What is a Business Proposal?

What is a business proposal? So, let’s say you’re out in the business world and you are a shaker and a mover. You’ve landed a job as the director of sales for a huge landscaping company and you’re making contacts all over the place.

One night, you’re attending a fancy-shmancy fundraiser for the Humane Society. Lo and behold, you find yourself sitting at the table with the Mayor of the city. He tells you they are planning on building a new park and need to find a good, affordable landscaper.

You say, “Hey, I do landscaping!” The Mayor says, “Great! Send me a business proposal.” Then, as you’re cutting into your $500 per plate chicken parmesan, you find yourself wondering what the heck a business proposal is. Anxiety sets in.

What Is a Business Proposal?

Basically, a business proposal is a sales document. It’s more than just an estimate of how much a job would cost. Business proposals are meant for the really big, high priced jobs where a lot of work will be involved. It details what is to be done on the project, how you plan on doing it, what the cost will be, and why your company is best suited for the job.

Elements of a Business Proposal

While there aren’t any strict rules as far as what a business proposal should include, there are certain elements that any recipient would expect.

  • Cover letter
  • Title page
  • Table of contents
  • Executive summary
  • Summary of the job or issue that the proposal is addressing
  • What your approach will be to get the job done or solve the problem
  • Why your company is best suited for getting the job done (or, your qualifications)
  • Schedule of how long the job will take
  • The cost for you to get the job done

Solicited or Unsolicited Business Proposals

In the business world, you will find that some proposals are solicited and some are unsolicited. Unsolicited business proposals are those that mimic the scenario painted in the first paragraph of this blog. These proposals result from being in a social environment, making contact with someone who needs something that you can provide – and being spontaneously asked to send over a proposal.

Solicited proposals are much more formal. Proposals are “solicited” when a business or government agency has a big project and actively requests business proposals from companies who would like to be considered for the job. Many of these solicitations are published in periodicals or on the internet. You’ve got many different types of solicitations for business proposals.

  • RFI: A request for information, which usually proceeds a full blown proposal request.
  • RFP: A formal request for a proposal.
  • RFQ: A request for a quotation. Normally used when price is the main factor, so the business proposal is a good bit shorter
  • IFB: An invitation for a bid. Used when price is practically the only factor; what is submitted is simply a bid.

So now you know the answer to the question, “What is a business proposal?” For more information, be sure to check out our other business proposal resources, like our Professional Writing lessons and articles on how to write a proposal, and where to find business proposal templates.

P.S. Become a better writer. Find out more here.

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