If you’ve never written a business proposal before, it can be very daunting, maybe even intimidating. But, not to worry, help is at hand!
This article is going to explain just how to write a business proposal, and spell out and explain all the standard business proposal terminology, so you know exactly what you’re doing.
Let’s kick things off by walking you through some of the basics before detailing the key elements of a business proposal, and what should be included in each of the various sections.
By the end of the article, when we reach the wrap up, you will feel sufficiently confident to start writing your business proposal.
Business Proposal Basics
A business proposal is basically a written offer from a seller of goods and/or services to a prospective sponsor.
The idea behind it is to put the buyer’s requirements in a context that favours the seller’s products and services, and at the same time also educates the buyer about the seller’s capability to satisfy their needs, and solve an issue for them.
How Best To Write A Business Proposal
Before you can begin to write the business proposal, you must first carry out all the necessary research, or at least be in receipt of a report on the matter at hand.
Sometimes business proposals are formally solicited, and other times they are more informal. But regardless of this, you must adhere to the correct tone of voice.
By this, I mean that you should maintain a professional tone at all times throughout the document. Even if you have already had informal conversations about the matters at hand, this is a business document and should be treated as such.
Even if you see the business proposal document as a mere formality, you should still adhere to proper business proposal writing, and ensure that you produce documents that will get your buyer 100% behind you and your organisation.
The effectiveness of the report will come down to how persuasive it is. And when you are able to put facts and figures to what you are saying, this can often help to provide a much more persuasive case.
Often, one of the most effective ways of writing a persuasive business proposal is to imagine that you are the buyer or sponsor with needs to address, and consider what would be the best possible solution for them, in line with their values.
Key Elements Of A Business Proposal
The most important details of the proposal should go on the cover page. This includes the project or proposal title, the date of submission, and the name of the project director.
Table Of Contents
Although not necessarily essential, a table of contents can be a particularly useful section to include in a business proposal, because it enables those using it to get to any particular section quickly and easily, which can be particularly valuable if it’s quite a lengthy proposal.
Abstract (also referred to as an Executive Summary)
This is arguably the most important part of your business proposal. This is because it summarises the entire project in just a handful of sentences.
This is often the first part of the proposal that a person will read, and in some cases it may even be the only part of the proposal that they read.
This can be a tricky section of the proposal to put together, because it requires you to succinctly explain the entire project in under a maximum of 250 words.
Within these max 250 words, you will have to:
- State what the problem is
- State how significant it is
- State the proposed solution
- State the objectives
- State the method
- Outline the anticipated outcomes.
It is important to be specific about these details, while at the same time being careful not to include so much detail that you exceed the 250 word count limit. Remember, it is strictly a summary, and not an introduction.
Some people like to write this section up last, so you know exactly what you’re going to say, while others like to begin this section early on to use as a guide to what they are going to write.
Statement Of Need
This section is your opportunity to argue why the issue so sorely requires addressing. Provide evidence of why this issue has become such a serious problem.
This is the section where you demonstrate your concerns about the issue, and persuade the reader that this issue has not been adequately addressed thus far.
Method / Project Description
This section is where you describe the proposed solution to the issue at hand, and is one of the more comprehensive sections, littered with specific details of what you suggest ought to be done to resolve the issue.
You should begin with highlighting the main idea being presented. And then take that idea further so that the reader understands exactly how that solution can be implemented in practice.
You should include the objectives of the proposal, and how they relate to the problem at hand, stating exactly how these objectives address the problem, and how they can be measured.
This section is where you spell out just what the intention is to resolve the issue and is basically the “how” of how this should come about. Lay out what actions are proposed to be carried out and how this will help to achieve the objectives.
In this section you can explain why your chosen method for solving the problem is the best method out there. Defend it. You can discuss other approaches and why they might be inappropriate or insufficient.
Personnel and Facilities (also referred to as Qualifications of Applicant Organisation)
You can also discuss why you or your organisation are best placed to carry out the proposed solution. For example by documenting similar work carried out previously.
You can identify specific personnel for the project, and why they are a good choice, and what facilities or tools you or your organization already has to hand to carry out the project.
This section will ideally include a timeline of activities, detailing how the proposed solution will progress over time, and at what point key objectives can be achieved.
You will also need to discuss just how you’re going to go about evaluating the proposed solution as it goes through the motions.
This is important because without evaluating the proposed idea and method against key performance indicators, it will be impossible to ascertain the effectiveness of the project at solving the issue.
Budget Explanation (also referred to as Budget Justification)
Here is where you detail all of the costs involved in the project. It should be arranged in categories, complete with a breakdown of how the costs were arrived at.
It should include the cost per item of supplies, salary rates of any personnel involved, and any other direct or indirect costs that may be incurred in carrying out the project.
The budget should be clear and easy to understand. And this means that wherever estimates are used in substitute for known costs, this should be made clear.
(It is beyond the scope of this article to describe how to go about putting this part of the business proposal together.)
This section is all about evidence that those personnel intended to carry out the project are fully capable of doing so. You can perhaps think of it as a CV summary.
This can take the form of biographical information, such as the achievements thus far from those to be involved or of the organisation as a whole. This serves to support the applicant’s credibility.
(Sometimes this information is included in the appendices rather than in the main body of the proposal.)
Other Support (also referred to as Current and Pending Support)
It may well be the case that you have already secured some support for the project in question, and this is the section where you can lay out the details.
The appendices section is basically a place to keep all the other relevant information for the proposal that is not already included in the body of the proposal, but may still be of interest to those perusing the proposal.
This may include such things as description of the facilities and equipment available, letters of support, letters of commitment, and so on.
So, at this point you should now have a good understanding of what is required in writing a business proposal, and also be in a position to make a start.
If this is your first time writing a business proposal, please do not be afraid to consult with your fellow colleagues, who will likely be more than happy to assist, and to provide you with all the details you need to complete your proposal.
If in the event that you do not feel confident to have the business proposal written internally, you may wish to consider outsourcing a proposal manager to support your proposal development needs.