Business Proposal Format: An Ideal Proposal Structure

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By Tyra Delos Reyes

“I enjoy researching what my clients need and taking the time to develop solutions for them, and then losing them to competitors!”

Said no one ever. 

Half the battle is figuring out the best way to frame that story. Doesn’t matter if you have all the data and insight in the world if the narrative just doesn’t resonate with your client.

So what is the ideal business proposal structure? It typically includes an executive summary, a problem statement, a solution section, a milestone or timetable, and finally the pricing section. 

What is the standard format of a proposal? 

There isn’t really a “standard” format because proposals are ideally tailored to the use case and the target reader.

For example, there are different proposal templates for: 

A construction bid proposal would have a breakdown of materials in the costing page; a proposal for a software adoption initiative would not.

On the other hand, there is a specific flow that you can follow if you’re looking to write something from scratch. 

These are the essential sections that’s included in just about any business proposal:

  • Title / Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Problem Statement 
  • About the Team (or yourself)
  • Problem Statement
  • Solution and Implementation 
  • Qualifications and Proof of Expertise
  • Timeline and Deliverables
  • Cost
  • Conclusion

Business proposal format: how to write a business proposal

As I mentioned, there are essential sections in a business proposal. It’s pretty easy writing each section if you know what to say, but the real skill is in understanding the intention behind each section.

We’ll go through what to write for each of them, as well as how to write each section for the most impact.

Introduce the proposal with the Title Page

The title page helps readers understand what your business proposal is all about. This usually includes the following details:

  • Company logo
  • Proposal Title
  • Client Name
  • Your Company Name
  • Proposal Send Date
human resources business proposal template
Source: Venngage

When creating a proposal title, think of summarizing the goals or objectives of your proposal in just one sentence.

It looks something like:

  • Increasing Our Data Security with Regular Cybersecurity Employee Trainings: Plans for 2024
  • Comprehensive SEO Plans To Increase Brand Awareness In The Dentistry Space 
  • Accessibility Research Initiative To Improve Site Engagement For Our Non-Profit 

Title pages don’t have to be clever; clarity is actually your friend. 

You can always write something simple and straightforward like: 

  • A Proposal To Start Using Instagram As Our Social Media Channel 
  • The Importance of CRM Tools: An Adoption Proposal

Outline the sections with a table of contents

Unless your proposal is just a one-pager (it happens – longer isn’t always better), a Table of Contents is a must-have for an improved reader experience.

Business Proposal Template
Source: Venngage

For physical business proposals, a Table of Contents with associated page numbers is enough. Just don’t forget to actually add pages on your proposal so it’s easier to navigate. 

Proposals sent electronically (like PDF proposals or online proposals sent through Proposally) can have a clickable Table of Contents. This lets readers jump ahead to specific sections of your proposal by clicking associated sections. 

Provide an overview with an Executive Summary 

The Executive Summary is a high-level overview of your proposal.

Your goal for this section is to quickly highlight why the proposal is being sent in the first place. As a summary, it also helps readers understand what to expect in this proposal. 

business proposal template black and white
Source: Venngage

The Executive Summary is typically written by providing:

  • A brief overview of what is included in the proposal 

“In this proposal, my team and I will be highlighting the operational bottlenecks we found after looking at our employee management system. We will be presenting data from the last 3 months and presenting key areas of improvement that can increase employee efficiency by up to 15%.

  • A high-level, but brief intro on the problem and a quick explanation of the solution

“During our discovery phase, we found that 30% of customer support tickets are left unanswered for a minimum of 2 hours. By integrating a push notification and setting up similar behavior-based alerts, we’re looking to improve employee efficiency by up to 15%.”

  • A quick statement about why this is important to the reader 

“My team and I are writing this proposal because agile customer support is part of our company’s core values. By investing in this initiative, we believe we can improve our customer’s experience and increase our satisfaction ratings.”

Introduce yourself and your team 

While this section isn’t always necessary, consider adding this if: 

  • You’re a freelancer or contractor entering a working relationship for the first time 
  • You’re an individual contributor from a mid-sized company presenting to VPs or C-level executives 
  • You secured this prospect through a referral, so they might not know you yet 

Focus on relevant accomplishments and previous experiences that will contribute to the success of the project. 

Small Business Proposal
Source: Venngage

This looks something like:

  • Years of experience in the field 
  • Brief summary of your specialization or expertise 
  • 2-3 names of clients you’ve worked with that are in the same industry as the client 
  • Job title and role in the project 

Define the problem statement or the challenges

A good problem statement section communicates the challenges your reader is facing.

It’s not just about identifying issues. You want to show a deep understanding of their pain points. 

Grey & Green Color Business Proposal Outline Template
Source: Venngage

Here are some quick samples:

  • For customer support: “Over the past six months, there has been a 30% increase in customer support tickets. Despite scaling our support team, we have been unable to keep up with this growing volume, resulting in a backlog of unanswered tickets.”
  • For marketing: “Customer engagement metrics, including social media interactions, website traffic, and email open rates, have shown a consistent decline. This indicates a disconnect between your brand’s marketing messages and the interests of your target audience.”

Present your solution 

The solution section is all about explaining how your solution or initiative directly addresses their pain points.

Your goal is to explain what action you are planning to take in response to their key problems, and the impact it’s going to make on their pain points.

green and white business proposal template
Source: Venngage

Using the same problem statements above, the solution section usually sounds something like:

  • For customer support: “My team is proposing the adoption of a new software that streamlines ticket management, ensuring prompt resolution and customer satisfaction. With automated workflows and intelligent routing, it’s easier for team members to handle the surge in support tickets, eliminating backlogs and enhancing responsiveness.”
  • For marketing: “In order to develop a better brand message, we will be conducting a 30-day analysis of customer sentiment on your company’s social media, as well as a website audit to understand your most visited pages.

    After running the analysis, we’ll be developing a messaging campaign which will be A/B tested within a small customer segment. We will then be launching this new messaging and brand initiative through PPC channels.”

Build some proof – say why you’re qualified 

You just told them how you plan to address their key problems–the qualifications section communicates why you’re qualified enough to do that. 

simple business proposal template
Source: Venngage

Skip ahead if you’re pitching within a team. 

You can build social proof by:

  • Sharing case studies or testimonials that demonstrate how your solution has solved similar challenges for other clients.
  • Highlighting any relevant certifications that demonstrate your team’s expertise and commitment to quality. If you’re pitching a software development project, mention certifications like AWS Certified Developer or Microsoft Certified Azure Developer.
  • Including industry benchmarks, market trends, or survey results that demonstrate the effectiveness of your solutions. 

Take them through the timeline and deliverables

The timeline and deliverable section helps your reader visualize the scope and progression of the project.

Project timelines and deliverables are best presented using data visualization tools like flowcharts and timelines.

green and yellow business proposal template
Source: Venngage

Include details like:

  • Project start date
  • Projected deadline 
  • The different stages or phases of the project
  • The duration of each phase or milestone 
  • Prerequisites that impact the timeline (I.E.: Phase 2 cannot begin until Phase 1 research is complete.)

When itemizing deliverables, make sure to include:

  • Individual deliverables 
  • Quantity of materials
  • A brief description of the deliverable 
  • Projected deadline

Add your pricing options, and why it’s worth the cost 

Most business proposals stop at including a pricing table and jump straight to the conclusion. 

The best business proposals know that this is all about negotiation. 

They anticipate apprehension from the reader’s POV and try to communicate why their services are worth it in the first place. 

Strategic Investment Basic Business Proposal
Source: Venngage

You can focus on your value-add by:

  • Reiterating the problem statement and framing the upfront cost as savings in the long-term 
  • Mentioning the inclusions in your packages that are normally not included with other vendors 
  • Highlighting that the service is greatly personalized and tailored to the reader’s needs
  • Focusing on the quality of your product or service
  • Mentioning that the price is justified by the tangible ROI the readers can expect to achieve, whether through increased efficiency, cost savings, or revenue growth

Summarize the key takeaways 

In the conclusion of your business proposal, provide a brief recap of the problem statement, your proposed solution, and your projected timeline.

Quickly highlight the benefits of this initiative, and why you (or your team) is ultimately the best person for the job. 

Collaborative Video Production Proposal Template
Source: Venngage

Pro tip: If you’re sending an online proposal, consider adding a quick CTA section and giving them specific instructions on what to do next. has an e-Signature section that lets readers sign on the spot. 

What are other things to include in a business proposal? 

Earlier in the article I mentioned that business proposals sometimes have specific inclusions depending on the use case. Consider adding the following, if it makes sense:

  • Terms and Conditions: Covers details like payment terms, delivery schedules, and termination clauses. This section ensures mutual understanding and protects both parties’ interests throughout the engagement. Ideal for business proposals where liability on the vendor or provider might be higher. 
  • Risk assessment: Identifies potential risks associated with the project, such as technical challenges, resource constraints, or market fluctuations. This is typically included in proposals that either have high upfront costs or variable deliverables like construction projects or financial initiatives.
  • Appendix: When applicable, the appendix holds supplementary information, such as detailed project plans, resumes of key team members, sample work, or additional market research. 
  • Additional services: Includes a list of optional or add-on services that complement the core offering, such as ongoing support, training programs, or maintenance packages. This is a great way to possibly increase the scope of work and get more out of your business proposal. 

5 business proposal sample templates and formats

To give you a better idea of what to focus on depending on the type of proposal you’re sending, let’s go through six different proposals for different jobs-to-be-done:

Proposing a new budget

For budget proposals, the two key things you want to focus on would be the rationale or context behind the project proposal, and a budget time table that clearly outlines how the money is going to be used.

I like using a visual time table similar to the template above to make it easy for stakeholders to see the big picture.

Dark Tech Marketing Budget Proposal Template
Source: Venngage

Launching a new product

Product launch proposals can be short and simple, especially if your team already has some context around the launch. You want to provide an executive summary, which can be a simple 1-2 paragraph call back to previous initiatives, meetings, or company reports.

The real meat of your product launch should be about the value it brings to the company. You basically want to answer how the product launch is going to affect your team’s KPIs. Is it going to revitalize a user base? Are you looking to bring in new revenue by adopting underserved markets?

launching a new product proposal template
Source: Venngage

Proposing an investment opportunity

For investment proposals, you want to capitalize on the investment opportunity it presents to your reader. Why is now a good time to make the investment? What are the benefits and costs of passing over this investment? How urgent is this investment?

Let’s say you’re a finance advisor managing multiple client portfolios. You can highlight your previous indicators of success to basically tell new prospects, “I’m a great partner, and I’ll be taking care of your investments.”

finance opportunity proposal template
finance opportunity proposal template
Source: Venngage

Pitching a new project

Project proposals are pretty straightforward. The key focus should be on the details around the proposed solution – what is this going to entail? What action items are going to be involved in order to complete the project? How long is the implementation phase, and who is going to be involved in different phases of the project?

When pitching a new project or service to a new client, adding a case study to build credibility is also a great move.

Source: Venngage

Securing business funding

Investment proposals should be focused on de-risking the proposal and building trust with investors. A comprehensive financial forecasting section can help readers visualize how the funds are going to be allocated, and what the return on investment is going to be.

The specifics of your financial data will depend on your company’s stage. For example, an investor would be interested in knowing a startup’s burn rate and break-even analysis, whereas a growth stage investor would be more focused on seeing proof of traction and market validation before signing the deal.

business funding proposal template
business funding proposal template
Source: Venngage

Customize the perfect business proposal in minutes

Proposally makes it easier for business owners to create, customize, send, and track proposals. 

Proposally lets you quick launch an existing template from our library of 1,000+ handmade proposals. Each proposal is designed with industry-specific standards and best practices in mind, and all you need to do is customize it with your own pricing structure or process flow.

Unlike most proposal software, we know exactly how important it is to present data with your proposals. Our editor lets users add data visualization tools such as timetables, flow charts, and graphs that you can autopopulate with CVS imports. You can then send and track your proposal’s opens, views, and shares of your existing proposals.

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