Comparing Different Types of Proposals

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  • 0:00 Proposal Defined
  • 0:37 External vs. Internal…
  • 1:12 Informal vs. Formal Proposals
  • 3:20 Solicited vs.…
  • 4:12 Sales Proposals vs.…
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Proposals are important documents for organizations ranging from businesses to universities and other non-profit organizations. In this lesson, you'll learn about different types of proposals. A short quiz follows.

Proposal Defined

One of the most important types of documents you may produce for your organization is a proposal. You can remember the purpose of a proposal simply by remembering its name, because a proposal is simply a persuasive document that attempts to persuade someone to adopt the proposed solution to a need, want, or problem identified in the document.

While the definition of a proposal is pretty simple, there are quite a few different types of proposals. Let's take a quick look at how we can categorize proposals and compare them with each other.

External vs. Internal Proposals

Proposals may be either external or internal. An external proposal is written for an audience that is outside of your organization, while an internal proposal is written for consumption inside of your organization. For example, you may write an external proposal to a prospective customer proposing the customer purchase a good or service. On the other hand, you may write an internal proposal to management to offer a new idea for a product or service, a new procedure or policy to improve operational efficiency, or a solution to a problem plaguing your IT department.

Informal vs. Formal Proposals

You may compose informal proposals or formal proposals. The first thing to keep in mind is that pretty much all external proposals will be formal, while it may be formal or informal if it's going to be used only internally.

You may use different formats for informal proposals. You may write informal proposals as an email, memo, text message, or simply a handwritten note depending upon the complexity and importance of the proposal. For example, proposing a change of location for a company seminar or change to a minor administrative procedure may justify a memo, while a proposal asking to change a meeting time because of a scheduling conflict may warrant an email or text message. Since you are writing for internal consumption to people you work with every day, the tone, organization, and formatting of the informal proposal can be, well, informal. Just make sure that your proposal covers all the substance - the 'who, what, where, and how' it needs to cover and can be easily read.

You may decide to compose a formal proposal in a few different circumstances. If your audience is either external or consists of high-level management inside your organization, you will almost certainly compose a more formal proposal. Additionally, if your proposal is complex, with many different issues, problems, concepts, or components, you'll write a more formal proposal whether it's for internal or external consumption because the formality will make the complexity easier to understand.

What makes a formal proposal formal? You'll start by writing in a formal, professional tone. You'll also use a pretty rigid organizational structure. Your proposal will have a cover letter or cover memo, executive summary, table of contents, list of visuals, introduction, discussion, conclusion, glossary, reference page, and maybe even appendices with supporting documentation.

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