Read our top closing sales tips from expert salespeople to learn how best to ask for the deal, including preparation and follow-up.
When a salesperson creates a business proposal for a prospective customer, they’ll typically start with a proposal template that’s easy to replicate. This helps ensure that you list all the project details required for a binding agreement. A proposal template can also act as sales or marketing material that positions your solution as the answer to an acute problem using the most appropriate design for your industry and customer.
While you can create effective proposals with prebuilt templates, we recommend custom-designing your own proposal template for the best results. If this sounds like you, hire a designer on Fiverr, an online marketplace of experts offering proposal design services for as little as five dollars. Create an eye-catching business proposal you can customize for each prospect and send as a PDF below:
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've also included example verbiage that you can keep or replace with your own messaging. In addition to the text, you can change the colors, font, and order of the sections. When you're finished, share it with your intended audience as a PowerPoint or PDF.
The length of your template and completed proposal depends on the complexity of your deal. Prospects involved in complex, high-priced deals will naturally require more information to make their decision — the proposal will reflect this need in its extended length. Small deals with a current client might just need a one-page proposal. 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 your template sections and layout help you state the key information that your prospect needs to know before deciding whether to work with you. By starting with a proper template, you can fill in the blanks and articulate your plan to help your prospect solve their problem. Our free template includes all of the key components of a standard template, plus the order in which they should typically appear.
More specifically, the nine key elements are below:
That said, you may need fewer than the above sections, like when using a one-page proposal. Ultimately use only the components necessary to clearly communicate your intended message. With that in mind, let’s cover the basics of each standard element below our free proposal template as an example, as well as how each element provides value to your overall proposal:
Your cover page should include your business’s name and a spot for your prospect’s. Some cover pages include graphics, like your company logo, while others take a more minimalist approach and just use words. 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; in electronic proposals created with proposal software, you can hyperlink the table of contents so readers can jump to their desired section. When you create your template, ensure that the table of contents matches the other sections you include.
An executive summary is a high-level overview of your business, the proposal, and your recommended next steps. After reading it, a prospect should have an understanding of the value your business brings them.
When you create your template, you can write much of your executive summary, then leave a few blank spaces or write it all for one prospect and then plan to change some of the verbiage for others so it can feel personalized. Essentially, the info about your business will remain the same, while your prospect's info will change.
As you write your executive summary template verbiage, keep in mind that a 2,000-word proposal should have an executive summary of 200 words max.
Include a section in which you can later describe the problem each prospect is trying to solve based on your discovery call with them. Like the executive summary, you can write the problem summary for one prospect and use that as your template, then modify it for future prospects with similar pain points.
For example, in our template, the main problem is that the prospect lacks time to train their sales reps, and the associated costs are below-average performance, untapped potential, and unhappy reps. If you specialize in solving this problem, you can recycle much of this verbiage for many of your prospects.
As a rule of thumb, this section should take up about as much space as your executive summary — another 5-10% of your proposal.
Next, your template should help you showcase your solution (product or service) to the problem you just described. First, create a place on the page in which you'll tell them what it is you’re actually offering them (the deliverables). In our template example, it’s a weekly training session. Then write a prompt in the template so you'll remember to share some key features, benefits, and strategies involved.
Because this is what your prospect is considering investing in, it deserves more words than the previous sections. Plan to dedicate about 10-15% of your proposal to this solution, including the static template verbiage and the additional language you'll add for each prospect. For a 2,000-word proposal, that’s up to 300 words.
Because this page is all about your business, you can write your qualifications into the template and either keep them the same in every proposal or swap some out depending on the project. Highlight your relevant experiences, credentials, awards, success stories, and statistics. You could also include a prompt in your template to find a case study about a client company similar to the prospect.
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, to avoid bragging, plan 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.
Your timeline should outline the dates that you’ll reach each project milestone or send each deliverable to the prospect. To present this information, include a blank table or flowchart in your template that you can later fill out with the specific information for each project. For instance, a B2B SaaS company might enter how long the implementation and product training will last and when they’ll take place.
Create a template table in the pricing section to show each prospect 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, when it's time to fill out the template, your selling activities will 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.
The terms and conditions page handles the legal aspects of the deal, like how and when you wish to be paid, standard services you offer to prevent scope creep, and other rules for your prospect to follow. Once you have the standard verbiage you'll use in every proposal, it'll be easier to fill in the blanks for each project, such as deliverables and expectations.
Since this is one of the most technical sections, smaller businesses without an in-house expert might opt to hire outside legal counsel to craft the template. But you can do it on your own as well. For more on writing the bones of this section and later personalizing it, check out Privacy Policies’ in-depth article on how to write a terms and conditions agreement. Also consider brushing up on your contract law basics.
In your next steps section, make a standard call-to-action or include a few blanks to personalize to each prospect. 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 — or if your proposal offers the ability to add a print signature or esignature, it can double as a legally binding contract. Since B2B buying decisions are often complex, include your contact information on this page with a blurb telling the prospect they can call you with any questions that come up.
While our free proposal template is great to use, you may want to custom-design your own reusable template to really stand out from the rest. If this sounds like you, we recommend checking out Fiverr, a gig-based marketplace with experts offering business proposal design services you can use to customize and send proposals as a PDF. Prices start as low as five dollars for top experts:
There are some great business proposal template libraries around the web in which you can find templates to download and customize as your own. They each have various styles and layouts to fit your specific needs. And if you already have a template or are using our free one, you can still flip through these libraries in search of unique ideas that you can use to modify your own proposal.
Venngage’s proposal templates will work for any type of business, and they even have categories specific to consulting and marketing. Most of the templates include many of the sections we covered above and come with visually appealing infographics that denote a shift from one section to the other. Venngage offers a free plan with limited features plus upgrades for more functionality.
To find a template in the library that's right for you, try searching your industry in the search bar on the upper lefthand corner of the library screen.
Envato Elements' business proposal template library contains fully editable proposal templates. You can change the font, colors, background, photos, and words. Many of the layouts are minimalistic in style and leave a lot of room for text. You can look through as many templates as you'd like, but you must subscribe to download them. Pricing starts at $10.75 per user, per month for a small team, and they offer a seven-day free trial.
The link above will lead you directly to their business proposal template library. To find the template you need, add your industry or another term that describes your business before the phrase "business proposal templates" in the search bar at the top. For example, startups can type "startup business proposal templates" to find a good template for them. You can also add filters on the left to better find what you're looking for.
Proposify’s template library claims that all templates are 100% customizable, so it's a great option for businesses looking for full control when creating their proposals. Because Proposify is quality proposal software, you can trust its templates to be professionally created and effective. Their free plan gives users access to five active documents (draft, sent, or viewed proposals), but you can upgrade to one of their paid plans if you find that you need active access to unlimited proposals.
Within Proposify's library, you can select your industry from a checklist on the left to filter by the templates that are most likely to fit your business needs. If your industry isn't listed, there's also an option to sort alphabetically A-Z or Z-A. This way, if you represent a payroll company, for example, you can easily scroll through the options until you hit the Ps.
Canva's proposal template library offers a fast, free way to create professional-looking proposals using a popular program that many sellers and marketers are familiar with. Canva has gained popularity over the past several years due to its accessibility and ease of use. The free version will likely offer everything businesses need to create a great proposal from one of their templates, but upgrades are available and provide premium features and images.
When you head to Canva's proposals page hyperlinked above, click the Start Designing a Proposal button at the top. Then, you can pick from their templates and customize the text and elements. Simply download it as your preferred file type when you're finished.
Google Docs' template gallery gives you over a dozen proposals to start with. Most of their templates are short, so these will likely require more design work on your end than the others, but it's a great option if you want to keep your proposal creation process as inexpensive and simple as possible. There are no costs involved with using their templates.
There isn't a filter option offered on the page, but you can either scroll through the entire page or simply hit Control + F on your Windows keyboard or Command + F on a Mac to search for the word "proposal." This will highlight all of the templates you should choose from.
If you start with a template and want some ideas to elevate your completed business proposal, it can be helpful to look at some example proposals other businesses have created. You can see how they’ve formatted and written each section and learn from each one's unique strategy. In our article on how to write a business proposal, we feature four quality proposal examples — three are related to consulting, real estate, and financial services, while one provides an example for product sellers.
While it’s possible to use our template or one from the template libraries 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, below are some of the top software to look into:
Freshsales is a CRM and our top-rated proposal software offering the best mix of proposal creation and management together with the features of a robust sales pipeline tool. While you may be able to create more visually-pleasing proposal templates with the other options listed, Freshsales provides the best blend of proposal and general sales tools to help you close deals more efficiently. Check out their free 21-day trial to test.
PandaDoc is a well-known document management platform that helps businesses create and send proposals quickly. Its template library contains over 150 business proposal templates that are available to users starting at the lowest paid tier: Essentials at $19 per user, per month. After you create your business proposal from your chosen template, you can send it to your prospect and then track views, clicks, and downloads.
Proposify is free proposal software great for managing proposals internally and externally. Start with its template library, then when your proposal is finished, assign permissions to your team members to promote accountability and avoid errors. Once it's in your prospect's hands, you can check its status on desktop or mobile, then decide whether the template is working to capture their attention or you should change up how you're presenting your project.
Better Proposals is proposal software that helps creative companies make web-based business proposals that include interactive elements. When you start with one of their 75+ templates, you can then customize it to show off your skills in web design, video production, or similar visual and creative skills. Plans start at $13 per user, per month, and all include access to their content template library.
These three software are great options if you're looking for quality templates plus a way to edit, send, and track your business proposals. Check out our article on the best proposal software to learn about the other top platforms, including their use cases, pricing, features, and more.
A business proposal is a written document designed to help nurture 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 their needs. But even after you nail the template and send a completed proposal, be ready to hop on the phone with them to answer questions and assuage any concerns.