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Business Proposal Cover Letters Length

Your CV cover letter is both an introduction and a sales pitch. “It should show what sets this individual apart from all others,” advises Jeffrey Stansbury, vice chair of the Department of Craniofacial Biology at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in Aurora. Like any good sales pitch, your cover letter should motivate the customer to learn more about the product—in this case, you.

A good cover letter, like a good sales pitch, has several characteristics. First, like a good doctor, it does no harm: It avoids making a negative impression. Second, it demonstrates that the product suits the consumer's—your future employer's—specific needs. Third, it assures the customer that the quality of the product (you) is superb. Accomplishing all this is easier said than done. So how do you write a cover letter that will do you justice and earn an interview? First you need a plan.

If the cover letter is to be effective, it must definitely be tailored to the particular institution.

—Kenton Whitmire

The objective

“A successful candidate impresses the committee right off with the cover letter and makes the committee members actually want to dig through the CV and recommendation letters to pull out the details that start to validate the positive claims,” Stansbury says. “It also provides a glimpse into the applicant’s personality and gives some guidance as to whether or not they can communicate in an organized, effective way.”

One of the most important jobs of any good sales pitch is to avoid doing harm. Some cover letters inadvertently convey negative impressions of a candidate, especially if they “look sloppy or indicate an inability to communicate in English,” says H. Robert Horvitz, who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine and has chaired search committees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “These things can kill someone's chances," adds Kenton Whitmire, chemistry professor and former chair of the chemistry department at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Horvitz adds that cover letters “should be neat and professional,” and should fit on one page. Whitmire would allow applicants a bit more room: The letter, he says, should be “no longer than one to two pages.” To keep it short, “the cover letter should not reproduce the information in the CV, publications list, or other documents provided," Whitmire says, "but it should be used as a vehicle to highlight those things that the candidate believes will make him or her a good match for the position at hand.”

The match

An effective cover letter doesn't just emphasize your best qualities; it also shows how well those qualities are likely to mesh with the open position. “Applicants should begin by reading advertisements for faculty positions carefully and be sure that their background and goals are appropriate for the position in question. You lose credibility if you can't make a case that you fit the ad,” Whitmire says. “If the cover letter is to be effective, it must definitely be tailored to the particular institution.”

“There's no excuse for not writing a cover letter that shows how your education, experience, and interests fit with what the institution is seeking,” warns Julia Miller Vick, coauthor of the Academic Job Search Handbook, which is now in its fourth edition. “Not doing this would reflect laziness,” Horvitz observes. At best, Vick adds, “a form letter or one that is generic doesn't accomplish much and leaves how the application is reviewed completely up to the reviewing committee." At worst, a generic cover letter can make you seem undesirable.

“While many people applying for academic positions tend to think that the review process is an evaluation of their previous work—how good is it?—the issue that is as important is the match," Whitmire says. "How will this person fit in here? The former is necessary, but the decision to interview will often be made upon research area or some other measure of fit to the department's needs at that moment in time.”

Planning

Begin by learning about the department in general and the open position in particular. Department websites are a good starting point, but don't stop there. Go beyond the public information, and seek a sense of perspective. “It is best if candidates speak with their advisers and mentors to get some feel for the institution where they wish to apply,” Whitmire suggests. Close senior colleagues can serve the same purpose. Read beyond the job ad, and figure out what they're really looking for.

Once you've got a fix on the institution, the department, and the open position, ask yourself what abilities or special qualities a candidate needs to excel in that position. Then determine which of your qualifications and accomplishments will particularly interest this department. Think about your research plans, past research accomplishments, special projects, and previous employment.

What evidence can you put forward that your background and plans prepare you well for this opening? How well do your research interests match those described in the advertisement? How well will they complement the work of the current faculty? How will your presence there make the department better? All this information will determine what to emphasize in your cover letter.

Writing the body of the letter

Your research accomplishments and plans should constitute the body of your cover letter for a research university position. At institutions where teaching is the primary emphasis, your primary focus should be your teaching experience, philosophy, and goals—and the suitability of your research program to a teaching-focused environment.

“An outline of plans for teaching and research needs to be specific to be meaningful,” Stansbury says. Focus on your most important two or three examples of proposed research projects and innovative teaching plans, such as developing novel courses. These examples should change from one cover letter to another, as you customize your letters for different jobs.

The opening

After the body of your cover letter has been drafted, you come to the most critical step: writing an attention-getting introduction. Salespeople call this "having a handle." Your handle is what you offer that makes you especially well qualified for a particular faculty opening. For example, summarizing how well your research interests match the ones the department advertised provides an effective letter opening.

The opening paragraph should be short but more than one sentence. After you've captured the reader's attention with the handle, clearly but briefly summarize your most important—and relevant—qualifications. Anything less than a sharp focus and your readers will quickly lose interest and move on to the next application.

Closing the letter

End your letter decisively. Don't let it meander to an indefinite or weak close. A decisive close projects an image of you as assertive, confident, and decisive. It never hurts to close by requesting an interview.

Editing

Make your cover letter an example of your best writing by editing it carefully. It must be easy to read. Focus and clarity of expression in your letter imply focus and clarity of thought—very desirable qualities in a faculty member.

Then return to the critical issue: whether your research interests, other qualifications, and personality meet the search committee’s requirements. Anything that doesn’t accentuate the match should be deleted ruthlessly.

Now, set your letter aside for a day or two before editing it again. The detachment you gain from this short break will help you see what you've written more clearly. Detachment makes it easier to determine whether your paragraphs flow smoothly from one to the next. The logic that seemed so obvious when you were writing may seem much less so a day or two later. Carefully review both your cover letter and your CV to be sure the information in them is perfectly consistent. Often, a committee won't bother to try to resolve any discrepancies they find; they'll just move on to the next application.

Finally, Whitmire advises, “be sure to have your cover letter reviewed by someone [who] can be trusted and who has experience. Often, getting a second opinion about how something sounds to the reader—i.e., what they got from reading the letter, not what you intended in writing it—can be very valuable.”

This article is an updated version of an article originally published on 10 March 2006.

doi:10.1126/science.caredit.a1400199

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John K. Borchardt

John K. Borchardt has a Ph.D. in chemistry. He is the author of the book Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.

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.