The main key elements of a business proposal

An effective business proposal informs and persuades efficiently. It features many of the common elements of a report, but its emphasis on persuasion guides the overall presentation.

The Two Types of Business Proposals are

  • Solicited

Solicitations are indirect, open-bid to the public, and formally published for everyone to see. A request for proposal (RFP), request for quotation (RFQ), and invitation for bid (IFB) are common ways to solicit business proposals for business, industry, and the government.

  • Unsolicited

Unsolicited proposals are often regarded as marketing materials, intended more to stimulate interest for a follow-up contact than make direct sales.

Business Proposal Format

Cover Page Title page with name, title, date, and specific reference to request for proposal if applicable.
cover letter   A cover letter is that introduction. Include a one-liner about your company, brief background information about how your company came to be, and a short overview of what makes your company better than the rest. Make it friendly and encourage your reader to reach out with any questions.  
Executive Summary Like an abstract in a report, this is a one- or two-paragraph summary of the product or service and how it meets the requirements and exceeds expectations.
Background Discuss the history of your product, service, and/or company and consider focusing on the relationship between you and the potential buyer and/or similar companies.
Proposal The idea. Whowhatwherewhenwhy, and how. Make it clear and concise. Don’t waste words, and don’t exaggerate. Use clear, well-supported reasoning to demonstrate your product or service.
Market Analysis What currently exists in the marketplace, including competing products or services, and how does your solution compare?
Benefits How will the potential buyer benefit from the product or service? Be clear, concise, specific, and provide a comprehensive list of immediate, short, and long-term benefits to the company.
Timeline A clear presentation, often with visual aids, of the process, from start to finish, with specific, dated benchmarks noted.
Marketing Plan Delivery is often the greatest challenge for Web-based services—how will people learn about you? If you are bidding on a gross lot of foodservice supplies, this may not apply to you, but if an audience is required for success, you will need a marketing plan.
Finance What are the initial costs, when can revenue be anticipated, when will there be a return on investment (if applicable)? Again, the proposal may involve a one-time fixed cost, but if the product or service is to be delivered more than once, an extended financial plan noting costs across time is required.
Conclusion Like a speech or essay, restate your main points clearly. Tie them together with a common them and make your proposal memorable.