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When a salesperson sends a business proposal to a prospective customer, they’ll typically use a proposal template that’s easy to replicate. The best templates ensure you list all the project details required for a binding agreement, as well as act as sales or marketing material that positions your solution as the answer to an acute problem. In this article, we provide you with a free business proposal template along with advice on how to customize it for your needs.
We created a free downloadable business proposal template that contains every essential section of a business proposal, such as a cover page, table of contents, and pricing. We discuss the full list of sections and how to customize them next. In addition to the text, you can also change the background, colors, font, and order of the sections. Then, save it as a PDF before sending it to your intended audience.
The length of your business proposal depends on the complexity and cost of your deal. Prospects involved in complex, high-priced deals will naturally require more information to make their decision, and the proposal will reflect this need in its extended length. Small deals with a current client might just need a page. As a rule of thumb, your proposal for new business should at a minimum be long enough to include a few crucial sections, which we’ll now cover.
The success of your business proposal depends on how well you know your prospect and their specific problem, and how succinctly and convincingly you can articulate your plan to help them solve it. Personalization of the template to each new prospect is therefore essential.
There are nine key elements of the template:
Next let’s cover the basics of each element of the business proposal template and go over how to customize each for your specific business need.
Your cover page should clearly state your business’s name and your prospect’s. Some cover pages include graphics, like a company logo, while others take a more minimalist approach and just use words, like in the screenshot near the top of the article. The design and approach you choose should stay consistent throughout the rest of the proposal. Your cover page sets the tone for what’s to come. Take into account the level of professionalism your prospect prefers.
Your table of contents is there to make the reader’s life easier. At a glance, they can get a general sense of what they’re about to read. They can also skip to a specific section. For example, perhaps the prospect’s legal counsel wants to see only the Terms & Conditions page. Electronic business proposals like those in Proposify enable you to hyperlink the table of contents so readers can click the link and jump to their desired section.
An executive summary is a high-level overview of your business proposal. After reading it, a prospect should have an understanding of the value your business brings them. As a rule of thumb, keep the summary to 5-10% of the entire proposal. A 2,000-word proposal should have an executive summary of 200 words max. It should be well-written and employ copywriting techniques like storytelling; the use of “you”; and short, punchy sentences.
A successful executive summary should briefly introduce your company and mission, then highlight the problem you solve as well as your solution’s key features or benefits. End with a strong closing statement summarizing potential next steps.
Include a section that describes the problem your prospect is trying to solve. Make them really feel the need for your solution. As a rule of thumb, this section should take up about as much space as your executive summary — another 5-10% of your proposal. Also, here is your chance to show off the research, analysis, and thinking you’ve done. Prospects appreciate it when you do your homework. Describe the problem, its root causes, and its associated costs.
For example, in the template below, the main problem is that the prospect lacks adequate time to train their sales reps, and the associated costs are below-average performance, untapped potential (a missed opportunity), and unhappy reps. If after reading this, the prospect feels you have a solid understanding of their issue, they’ll suppose you’re also equipped to solve it.
Next, it’s time to showcase your solution (product or service) to the problem you just described. Because this is what they’re considering investing in, it deserves more words than the previous sections. Dedicate about 10-15% of your proposal to the proposed solution. For a 2,000-word proposal, that’s up to 300 words. The key here is to help them understand what they’ll receive and convince them that it’ll solve their problem.
First, tell them what it is you’re actually offering them (the deliverables). In our template example, it’s a weekly training session. Then share some key features and benefits to the prospect. If possible, you could also explain the strategy behind your approach and why it will work in this specific situation.
Use this section to show you’re the perfect business or person for the job of solving the prospect’s problem and helping them reach their goal. People like to buy from experts. However, they don’t like to buy from self-obsessed boasters, so try to keep the text to a maximum of 5% of your total proposal. If it’s 2,000 words, that’s 50 words. Use bullet points to make that an easier number to hit.
Here, highlight your relevant experiences and credentials and your business’s awards, success stories, statistics, and anything else that’ll improve your credibility in the eyes of the reader. Years of experience in the specific industry is a commonly used credential.
You could also find a case study about a client company that’s similar to the prospect and place it on or after your qualifications page. In the case study, the client should have had the same problem as the prospect. If you, customer success, or marketing has the data, highlight the positive metrics achieved by the client, such as ROI, reduced costs, or increased traffic.
Your timeline should outline the dates that you’ll reach each project milestone or send each deliverable to the prospect. A table or flowchart works best here. For instance, a B2B SaaS company might use it to demonstrate how long the implementation and product training will last and when they’ll take place. Although the timeline isn’t set in stone, it’s still critical to give the prospect an estimation so they can plan appropriately.
Use the pricing section to lay out the total cost of the product or service and how it’s broken down between different sub-costs for each deliverable and other fees, taxes, etc. Breaking it down into sub-costs will help the prospect rationalize the total cost. Ideally, your selling activities up to this point have done an adequate job justifying the value of the solution, so the price is acceptable to the prospect. If you offer pricing tiers, list them in a pricing comparison table.
This section handles the legal aspects of the deal. Sometimes it helps to get legal counsel when crafting this agreement. The section outlines exactly what you promise to deliver to the prospect and what you expect from them in return. This way, it ensures they receive what they paid for and you get paid for your work. The most important things to include are the pricing, how and when you wish to be paid (credit card, check, etc.), and other rules for them to follow.
This terms & conditions section also protects you from scope creep — doing extra work. If at some time during your working relationship, the prospect asks for anything outside of the scope of what you promised, you can refer them to this page in the proposal.
These terms and conditions should match any contract the prospect will sign. The contract might be more technical and lay out what you’ve written in the proposal in more legal terms. Keep in mind that if your proposal offers the ability to accept its terms, perhaps by offering an “accept and sign” button on the next steps page, it can become a legally binding contract when it’s accepted. Consider brushing up on your contract law basics.
Since this is one of the most technical sections, smaller businesses without an in-house expert might opt to hire outside legal counsel. But you can do it on your own as well. For more on writing this section, check out Privacy Policies’ in-depth article on how to write a terms and conditions agreement.
In your next steps section, make your call-to-action. This tells the prospect what you want them to do next. Typically, this next step in a business proposal is signing the contract and paying you for your product or service. Tell them who should sign and where the contract exists (usually an attachment). Since B2B buying decisions are often complex, include your contact information on this page with a blurb telling the prospect they can call you if they have any more questions.
There are some great business proposal templates floating around the web that you can download and customize into your own. They each have their own style and layout that might fit your specific needs. And if you already have a template, or are using ours provided in this article, you can still flip through these templates below in search of some cool ideas that you can use to modify your own proposal.
Vengage’s business proposal template will work for any type of company. It includes many of the sections we covered above, including the executive summary, statement of problem, and qualifications. It also comes with visually appealing infographics that denote a shift from one section to the other. It’s also rather short, coming in at four pages, so it may be best for companies that are upselling current well-informed clients.
The CoproBiz business proposal template offered on Envato’s marketplace is fully editable. You can change the font, colors, background, photos, and words. The layout is minimalist in style and leaves a lot of room for your writing to do the talking. It also comes with a cool timeline element that you can use to tell your company story.
The Minimal business proposal template offered on Envato’s marketplace costs $14 and uses a minimalist design that makes it look clean and easy to read. It comes with a wide selection of fonts and can be customized to any color. It contains page templates for the following:
Proposify’s business consulting template is free if you create an account and is perfect for consultants selling their services to other businesses. It comes with sections to introduce your business, summarize your project, and explain the services you’ll provide and even a page that acts as a contract with electronic signature functionality.
If you’re in need of some ideas to elevate your business proposal, it helps to look at some example proposals other people have created. You can see how they’ve formatted and written each section. And each example has its own unique structure and strategy that you can learn from. Here are three business proposals we found, along with our brief analysis of what makes each of them work.
Nusii’s example business proposal demonstrates a quality proposal for content marketing services. It begins by focusing on educating the prospective buyer about content marketing and its effectiveness in this digital era. The proposal even includes a YouTube video about the subject. It also includes two plans at the end, each with different pricing, so the buyer has options. And to make the next steps easy, they have an “accept proposal” button at the top.
PandaDoc’s sales training proposal example deserves a glance from anyone selling training, coaching, or teaching services. Credentials of trainers matter a lot to the buyer, so they dedicate a page to introducing them. The proposal spends the majority of its following pages going in-depth on the training approach and what they’ll be focusing on teaching the reps. It also includes a comprehensive contract section near the end.
PandaDoc’s hotel services proposal example is something worth looking at if you’re in the business of planning or hosting events. It prioritizes the hotel’s amenities such as the dining room and the specs — in this case, seating capacity. Facts and sizing data points like these will be most important to the buyer, who is probably comparing different places to host the event. It also includes charming pictures of the venue to help the buyer make their decision.
While it’s possible to use any of the templates above to create winning business proposals, there are also proposal software that help with business proposal template creation and management. If you’re looking for templates that include automation, tracking, and interactivity, check out our article on the best proposal software for more.
A business proposal is a written document designed to guide your prospects across the finish line by clearly outlining the value your product or service will provide them. It’s a culmination of all that you’ve learned about your prospects’ needs. But after you click send, keep in mind that the lead nurturing isn’t done just yet. The proposal will prompt more questions from the prospect, so be ready to hop on the phone with them to answer their questions and assuage any concerns.