Writing Business Proposals

Cite this article as:"Writing Business Proposals," in The Business Professor, updated October 9, 2019, last accessed July 7, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/writing-business-proposals/.

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Proposals are how you present a business idea and let people know what you are capable of offering. It’s the first impression of the business world. Businesses, especially the branded ones, get a large number of proposals in a day. You can’t just present them with an ordinary idea and expect it to work out. Something has to stand out in your proposal to get them interested enough to even run through the page instead of just discarding it at the cover.
It can be a unique idea that can propel the business to a huge quantity of sales and better reputation, or a way of delivering the promised proposal that ensures that the business prospers in the long run.

Types of Business Proposal

  • Internal vs External – Internals proposals are made for purchases and changes made inside the company, and contain information about why they should be made. External Proposals are written versions of how one company can match the requirements of another. They are created for business purposes.
  • Solicited vs Unsolicited – Solicited proposals are the ones where a particular business either requests a company through verbal or written means to present them with a proposal, or opens a bid for the public formally through an open forum and decides on the one they like best, once the bid is closed.

A “request for proposal” (RFP), request for quotation (RFQ), and an invitation for bid (IFB), these are all various formals ways in which the government, businesses and industries solicit  proposals. In the case of RFP, they mention the exact product or service they’re willing to look through proposals, how to submit the proposal, and the criteria based on which the proposal shall be evaluated. RFQs focus more on cost, but products and services have some level of importance too. IRBs are often more service related, and look for labor and a specific time in which the work shall be done. Unsolicited proposals are when a business makes a proposal out of their own accord and presents it to the interested party to give an idea about what they’re capable of doing, and to gauge if anyone would be interested in going forward with the proposal.

Traditional Organization of a Proposal

The ultimate test of a proposal is its effectiveness in achieving its purpose. The task is to assemble the parts of a proposal in a way that persuades the reader to accept it. Technique: Prepare parts that you will later assemble as a whole report. Large proposals are generally written in teams, where each individual is responsible for writing a single portion.

  • Cover Page – This is the first page of the proposal statement, which contains the name of the preferred proposal, the name of the author or business which presents the proposal, the date from which the activities mentioned in the proposal shall start, and the name of the business the proposal is being sent to.
  • Executive Summary– Executive summary is the abstract version of the report in the form of a  proposal. It briefly states how the proposal can benefit the company and why it is essential.
  • Proposal– Write the actual proposal here. The Proposal will generally have the following sections:
    • Problem or Purpose – The problem to be addressed or the purpose of the proposal.
    • Scope – This is the extent of the goods and/or services to be provided under the proposal. You can place limits on what you propose to do or on what the material or equipment you sell can accomplish. Ex. “Areas Served”, “Limitations to Study”, “Where ____ Can be Used”
    • Methods or Procedures – How you will go about or carry out the value proposition being provided. The methods used to solve the problem or to conduct the business of the proposal should be spelled out in detail. All the steps necessary to meet the terms of the proposal and write them in sequence. Perhaps include a time schedule for the project.
    • Materials and Equipment – What will be required to successfully complete the project. Generally for larger proposals (Construction or R&D). Indicate the nature and quantities of materials and equipment to be used.. When materials and equipment constitute a major portion of the total cost, include prices. Much litigation results from cost overruns. When a contract are “Cost Plus ___ %”, then the major costs of materials, equipment, and labor/personnel must be thoroughly described and documented.
    • Timeline – A perfect map, preferably in visual form, of the day from which the activities of the proposal will commence and how it will end and on what date. Leave nothing out here.
    • Qualifications – What are the abilities, qualifications, and accomplishments of the company to carry about the proposed services. Your proposal must convince the potential buyer that you have the expertise to deliver what you have described and that you are a credible individual or company. Devote this section to presenting the specific qualification and special expertise of the personnel involved in the proposal. You may include past records of the bidder and the recommendations of its past customers, and the proposed cost.
    • Follow-Up and/or Evaluation – What will be the process for quality assurance? How will you follow up with the client regarding satisfaction with services provided. Be careful about promising certain results (that may be more than you can deliver).
    • Budget or Cost – What will be the budget for the project. Lay out all of the expected costs to be incurred. The budget or cost of the program should be detailed when materials, equipment, outside salaries, and travel are to be included.
    • Summary – Take out the main factors of the proposal and summarize them in a concise, comprehensive way so that the proposal  is easily understood by the recipient.
    • Supporting Documents – If the proposal requires supporting documentation, you will attach that here. When supporting material is necessary to the proposal, but would make it too bulky or detract from it, include the material as addenda. Ex. A bibliography and an appendix are examples of addenda items. Ex. Maps, questionnaires, letters of recommendation, and similar items.

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