Business proposal

A business proposal is a written document sent to a prospective client in order to obtain a contract to perform a specific piece of work

A business proposal offers a specific product or service to a potential client.

business-proposalThere are two types of business proposals; –

  • Solicited business proposals are submitted in response to an advertisement or request by the client.
  • Unsolicited proposals are submitted to potential clients although they have not requested a proposal.

Sometimes a request for proposal (RFP) is used if a large company is looking for sub-contractors, or a government or state department has decided to undertake a project and is seeking a company to fulfil its requirements.

In this case the body making the RFP will usually specify the information they require and the format in which it is to be delivered. They will usually be precise about specifications and timelines, and perhaps price.

Sometimes a business proposal is less formal and is effectively an outline plan from a supplier to a client. It can be instigated by either party. In this case the proposal has a similar function to a quote or an estimate.

It will be more commonly called a proposal though if it is an unusual purchase and requires specification of process and materials for example. It is still essentially a sales document.

A company sends a Business proposal document to a prospective client, outlining the service they are offering, and explaining why they are the best people for the job.

It is important to make sure this document is professionally presented. The client will inevitably form an opinion about the company making the proposal from its content and presentation.


Some industries will have a fairly standard format for a business proposal. The objective is to show that you your company can help your client achieve their objective for this project, and that you are the best company to do this.

The proposal document will vary according to the complexity of the project. It can be brief, and may simply be a letter.

Or it may be more complex, in which case there will usually be a cover letter which summarises the proposal, the proposer, their qualification for the work and the price.

The proposal document will follow a similar format to many other business documents and may include; –

  1. Cover page
  2. Table of Contents.
  3. Executive Summary.
  4. Statement of the work.
  5. Proposed solution / Approach
  6. Methodology
  7. Key personnel
  8. Qualifications.
  9. Timescale and milestones.
  10. Cost /price, Payment terms
  11. Legal issues.


  1. Cover page. Submission date, bidders name, company name, contact detail, name of the person and company requesting the proposal
  2. Table of Contents. If appropriate, for complex proposals
  3. Executive Summary. Use this to briefly promote /sell your business and your products /services.
  4. Statement of the work. Summarises how the bidder interprets the client’s objectives and specification. It is important to make clear in this section that you clearly understand the problem.
  5. Proposed solution / Approach. Summarizes how the bidder will achieve the client’s objectives. This section is the chance to reveal why this bid is superior to others, and the unique solution or strategy that will be used, so is very important.
  6. Methodology. Details of how the approach will be implemented. Beware of issues of commercial confidentiality if the idea needs to be protected. So give enough detail to win over the client and secure the contract, or at least their interest in further conversations, but no more.
  7. Key personnel. In some contracts this will be the most important aspect, so name them if appropriate, together with their proposed role.
  8. Qualifications. Supporting documentation – why this bidder should win on the basis of accreditations, qualifications, achievements and successful delivery of similar contracts.
  9. Timescale and milestones. These should be clearly shown in this section
  10. Cost/price, Payment terms. Present the proposed price and payment schedule
  11. Legal issues,if appropriate

Complex proposals can be very time consuming to produce, so as always, make sure you research and interpret the work and the client’s objectives carefully before you start to write anything.

There are available business proposal software programmes as well as Cloud based tools that will help to put together business proposals for your company.

Remember – Preparation is key to success.

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail!!