If you’ve been sending business proposals for a while, you’re probably wondering how to make the process faster and more efficient. Should you spend more time researching? Include videos, as the hottest thing in digital marketing? Go through a proposal writing course?
The truth is, all of these things may contribute to the success of the proposals you send. However, there is only one thing that truly saves time with business proposals – proposal templates.
A proposal template is your shortcut to more sales and an easy way to get more revenue with less time spent on proposal writing. Today, we’ll go over some of the basics around proposal templates, such as…
– What proposal templates are
– Why you should use proposal templates
– How proposal templates save time
– How to write a proposal template
– Examples of great proposal templates
So, let’s dive in.
In short, a proposal template is a business proposal that is 80-90% complete. It’s the ideal shortcut – instead of writing a new proposal from scratch every time, you just grab a template and make some quick edits and you’re ready to go.
A proposal template focuses on a specific industry and type of service. For example, we have over 60 proposal templates in our library. While some of them are broad in their scope, others are very specific. For example, we have four types of design proposal templates:
– WordPress web design proposal template
– Ecommerce web design proposal template
– Website support and maintenance proposal template
As you can see, if you’re doing something like design, there is not one proposal template that you can use, but several. That brings us to our next point – how many proposal templates should you have as a business or freelancer?
As we’ll explain later on, a proposal template is a mix of your best proposals. The more products and services you sell and the more different clients you sell to, the more templates you need to have. In other words, you could have just one proposal template or you can have 20 – it all depends on your use case.
Long story short, you need a template to save time and maximize your conversions. Now let’s go into more detail.
One of the main reasons why people turn to using proposal software instead of writing proposals manually is because it takes so much time. If you sit down to write even the most basic proposal from scratch, it will take you at least an hour to do it the right way.
If you have a ready-made template, that means that the bulk of the work is already done. When you work with the template, all you have to do is make a few edits that relate to the client and their specific offer and you can save lots of time – that you would have spent writing.
The second reason is just as important. You see, you only make templates from your best-converting proposals – those that got signed. Your templates should be a combination of the best proposals you’ve ever sent. That means choosing the best introduction from one proposal, the top-performing pricing section from another proposal, the guarantee section from a third proposal… You get the point.
The best businesses and freelancers out there have at least several proposal templates. The reason is, the more templates you have, the readier you are for different kinds of clients and offers. Imagine a marketing agency – it needs to have one proposal template for SEO services, one for PR, one for social media marketing, etc.
To sum up, think of proposal templates as a best-of compilation from your favorite artist. You put together the hits that you know your audience loves and has a reaction to while ignoring the songs that no one loves. Having a stack of great proposal templates is like having a winning deck of cards
As mentioned, the best place to start with a proposal template is your existing proposals. Your templates should consist of the best elements of your most successful proposals.
In other words, you should find out which of your proposals convert the best, i.e. which ones get signed the most. If you send proposals manually, that may take some work, but if you use proposal software, it’s pretty straightforward to do.
Once you find the proposals that do work, it’s time to dissect them and find the sections that your clients loved and that made them sign. If you use proposal software, that will be fairly easy to spot because your analytics will show you where they spent the most time in your proposal.
Granted, this is not the most ideal measuring tool, but it’s a good way to tell that the proposal element got the client interested. If you send Word and PDF proposals, you pretty much have to rely on your hunch to find out what made the clients sign in such big numbers.
Of course, you can go the old school way and simply ask your clients what they liked about a specific proposal and which section stood out the most to them. It may take some time for this method, but it does work.
Finally, our research and knowledge show us that all good proposal templates need to have eight key elements to convert and get great results. You can read more about all of these elements in detail in this article, but this is the list of sections that your proposal template must have if you want to maximize your conversions:
This is where you explain what you do for the client or what you sell. The more you know the client’s situation, the better your introduction will be. Most people read this section and the pricing section only – so make it count.
This is where you explain in detail what you will be doing, who will do it and what the client can expect. The more you cover here, the better you will be protected if things don’t go according to plan.
How long it takes you to get the job done or deliver the goods. More specific is better, but you can give a broad estimate as well.
A section where you show off how good of a job you’ve done with a previous client. You can go wild here – testimonials, case studies, videos, portfolios – the choice is yours.
Name your price and be clear about it. Most people hop straight from the introduction to this part, so make it impressive.
Offer a guarantee to the client that you’ll get the job done.
Explain what the client needs to do to get the ball rolling and start your project.
Just in case things go in the wrong direction, this is the section to protect both parties.
Of course, your template could omit a section or two, but it’s best to have them all to ensure your conversion rate doesn’t suffer. Read about each of the sections in this article “How to write a business proposal”.
By far, the best aspect of using proposal templates is the ability to save time. However, it’s easier said than done. Here are some of the best ways to save time with your proposal template.
– Add only the client details. Your templates are 90% done and all you have to add are the details about the client and their offer. That means that you don’t have to write much because the written content is already there.
– Prepare a few case studies/testimonials for your proof section. You will pitch different clients and they all need a proof section that closely matches the needs of a specific customer and offer.
– Prepare a few unique guarantees. Money-back guarantees are okay but everyone else is doing it. Think of something unique.
– Use the same terms and conditions section for all proposal templates. For the most part, you can re-use this section without much editing.
– Use the same “next steps” section for all of your templates. Just like the aforementioned section, this one doesn’t need to change much in different proposals.
– Prepare several different templates instead of relying on one template only. The more specific templates you have, the less you will have to edit them before they’re ready for sending.
In the end, the more proposals you send, the better idea you will have what works on your clients. Every successful proposal is a lesson learned and something new to add to your templates.
All of the proposal templates that we store in our template library are based on the lessons we learned from hundreds of thousands of proposals sent through our platform. We put much of our learnings in our most recent Proposal Report, as well as various posts on our blog. However, if you’re creating a proposal from scratch, here are some of the basic tips to ensure that it converts well.
1. Don’t use upsells. Our research shows that proposals with a single offer convert the best. The logic is that you should get the client to say yes, rather than forcing them to choose between different offers.
2. Don’t call your pricing section “pricing”. You’ll see that this section is usually called “Your investment” or “investment” in our templates because that way, clients see the cost as an investment rather than just spending money. A small trick with a big impact.
3. Keep your proposals short – 6 pages maximum. And yes, 8 sections fit in 6 pages.
4. Include different payment methods in your proposal template. If you just send PDFs or Word documents, you will have a lower chance of getting paid immediately. You can maximize your conversions by including different payment methods (credit cards, PayPal).
5. Include your personal branding by making your proposals unified with your website. For example, our customers can incorporate their proposals on their website URL, which causes a 7.2% increase in conversions.
6. Connect your CRM with your proposals. Granted, this is not a surefire way to increase conversions but it does make the job much faster. In fact, if you plug in your CRM to your proposal template, you can write your proposals up to 86% faster.
7. Always use a cover. Proposals with a cover convert 44.7% better than those without one.
8. Never send your proposals as PDF files. There are multiple reasons for this, but to keep it short: PDFs are not optimized for different devices and they are likely to get printed, which is a huge conversion killer.
9. Integrate live chat. If you connect a live chat integration in your proposals, you are 13.2% more likely to drive conversions with your proposals. You are there to answer their questions as they read the proposal.
Keep your eyes peeled on that page because we will be adding more templates for different industries in the near future.
For starters, here is a great content marketing proposal template, which you can grab at this link. What sets this one apart is a great introduction that hooks the reader in with their pain point (followers vs. true fans). Moreover, there is a great proof section called “Meet Beth” which talks about a previous customer that you were able to help.
Also, the guarantee section is creative and original – one free month of content marketing for each deadline that you miss. Who could say no to a deal like that?
If you’re up for something different, here is a great catering proposal template. You will notice that the detailed specification is called “catering your event”, which is a neat copywriting trick to get the reader interested.
The “Pricing Structure” section is super simple and lets the reader add as many guests as they want by pressing a simple button. The last section is called “Any Questions?” and it’s a place for all of your clients’ most frequently asked questions.
Finally, let’s take a glance at this business coaching proposal template. Note the second section titled “A Winning Strategy” (the detailed specification) which gives a nice outline of the steps you will take.
The proof section is also a nice touch, with some great copy to start it off. The template is professional and convincing.
We could talk about different proposal templates forever, but it’s better to actually visit the template library and see for yourself.
A great proposal template makes hard work easy. Instead of spending hours on individual proposals, you can cut down the time to 30 minutes to edit and send a finished proposal.
Moreover, if you combine all of the elements of your best-performing proposals in one or more proposal templates, you are sure to save time and improve your conversions and your bottom line.