Do you know what the ideal proposal structure is?
A lot of companies will send out one-page proposals, thinking that the less time it takes clients to read, the quicker they will sign them.
This can not be further from the truth. One-page proposals only confuse your clients and give them little incentive to work with you, since you’re showing them from the start that you don’t understand their needs and aren’t dedicated to your craft.
In this article, we’ll show you how to structure your business proposal, which elements to focus on, and what can be left out. Everything we mention is backed by data and experience. Let’s start with the importance of a project proposal.
Importance of a Business Proposal
In the context of your project, a proposal carries a lot of weight. It shows your ideas, your understanding of the scope of the project, your expertise and experience and much more. The only way you can create a great proposal is to do a lot of research.
Business proposals are often the first piece of content you present to your clients, so you want to make sure to leave a good first impression. You’re not only selling them a product or service, but also your company.
Remember, not all clients will approach you as their first and only choice, some of them already worked with your competitors and know what to expect from the service you offer.
They may have been disappointed in the past, which is why they’ll have high standards and will be able to see if you truly understand their needs and can fix their problems effectively.
Your business proposal is a document that shows that you’ve done your homework and know how to achieve your clients’ goals, even if they are not sure on which path is the best for their situation.
Structure of a Business Proposal
As mentioned, business proposals that are just one page long don’t cover enough topics and often leave clients confused. Think of your business proposal as a first step in the project and don’t be afraid to invest time and effort in it.
After all, all the work you do in order to write your proposal will help you once you start working on the project. Before you even start writing your proposal, you should have a good understanding of your client, the problem they’ve encountered, their budget, and short- and long-term goals.
The ideal proposal structure is condensed into 7 clear chapters.
When we analyzed over $1,480,000,000 of closed deals won through Better Proposals, we uncovered that the ideal number of chapters in a business proposal is 7.
Those chapters are as follows:
- Introduction or executive summary
- The detailed specification of your process
- Social proof
- Pricing table
- Terms and conditions
Not only is the proposal structure important, but it’s also important to have your chapters in this order. There is a lot of rubbish information on proposal writing online and you’ll see people suggesting to put your pricing section higher, however, you definitely want your client to see all the value you could bring them before the price of your service.
Title and Cover Page
If you use Better Proposals, and we sure hope you do, you’ll know that once you send your client a proposal, the first thing they’ll see is your cover page.
It will look something like this.
All our proposal templates come with cover pages that put your company logo in focus. Branding is essential and your logo should be on every page of your proposal, including this one.
A great title will help you grab attention, but make sure it brings tangible value to your client. The headline is not the place where you want to talk about yourself or your company, but rather a place where you focus your attention on your client and their issue.
The ideal proposal structure works to help you create a document that’s easy to read.
When it comes to the picture/video you select for your cover, it’s always better to go with an original visual. If you don’t have any at your disposal, you can use a stock photo with minimal elements, so that it doesn’t take away too much attention.
When we analyzed how clients view business proposals and which sections they spend the majority of their time on, we found that the executive summary holds a lot of power.
It is the section people spend the most time on, with the second one being the pricing section. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, since your introduction is set up as the first section that wows your client.
Remember, this is the chapter in which you propose your solution to your client. They want to hear that you understand their situation and know how to help them.
Don’t use this section to talk your company up to your client. Realistically, they already know a lot about you from their own research and the meetings they had with you.
Although it sounds counterintuitive not to talk about yourself, put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Would you like to hear about how a service provider will help you or about how they found their passion and got started in their line of work?
Once you define the problem you’re going to solve, it’s time to define the solution. This is the chapter in which you specify the process of helping your client. Try to be as detailed as possible.
You want your client to understand that you spent time and effort on this proposal and didn’t just take your generic template and switch the name of the client.
Not only will this section help you get the client, but it will also help in the case of the project going south since you’ll have proof of your plan and your best intentions.
Now that you have answered the questions what and how it’s time to answer the question of when. Timescales show not only when you’ll be done with your work, but also how you divide the process and who will be brought on the project at certain points.
Your clients need to know when you can start working on the project and how long will the big parts of the work take. There is no need for specific dates, but make sure to explain the process on a week-to-week basis.
At this point in your proposal, your client has already read about your expertise, ideas on how to help them, and the details of your process. With all of that fresh in their mind, it’s time to give someone else a chance to talk you up.
The social proof section holds a specific power which is letting a third party talk about the positive experiences they had while working with you. Reviews and case studies are great ways to show that you’ve had success in the pest while dealing with similar projects and brands.
With research showing that 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review, it’s easy to see the importance your past projects have on helping you secure new ones.
Only after you’ve shown the value you bring to your clients can you show them your prices. The way you format your prices will depend on the industry standard. There isn’t a single one-size-fits-all ideal proposal pricing structure. However, there are a few tips that transcend that divide.
Firstly, you’ll want to name your pricing section something along the lines of Investment or ROI. Our analysis showed that the name of your pricing section affects whether your proposal gets signed or not, so make sure to avoid naming it Costs or Fees.
Secondly, if you’re debating whether to try to upsell your clients or not, we’re here to tell you that single offer proposals fare better in the end. We have found out that single offer proposals help you sell for a 16.30% higher fee.
The reason behind this is simple – packages with different tiers and prices confuse clients. Your clients won’t have the same amount of technical knowledge as you, so they won’t be able to decide between the packages since they won’t know which features to focus on.
It’s very important to let you client know what to do once they read your proposal. That’s why you need to include a chapter dedicated to the next steps. Explain to them that your proposal made with Better Proposals comes with a digital signature feature and that once they sign it, they need to reach out or pay a certain amount.
Make it a list of 3-5 steps that are easy to follow and won’t cause them too much trouble.
Terms and conditions
The last thing you need to incorporate into your business proposal is a page dedicated to terms and conditions. They have a singular purpose of protecting you and your client from undesirable situations.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to create a general Terms&Conditions text that you can recycle for different proposals. If that is the case, make sure to save the section in your content library, which will make it easy for you to access and use in any other proposal.
This article covered a lot of actionable tips that can help you create high-converting business proposals. As important as it is to showcase your value and past success, the devil is in the detail, which is why we’ve created this list to help you create the ideal proposal structure and everything else that requires special focus.
If you love what you read and want to try out Better Proposals, start with a free two-week trial. All of our proposal templates come with the structure we mentioned which will significantly speed up your proposal creation process.