What to include in a business proposal

You can use our free proposal templates to make sure your proposal includes everything it needs. Aside from the proposal itself, you’ll also need a cover and cover letter or executive summary.

Consulting Proposal template
Consulting Proposal Template
Pro Tip
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Cover

Your cover needs to include the proposal date along with the names of the proposal, the client, and your company. Effective proposal covers are simple yet well designed. Select fonts and colors that match your company’s brand, and include a high-resolution image of your company logo. Your cover design should be consistent with the design for the rest of your proposal.

Cover letter/executive summary

This is your first and therefore your most important opportunity to engage with a potential client. The aim of your executive summary or cover letter isn’t to summarize your proposal, but to persuade the client to read the rest of your proposal. To do that, you need to focus solely on the client and their needs.

Your cover letter or executive summary should include the following:

1. Introduction

Hook the client instantly with an attention-grabbing intro. Give a brief summary of their mission statement and objectives. Talk about their strengths and the weaknesses you’re hoping to fix.

2. The problem

You can’t propose a solution if you don’t address the problem first. Show that you did your homework and have a clear understanding of the client’s situation as well as what they hope to get out of resolving it.

3. The solution

Now you can introduce yourself — but only in the context of the client’s needs. Rather than focusing on your process or the features you plan on bringing to the table, discuss the benefits the client will receive. Be specific enough about your solution without giving away the details in your proposal.

4. The evidence

Assure the client that your company is capable of delivering on time and on budget. Whether you decide to provide examples of past successes or go into further detail about your services, you need to prove how you — and no one else — can give the client what they’re looking for.

5. Call to action

Tell the client why you’re eager to work with them and how your companies would make great partners. Urge them to read the rest of your details in the proposal.

6. Proposal

Your proposal will follow a structure similar to your executive summary but provide more details. Again, make sure to focus on the client’s needs before diving into your proposed solution, company history, or project costs.

The body of your proposal should include the following:

Challenges

Reintroduce the issue the client is facing and the goals they’re trying to achieve. Define how your method is the most effective and necessary approach to solving their problem.

Plan

Outline your approach to tackling the client’s challenges. Provide a timeline for project deliverables and describe how each milestone will benefit the client. Be sure to detail your strategy as much as possible.

Budget

List project fees and any additional resources you might need. Give the client multiple pricing options to choose from. Describe what you can do within their budget and what more you can do beyond it.

Qualifications

Take the time to brag about yourself and your team. Explain what your company does and what your values are on an “About Us” page. List references or case studies to demonstrate just how successful your company has been.

Next steps

Tell the client how to proceed should they choose to accept your proposal. Have a lawyer review any legal language, such as terms and conditions, you might put in your conclusion.

Using a template and e-signature software can be extremely helpful in creating well-designed, persuasive proposals. A program like Jotform will make the process of creating, sending, and tracking proposals incredibly easy. Jotform’s latest product, Jotform Sign, allows you to collect legally binding signatures for your proposals. Every document you send will automatically become part of an approval workflow. All your proposals and accompanying communications will be in one place, so there’s no need to switch programs.

This article is originally published on Jul 04, 2019, and updated on Oct 26, 2022.
AUTHOR
Alannah is a copywriter at Jotform. When she's not writing about the easiest online form builder, she enjoys watching old movies, visiting art galleries, trying new beers, and petting as many cats as possible. You can get in touch with Alannah through her contact form.

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