One of the most common questions we get at Better Proposals is one regarding the ideal length of a proposal. How long should a proposal be to capture a client’s attention? Subsequently, there’s another question – can my proposal be just a single page and will that work?
While there is some sound logic here (a shorter proposal means higher attention span, less time spent reading, etc.), one-page business proposal templates are not a good idea. Here’s why.
One of the biggest mistakes in business proposal writing is focusing on a certain number of pages. Instead of trying to make all of your proposals one, eight or umpteen pages long, focus on the content.
You need the right amount of information in each proposal you write. This amount will vary from case to case and it will rarely be one and the same number. A repeat client will need a shorter introduction than someone who’s getting in touch for the first time. Moreover, if you’ve had a great discovery call with a client, you’ll have more information to include in the proposal as well.
According to our own research (Proposal Report based on more than 180,000 signed proposals), the ideal number of sections for a proposal to get signed is eight. On the other hand, the ideal number of pages for successful proposals is six.
Bear in mind that this is an average value and that the numbers vary depending on the industry. They also vary depending on the client, how much you know about them and their situation, etc.
If you use a proposal software to create your proposals, you can take a look at the proposal template for your industry and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit your situation. It serves as a ‘skeleton’ for your entire proposal guiding you through the entire process.
Let’s not be exclusive and state that you should never use one-page proposals. It is possible (although not recommended) to use them for existing clients, and especially in those cases where the proposal is for a small amount of work. Ideally, the client got more information in previous proposals, so you’re writing a short one to save their time.
No matter how brief you want to be, a successful proposal needs to have a number of different elements. You still need an effective introduction, you need to explain how you’re going to solve the clients’ pain points, explain the timescales, include your terms and conditions and much more.
In other words, it’s simply impossible to cram all of this into a one-page proposal. Not even if you’re the best writer in the world who uses a miniature font, one page just won’t cut it. You can read this post for some information on the sections and information your proposal should include.
If for some reason you need to shed some weight on your proposals, you can think of eliminating those sections that you need the least – the information that the client can live without. There are some critical elements, such as the introduction, which need to stay in the proposal, but there are a few which are optional.
If you absolutely need to get rid of something, the first section to go would be the case studies. The second section to ditch would be the guarantee, in case you’re using one in your proposals. As for the rest of the sections, you should really keep them. If you definitely need to make them shorter, eliminate all details which you deem unnecessary.
The ideal length of your next business proposal is not a number set in stone. There are a lot of variables and you cannot predict if it will take four or eight pages to present an offer to your clients. One thing is for certain though – the proposal should definitely be longer than a single page.