A proposal is a detailed plan of action that a writer submits to a reader or group of readers for approval

  1. They vary in size and in scope. They can be as short as a sales letter or as long as hundreds of pages.
  2. They are persuasive plans. You cannot write a successful proposal until you fully understand your audience’s needs/problems, formulate a careful/detailed plan to solve these needs/problems, prove beyond doubt that you are able to solve the audience’s precise problems, and match your timetable/budget with your readers.
  3. They are frequently collaborative efforts. Even a short in-house proposal is often researched and put together by more than one individual.

There are two types of proposals

  • Research Proposal
  • Business Proposal

A research proposal is a document written by a researcher that provides a detailed description of the proposed program.

It is like an outline of the entire research process that gives a reader a summary of the information discussed in a project

A business proposal is a written offer from a seller to a prospective buyer. Business proposals are often a key step in the complex sales process—i.e., whenever a buyer considers more than price in a purchase

The professional organization devoted to the advancement of the art and

science of proposal development is The Association of Proposal Management Professionals.

A proposal puts the buyers’ requirements in a context that favors the seller’s products and services, and educates the buyer about the capabilities of the seller in satisfying their needs.

A successful proposal results in a sale, where both parties get what they want, a win-win situation.

There are three distinct categories of business proposals

  • Formally Solicited
  • Informally Solicited
  • Unsolicited

Solicited proposals are written in response to published requirements.

It contains.

Request for Proposal (RFP): RFPs provide detailed specifications of what the customer wants to buy and sometimes include directions for preparing the proposal, as well as evaluation criteria the customer will use to evaluate offers. Customers issue RFPs when their needs cannot be met with generally available products or services.

Request for Quotation (RFQ): Customers issue RFQs when they want to buy large amounts of a commodity and price is not the only issue– for example, when availability or delivering or service are considerations Invitation for Bid (IFB): Customers issue IFBs when they are buying some service, such as construction. The requirements are detailed, but the

primary consideration is price. For example, a customer provides architectural blueprints for contractors to bid on.

Request for Information (RFI): Sometimes before a customer issues an RFP or RFQ or IFB, the customer will issue a Request for Information (RFI). The purpose of the RFI is to gain “marketing intelligence” about what products, services, and vendors are available.

RFIs are used to shape final RFPs, RFQs, and IFBs, so potential vendors take great care in responding to these requests, hoping to shape the eventual formal solicitation toward their products or services.

Informally solicited proposals are typically the result of conversations held between a vendor and a prospective customer.

This type of proposal is known as a sole-source proposal. There are no formal requirements to respond to, just the information gleaned from customer meetings.

These proposals are typically less than 25- pages, with many less than 5 pages.

Unsolicited proposals are marketing brochures.

They are always generic, with no direct connection between customer needs or specified requirements.

They are often used as “leave-behinds” at the end of initial meetings with customers or “giveaways” at trade shows or other public meetings.

They are not designed to close a sale, just introduce the possibility of a sale.

Proposal management is an inherently collaborative process. It often consists of the following basic roles and responsibilities:

  • Creator – responsible for creating and editing content
  • Editor – responsible for tuning the content message and the style of delivery, including translation and localization.
  • Publisher – responsible for releasing the content for use.
  • Administrator – responsible for managing access permissions to documents and files, usually accomplished by assigning access rights to user groups or roles.
  • Consumer or viewer – the person who reads or otherwise takes in content after it is published or shared

Guidelines for Writing a Successful Proposal

Approach writing a proposal as a problem-solving activity.

  1. Regard your audience as skeptical.
  2. Research your proposal topic thoroughly.
  3. Scout out what your competitors are doing.
  4. Prove that your proposal is workable.
  5. Be sure your proposal is financially realistic
  6. Package your proposal attractively.

Contents of a proposal

Proposal includes:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Back ground
  • Benefits and feasibility of the proposed project
  • Description of the proposed work
  • Schedule
  • Costs, resources required
  • Conclusion
  • appendices

Title page

Specific formats for title pages vary from one proposal to another but most include the following:

The title of the proposal ( as short as informative as possible) ü A reference number for the proposal ü The name of the potential funder ( the recipient of the proposal) ü The proposals date of submission ü The signature of the project director and responsible administrator(s ) in the proposer`s institution or company


The Abstract is a very important part of the proposal because it provides a short overview and summary of the entire proposal.

The Abstract of the proposal is short, often 200 words or less.

In a short proposal addressed to someone within the writer’s institution,

the Abstract may be located on the title page.

In a long proposal, the Abstract will usually occupy a page by itself following the Title page.

The Abstract should briefly define the problem and its importance, the objectives of the project, the method of evaluation, and the potential impact of the project.

Table of contents

The table of contents lists the sections and subsections of the proposal and their page numbers.


Plan the introduction to your proposal carefully. Make sure it does all of the following things (but not necessarily in this order) that apply to your particular proposal:

Indicate that the document to follow is a proposal. Refer to some previous contact with the recipient of the proposal or to your source of information about the project.

Find one brief motivating statement that will encourage the recipient to read on and to consider doing the project.  Give an overview of the contents of the proposal.

Background often occurring just after the introduction.

The background section discusses what has brought about the need for the project—what problem, what opportunity there is for improving things, what the basic situation is. It’s true that the audience of the proposal may know the problem very well, in which case this section might not be needed. Writing the background section still might be useful, however, in demonstrating your particular view of the problem. And, if the proposal is unsolicited, a background section is almost a requirement—you will probably need to convince the audience that the problem or opportunity exists and that it should be addressed.

Benefits and feasibility of the proposed project

Most proposals discuss the advantages or benefits of doing the proposed project. This acts as an argument in favor of approving the project. Also, some proposals discuss the likelihood of the projects success. In the unsolicited proposal, this section is particularly important.

Description of the proposed work (results of the project)

Most proposals must describe the finished product of the proposed project. In this course, that means describing the written document you propose to write, its audience and purpose; providing an outline; and discussing such things as its length, graphics, and so on.


Most proposals contain a section that shows not only the projected completion date but also key milestones for the project. If you are doing a large project spreading over many months, the timeline would also show

dates on which you would deliver progress reports. And if you can’t cite specific dates, cite amounts of time or time spans for each phase of the project.

Costs, resources required

Most proposals also contain a section detailing the costs of the project, whether internal or external. With external projects, you may need to list your hourly rates, projected hours, costs of equipment and supplies, and so forth, and then calculate the total cost of the complete project. With internal projects, there probably won’t be a fee, but you should still list the project costs: for example, hours you will need to complete the project, equipment and supplies you will be using, assistance from other people in the organization, and so on. Conclusions

The final paragraph or section of the proposal should bring readers back to a focus on the positive aspects of the project (you’ve just showed them the costs). In the final section, you can end by urging them to get in touch to work out the details of the project, to remind them of the benefits of doing the project, and maybe to put in one last plug for you or your organization as the right choice for the project.


Appendices (supplementary material that is collected and appended at the end of a proposal) should be devoted to those aspects of your project that are of secondary interest to the reader. Begin by assuming that the reader will only have a short time to read your proposal and it will only be the main body of your proposal (not the Appendices). Then, assume that you have gotten the attention of the reader who would now like some additional information. This is the purpose of the Appendices.

Cover letter with separate proposal: In this format, you write a brief “cover” letter and attach the proposal proper after it. The cover letter briefly announces that a proposal follows and outlines the contents of it. In fact,the contents of the cover letter are pretty much the same as the introduction.

Internal Proposals

The primary purpose of an internal proposal is to offer a realistic and constructive plan to help your company run its business more efficiently and economically. Common topics of internal proposals include:

  1. Purchasing new or more advanced technology.
  2. Obtaining document security software and offering training on it
  3. Recruiting new employees or retraining current ones.
  4. Eliminating a dangerous condition or reducing an environmental risk.
  5. Cutting costs.
  6. Improving communication within and between departments.
  7. Expanding work space or making it more efficient.

Ethically Identifying and Resolving Readers’ Problems

When you prepare an internal proposal, you need to be aware of the ethical obligations you have. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Consider the implications of your plan company-wide.
  2. Keep in mind what impact your change may have for co-workers from cultural traditions other than your own.
  3. Never submit an internal proposal that offers an idea that you think will work, but which relies on someone else to supply the specific details.

Organization of an Internal Proposal

An internal proposal follows a straightforward plan, from identifying the problem to solving it. Internal proposals contain four parts:

  1. The purpose. Begin your proposal with a brief statement of purpose.
  2. The problem. Prove that a problem exists and document its importance, avoiding vague generalizations and including quantifiable details.
  3. The solution. Describe the change you propose and tie it directly with the problem you have just
  4. The conclusion. Keep the conclusion short. Reemphasize that there is a problem, that change is justified, and that action needs to be taken.

Sales Proposals

A sales proposal is the most common type of proposal. Its purpose is to sell your company’s products or services for a set fee. The audience is typically a skeptical decision-making executive, who may ask:

  1. Does the writer’s firm understand our problem?
  2. Can the writer’s firm deliver the services it promises?
  3. Can the job be completed on time?
  4. Is the budget reasonable and realistic?
  5. Will the job be done exactly as proposed?
  6. How has the writer demonstrated his or her trustworthiness?

Organization of Sales Proposals

Most sales proposals include the following elements:

  1. The introduction should prepare readers for everything that follows. It should include a statement of purpose and subject of the proposal, as well as background on the problem(s) you propose to solve.
  1. Description of the proposed product or service. This is the heart of the proposal. Carefully show potential customers that your product or service is right for them, describe your work in suitable detail, and stress any special features/advantages/benefits, etc.
  2. Indicate when the work will begin, how the work will be divided into stages, when you will be finished, and whether any follow- up will be involved.
  3. Make your budget accurate, complete, and convincing. Give customers more than bottom-line costs. Itemize costs for services, equipment/materials, labor, transportation, travel, and training.
  4. Qualifications of your company. Emphasize your company’s accomplishments and expertise in providing similar products or services.
  5. This is the “call to action” section of your proposal. Provide encouragement, offer to answer questions, and possibly ask the readers to sign to accept your proposal

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