Components of a business proposal
A business proposal promotes an idea, suggests actions or asks a potential customer to buy a product or service. A proposal, similar to a report, generally contains a collection of objective data that the reader should consider. But the heart of a proposal, unlike the report, is the recommendation or sales pitch. The report can contain suggestions and recommendations, but its primary purpose should be to present facts and information. A business proposal spends most of its time promoting suggestions and recommendations. A business report spends most of its time presenting objective facts. Proposals propose. Reports report.
Please include all of the following headings and sections in your proposal:
Business proposals generally follow a formal structure, unless they are very short email proposals. Most moderate to long proposals begin with a title page. The title page shows the full title of the proposal, the name of the author and the names of audience members or groups.
Abstract or Executive Summary
The proposal should also include an “abstract” or “executive summary.” This brief summary presents the purpose, methods, scope, findings, conclusions and recommendations of the proposal. A high-level business executive might choose not to read the entire proposal, but instead to read only the executive summary. Write the summary with enough detail to provide a busy executive with the most important elements of the proposal.
Table of Contents
The table of contents page usually comes immediately after the title page and before the executive summary. It should show each section of the proposal by name and page number.
List of Figures, Tables, Abbreviations or Symbols (optional)
A good rule of thumb is that if your proposal includes more than five figures, illustrations or tables, you should list them by page number, immediately after the table of contents page. If the proposal contains abbreviations or symbols that might not be familiar to all readers, include those abbreviations and symbols, plus their definitions and explanations in this section. Not all proposals need to contain this section.
Start the body of the proposal with an introductory paragraph, with the heading “Introduction.” The introduction should present the purpose and scope of the proposal, and present background information that might be necessary for readers to know so that they can understand the rest of the proposal.
The next heading should read “Body,” and this begins the heart of the proposal. You can include subheadings to introduce the various information categories that make up the body. Consider including tables of data or financial information, charts, graphs and illustrations.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The body of the proposal ends with “Conclusions and Recommendations.” In this section, you summarize the objective data and findings, and propose recommendations, if necessary and appropriate.
If your proposal presents data that you gathered from published sources, show those sources in a bibliography that should include traditional publications, Internet sources and people who you might have interviewed.