Structuring a Business Proposal Template to Target Customer Needs

Building good structure into your business proposal templates

by Rod Dunne on January 4, 2011

in Creative, Entrepreneurial

When companies receive a request for proposal (RFP) the first task is often to re-evaluate your sample business proposal template. Here I’ll show you a simple structure to use and how to focus your content to satisfy customer needs.

Structuring your sample business proposal template

The key focus when writing a business proposal is to keep in mind what exactly are the customer’s needs and how your proposal needs to satisfy these needs.

For example, any business that need work or project proposals should focus on the needs of key clients, where they are located and how to target them.

You will generally have an RFP which clearly defines the work or customer requirements. This should be fully read & reviewed before proceeding.

A standard sample business proposal really only needs to include two major sections as follows:

  • The first section provides a summary detailing to the customer what work you actually want to do for them and how the approaches used by your company can help successfully deliver the work activities.
  • The second section provides the additional supporting information to support your proposal (i.e. to support the first section).

The reason why your first section needs to be short and concise is in order to show to the customer early on that your company can provide the work they need done and satisfy their exact needs. If your simple business proposal template provides this early on then the customer (i.e. management) is more inclined to keep reading into the second section to see your supporting data/information.

The second section will vary depending on your industry but some examples of supporting information sub-sections you could use would include:

  • The people/teams/companies who will be performing the work. You should also detail how these people will be managed if they are outsourcers.
  • A broad list of work items to be completed.
  • Any prerequisites to work being commenced.
  • An overview of production methods and an action/project plan for work activities.
  • Details of your communication strategies (internal and external), reporting processes and evaluation criteria.
  • The list of major milestones and timelines.
  • Estimated cost of work.
  • Your payment expectations (including timelines of payments).

You may need to include other sections depending on your industry or the requirements of different departments within your firm (e.g. legal, marketing, etc). Feel free to use graphs where possible in order to backup your supporting information.

This is very similar in structure to marketing research proposals. Similarly, you should leave completing any suggestions or executive summaries to last in order to provide a proper synopsis of the document.

You should also check out my article on creative management techniques for brainstorming ideas when formulating your own templates.

Reviewing your business proposal template and content

With the template complete and initial draft content added, you should review the business proposal (and the proposal template itself) to make sure it is satisfying customer needs. Realize that all proposal examples are just that – samples! – which you need to customize for your own context.

In particular you should be checking the following:

  • Make sure the proposal complies with the requirements/instructions detailed in the RFP. There is no point submitting a proposal if it will be rejected before even being received by your customer’s management team.
  • Check the score it receives as part of the evaluation criteria metrics (in the RFP). You should aim to get the highest score possible to improve your request proposals chances of beating your competition.
  • Remove any extraneous information about your company (e.g. recent successful news items, product innovation strategy, financial data, etc) if it does not contribute to customer needs. You should also avoid any global truths (e.g. about quality being paramount, etc) or generalities which will only make a document longer than it needs to be. Keep it concise.

Related posts
Writing a project proposal template  - Basic structure
Getting the most from work proposal template software
Reasons why your business intelligence strategies will fail

Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and sole writer Rod DunneI am the owner and sole writer on This is my personal blog detailing troubleshooting tips for small businesses. Posts are based upon 2 decades in consultancy & innovation management within startups/maturing companies.

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