What is the Ideal Proposal Layout? 6 Proven Tips Backed by Research

Written by Vanja Maganjic


Business proposals are crucial for your sales pipeline. They help you get your foot through the door and wow your clients with your offer.

Think of your business proposal as your best shot at sealing the deal with a client. It gives you a lot of space to describe your solution, showcase how it can help the client, and further demonstrate your authority with previous work and reviews. 

This is why it’s important to invest in reliable proposal software that will help you quickly create and send your proposals. The only way we can be confident in supporting your proposal process is by constantly learning and analyzing the changes in the market. 

Every year, we analyze the proposals sent through our software and find out the newest tips on how to optimize your sales documents for even better results. In this article, we’ll cover everything from the ideal number of sections to the content and branding. 

The best sections for the ideal proposal layout 

As our proposal report shows, the ideal number of sections is 6. This means that sending a one-page proposal in Word or a PDF document is no longer a viable option. Proposals that fit on a single page confuse your clients and don’t give them enough information about your solution to their problems. 

That is why you need to structure your proposal a bit differently. 

Number of proposal sections

Your 6 proposal sections should be: 

  • Introduction or Executive summary
  • Your solution and or Time scales
  • The price
  • The guarantee
  • Next steps
  • Terms and conditions

This structure will make your proposals easy to understand and get through. It will provide your clients with enough information to agree to your proposal, without boring them with insignificant details.

Of course, you can toy around with the different number of sections and a different order. However, this type of structure has proven to be the most useful for the people using Better Proposals to send their business proposals.

Short structure overview

Start by reeling in your clients with a short introduction on how you’re going to use your solution to bring them real benefits. Don’t detail the process just yet – you’ll have time to do that later. 

The importance of the proposal introduction lies in the first impression. You don’t want to waste it by talking about yourself or your company. This is the time to speak directly to your client and utilize their words to show them that you understand their problem and have the perfect solution. 

Notice how we didn’t include an About the team section? That’s because we don’t like to underestimate the clients. They’ve probably researched the person they are going into business with, so skip the overused paragraphs about how you’re an enthusiastic and fun team of professionals who work hard. 

From the introduction, transition into a chapter where you discuss your process. This is the meat of your proposal so make sure to detail what you’ll be working on from week to week. As you’re writing this, think about your language and vocabulary. 

Your process

The client won’t have the same level of knowledge as you, which means that you’ll have to write the proposal in a way that is easy to understand for people with various backgrounds. 

Once you’ve detailed your solution and the entire process, the time has come to state your price. If you’ve conducted a successful discovery meeting, you already know your client’s budget and expectations. 

Even if this is the case, the way you present your price still matters. 

Our advice is to present a single offer, don’t try to upsell your clients. Think of it as a doctor giving out medicine. They are the authority on the topic and know what will make you feel better. You’re the doctor prescribing medicine and you know best what your clients need.

If you give your clients a choice between multiple packages, they’ll be confused and won’t know which one to pick. You are the person that should tell them which features and benefits they need. 

Furthermore, the way you name this section plays a huge role in the agreement process. As our report shows, naming it Investment or ROI works better than names like Cost. You don’t want to cheapen your proposal by making it look like a regular invoice. 

Pricing section

Your guarantee is an important part of the proposal because it gives the clients security in case something goes wrong. Usually, the guarantee is something along the lines of a money-back guarantee should things go south. 

Think about what would make the client feel secure while still keeping you on track to deliver the finished product without any repercussions. 

If you’re using Better Proposals, the next steps should include explaining our digital signature and payment option to your client. Once they agree to your terms, they can easily sign the proposal by typing in their name and paying the first fee using a PayPal, Stripe, or GoCardless integration. 

The terms and conditions should lay out the legalities of the contract and state who is responsible for which parts of the process and what happens in case any of the parties fail to deliver on their promises. 

The layout needs to be mobile-friendly 

All of our proposals are web-based, meaning they will be sent out to your clients as web pages rather than documents in an email attachment. 

This is done because: 

  • They look more professional
  • It helps you stand out
  • It speeds up the agreement and payment process
  • This way we can include a digital singing option and payment gateway
  • It gives us proposal analytics

When you send out one of our proposals, it doesn’t incentivize the client to print it out, which is purposely done so. Printing out a proposal decreases your chances of conversion by 88%. 

Does printing affect conversion rates

With that huge of a difference, you can see why creating an optimized web-based proposal is so important. 

Research shows that 52.2% of all website traffic is generated from mobile phones. This means that it’s crucial for your proposal to be structured in a way that makes it easy to navigate on multiple devices. 

Give your proposal a fighting chance by making sure the layout is not just desktop friendly but also optimized for mobile. Seeing how 46% of our proposals are opened on smartphones, it’s important that they look amazing on them. 

Optimized for mobile

Make sure your proposal is on-brand 

Don’t miss out on the chance to make your proposal completely customized. With Better Proposals, this is easily done through the profile settings. 

Click on My account and in Branding, you’ll see a lot of options for customization. 

Branding your proposal

You can change the:

  • Name of your company or brand
  • The language of your proposal
  • The brand colours
  • Your logo
  • Fonts
  • The currency
  • Tax rates
  • The domain name

Once you change any of the listed things, they will automatically be changed for any proposals you send out in the future. This means that you won’t have to manually write out the name of your company, or insert the colour code every time you want to send a new proposal. 

Branding is important because it sets you apart and shows the client how serious you are about your approach. Once you set up your domain, all the proposals you send out will be 100% in line with your branding. 

Our additional tip is to customize the emails in which you’ll send the link to your proposal. 

Customize your email

Make sure to personalize your emails every time you send a different proposal. As you can see in the picture above, you can customize the subject line, the body of the email, and the CTA button. 

Customize the email

Furthermore, you can also personalize the email that your clients will receive once they sign the proposal. Think of it as a thank you card – keep it short and sweet. 

Add a variety of images and videos

Don’t drown your clients in huge chunks of text. Anything that can be shown through visualization or broken down in a short video should be shown in that way. 

Add images and video

Once you start working on your template, you’ll see how easy it is to add or delete blocks. All you have to do is click on the little plus button and you’ll get to choose the type of content you would like to add. 

Whether it’s text, a picture, a video, or something from your content library, you can quickly add it in a few clicks. 

Integration with Pexels and Unsplash

We have integrations with Unsplash and Pexels, meaning you can search for a photo and insert it without leaving your template. 

Videos can be especially impactful if you’re using them to share social proof. By that, we mean a testimonial from one of your previous clients who was facing the same problem as your current one. 

It will give your clients more confidence in their choice if they see how someone experienced benefits and ROI with your help. Although every client has a unique situation, showing your previous successes will help you secure new deals. 

Keep the copy short and engaging 

Your business proposals need to include all the previously mentioned parts, while also being short and easy to understand. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert copywriter in order to create an engaging proposal. 

All you have to do is follow these simple steps: 

  • Start by creating an outline that includes all the necessary information
  • Write your proposal and include different types of media
  • Go through your proposal again and read it with this in mind – does every paragraph bring new and valuable information?
  • Delete anything that would be considered fluff. If the sentence can be written without a certain word – just delete it
  • Ask your team members to review your proposal before you send it out
  • Make any additional changes if needed

Although your business proposals serve multiple purposes, one of them being building a relationship with the client, you don’t have to include every possible piece of information in the proposal. 

Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What would they like to know about your process and the value they’ll receive from your solution. Don’t talk about your goals and dreams, save that for a face-to-face meeting. 

Our tip is to integrate a live chat option that will allow your clients to leave comments as they read the proposal. This is a quick and easy way to receive feedback. Remember, you change the proposal according to your client’s needs up until they sign it. 

Once the proposal is signed, it becomes a legally binding document that can not be changed anymore. 

Bonus tips

Firstly, while writing the proposal think about the words you’re using. The more action words you use, the more confidence your proposal will exude. If you use a lot of phrases like “we think” and “we hope”, it will come across as unprofessional. 

Secondly, perfect the timing of your proposal. You should send out your proposal as fast as possible. After all, you should strike while the iron is hot. However, if you can, avoid sending it on Fridays because that will slow down the agreement process. 

Thirdly, streamline the process by integrating your favourite sales tools with Better Proposals. It will help you better manage your sales process and give you a clear overview of your proposal pipeline. 

We offer a lot of native integrations and for anything that isn’t on the list, you can use Zapier of API. 

Lastly, make the most out of proposal analytics. They help you understand whether your proposals were opened or forwarded and how much time did your clients spend on each of the sections. This will inform your follow-up process and help you better understand how to approach the clients who haven’t signed the proposal. 

Conclusion

Creating a business proposal doesn’t need to be a long and tiresome process. With Better Proposals, you can choose a prewritten template and easily customize it to your needs. This means you will no longer have to create your documents from scratch. 

All templates come with a structure, a field for a digital signature, terms and conditions and more. It will ensure that you don’t forget any of the important steps you need to take before you send out a finished proposal. 

We will empower you every step of the way with helpful articles, proposal university and reports that will give you insight into how to create a high-converting proposal your clients will want to sign straight away. 

Like what you see? Sign up for a free trial and unlock all the benefits of Better Proposals that can help you transform your business. 

About Vanja Maganjic

Vanja Maganjić is an experienced writer with a unique passion for creating content that helps brands connect with their customers. She believes in brands that stand up to the man and thinks that storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. Her long term goal is to become the cool auntie that gives out family-sized Kit Kats on Halloween.
Categories: Proposal Writing Tips