-Bass, 2009, Buy from Amazon.

Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing and Writing Successful Proposals, 4th Edition, Tori O'Neal-McElrath, Jossey-Bass, 2008, Buy from Amazon

Grant Writing for Dummies, 5th Edition, Beverly A. Browning, Wiley, 2014. Buy from Amazon

Back to How to Write a Grant Proposal.

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