The Difference Between Solicited and Unsolicited Business Proposals

May 24, 2016

Business proposals are written documents that offer particular products or services to potential buyers or clients. They are created to offer solutions. They are crucial components in the sales process and service delivery. Business proposals shouldn’t be mistaken for business plans. A business plan is a formal statement of a company’s set of goals. On the other hand, a freelancer or company sends a business proposal to a prospective client in order to get a specific job/project. They are also different from "estimates". Estimates are used where small services are to be delivered. In this case, the extended formalities become cumbersome. The estimates also feature where the business in question already has a good reputation with clients. An example is in house cleaning jobs and roofing sales. There are 2 kinds of business proposals: solicited and unsolicited. This article takes an in-depth look at what sets them apart.

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Solicited vs. Unsolicited Business Proposals

Solicited business proposals are written when customers themselves ask for proposals. The requirement may be asked verbally or published through media outlets. The solicited proposal comes with a description of what the client or buyer wants. It can also come with formatting instructions, and the criteria that will be used to make a selection.

Unsolicited business proposals are sent to clients who haven't requested them. They are submitted on the proposer’s own initiative ( Their goal is to get the attention of prospective buyers and clients. They are general and not directly connected with a specific customer’s needs. When writing an unsolicited business proposal, you must first make the customer see that a problem exists. Since the customer does not anticipate the proposal, it must be very convincing. They are usually used to publicize new products and services. You can increase your chances of winning the contract by making initial contact with the agency personnel that you want to do business with.

In a nutshell, solicited business proposals are done in response to a customer’s need, while unsolicited proposals are used to advertise to potential customers.

How Solicited Proposals Work

The customer has a need. The proposal is presented as an answer to this need. There are 3 types of solicited business proposals ( They include:

1. Invitation for Bid (IFB)

This is a competitive process of awarding contracts. The customers clearly know the products or services that they want to purchase. Hence, they are very clear about the scope of work and what they expect to be delivered. An IFB is typically used when there is no substantive difference in the products or services that meet the set specifications. The major difference among responsive bids is the price and financial viability of what you are offering. A business also has to show that it can handle the required task. The client delves further into what you are like to do as a business for it. They will seek information about your organizational capability and resources, sustainability principles and value addition.

2. Request for Proposal (RFP)

Here, the customer doesn't clearly know the solution they want. This prompts the buyer to go to market for solutions-oriented approaches to service or product delivery. You'll have to develop them and provide a cost estimate. Hence the proposal you submit will include the details of your solution, your plans, drawings, personnel information and any other kind of information that will demonstrate you are capable of completing the contract. The scope is more vague and the business submitting the RFP has more flexibility.

3. Request for Quote (RFQ)

This is mainly used to determine the prevailing market rates. The customer wants to find the best pricing of the product or services they are seeking.

Tips To Make Successful Solicited Business Proposals

Focus on 3 areas: problem statement, the proposed solution and the pricing information. For the problem statement, describe your customer's needs plainly and clearly. In order for the client to believe you can help them, they need to be sure you know the issue they are dealing with.

Proposing the solution is the main objective. It should be as detailed as possible. It should explain how efficient it is, and address various customer concerns such as environmental safety. The pricing information depends on the solution your business has provided. It's also vital to enable the client to see why they should choose you. Highlight the expertise of your business, and the talents and qualifications of your personnel.

How Unsolicited Business Proposals Work

Here the goal is to introduce a new product to the client. You want to tell the client that they should be using the product or service that you are offering. The customer hasn't anticipated or planned for the proposal. A budget hasn't been set aside for it. Since they haven't been asked for, you'll be indirectly catering to a customer's needs. They are usually circulated through targeted email marketing, brochures, leaflets and even fliers ( ). Note that there's a difference between a typical advertisement brochure and an unsolicited proposal. A business just can’t promote its product. It should also consider a customer's specific needs, concerns and environment.

Unsolicited business proposals are free from competitive pressure. Businesses can take advantage of this to improve their visibility in the market and widen their customer base. Governments, parastatals, agencies and institutions encourage the business community to submit unsolicited proposals that offer new and innovative technology solutions, services and goods. They want to increase cost savings and enhance efficiency.

Before making your submissions, you have to determine if your customer accepts unsolicited proposals. Some companies accept them and review them on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Others even give deadlines for submissions, and publish schedules for reviewing ad notifying the senders.

Tips To Make Successful Unsolicited Business Proposals

Check whether the customer has any guidelines concerning how to format the proposals. Some clients have published proposals on their websites. At the very least, the proposal should contain the basic information about your business. This includes any proprietary information that can be used for evaluation, and contact information of key personnel. In case you're submitting to a government agency, the proposal should include any other parties- federal, state, or local agencies- that will be receiving the proposal.

Since unsolicited mails are not anticipated, you only have a few seconds to capture the interest of your prospective client. You'll have to make more effort to identify problems and present unique solutions to your customer. Demonstrate an attractive and innovative concept, and your unique capability to provide the particular services or products proposed. In addition, specifically address the mission or manifesto of the company you're targeting.

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