How do I Write a Business Proposal?

Joshua Nuttall

A business proposal is written in response to a request for proposal (RFP) and is a tool used to gain more business from new clients. To write a business proposal is to advertise the capabilities of a company and a management team. While there is no single correct way to write a business proposal, there are certain pieces of key information that should be included. This includes the executive summary, market analysis, company situation analysis, solutions to the problems, timelines, and budgets.

A business proposal is written in response to a request for proposal.
A business proposal is written in response to a request for proposal.

Proposal readers want a brief synopsis of the whole proposal right up front. To write a business proposal effectively, the reader must be the focus. The executive summary condenses the contents of the whole proposal into just a few pages — typically no more than five. The executive summary should also be written last to save time and energy on the part of the writer of a business proposal. The summary can be broken up into sections based on the contents of the rest of the proposal.

The market analysis discusses the potential clients that the business will attract, their demographics, spending habits, and as much information as can be found associated with the market the business partnership will focus on. Offering a substantial amount of information about the market will show that the recipient of the business proposal will be working with a partner who knows what he is doing and is focused in the right direction. The proposal should prove that the buyer's needs are understood. The business proposal should be centered around the understanding set forth in the market analysis.

The next section should analyze the situation of the company that requested the business proposal. Well-written RFPs explain to their audience the basis of the need for the proposal. The proposal should analyze and discuss these needs to make it obvious to the readers that their needs are understood.

The next section should offer solutions to the problems in the analysis section. Give examples of successes, explaining why the examples are successes, and explain exactly how the readers' needs will be met. The writer's expertise relative to the solution set should also be discussed in this section.

The timeline section should break the problem set down into a series of solution milestones. Then the solutions can be included to illustrate approximately how long each task will take to accomplish. Include concrete dates in the timeline section, and be sure that the dates are realistic. Dates that show too much time or too little time to accomplish a given task will make the proposal writers look inexperienced.

The final section can discuss the budget for the project and how much the actions in the proposal will cost. The numbers provided should be justified by the return on the investment of the requester of the proposal. Do not attempt to provide cost analysis that is either unrealistically high or low. This is another opportunity to prove that the competency level of the business proposal writer is extremely high, not high-priced. When you write a business proposal, don't dwell on the numbers; focus on the strengths that can give the recipient of the proposal what he needs.

Overall, a well-written proposal will be clear and succinct, with correct grammar and spelling. It should be well-researched. The proposal should be packaged professionally, and include all relevant business contact information.

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