How to Write a Business Proposal That Closes Deals

Learn how to write a business proposal with our step-by-step guide, including a free template and professional examples plus tips.

Business proposals are documents sent to prospects outlining the terms of a deal, including things like your value proposition, price, scope of work, timeline, and more. To write an effective proposal that closes the deal, most salespeople start with a base template and then customize the required sections for the specific deal terms. Here, we’ll go over the eight-step process for writing a business proposal and also give you examples, tips, and a free template.

This article details the steps necessary to create a full-blown business proposal. However, in some situations, a smaller, one-page business proposal might work. If this sounds like you, check out our article on creating a one-page proposal.

Free Business Proposal Template

A quality business proposal includes several crucial sections: cover page, executive summary, statement of the problem, proposed solution, terms, pricing, timeline, and next steps. To help, we created a free business proposal template for you; simply create a copy of the document and customize accordingly. Refer to this and our associated article as you follow the steps below:

How to Write a Business Proposal in 8 Steps

Regardless of your specific business type or client, there is an effective process to follow when writing your business proposal. It includes the following eight steps: 

  1. Collect the information you need. 
  2. Write your proposal mission statement. 
  3. Outline the project’s scope.
  4. Calculate the costs of your project. 
  5. Write your proposal’s first draft. 
  6. Review and edit your proposal. 
  7. Send your business proposal with a letter. 
  8. Follow up with your prospect.

Steps 1 – 4 help you identify the necessary data for your proposal. Steps 5 – 6 represent the act of drafting your proposal based on the info you collected, and steps 7 – 8 help with sending and follow-up. Let’s now look at each step in depth so you know exactly how to create your own.

1. Collect the Information You Need

It’s best to personalize your business proposal to your prospect’s unique situation, needs, and pain points. When the proposal demonstrates to the prospect that you fully understand their needs, they’re more likely to approve it. But, to personalize it, you need to gather information about the prospect, like the problems they want solved, their budget, and their desired timeline.

You’ll accumulate much of this information throughout the sales process during lead generation, discovery, presenting, and any other impromptu conversations with the prospect. Typically, the bulk of it will come during a discovery call that takes place before you present your solution. On this discovery phone call, you’ll ask the prospect questions; you’ll then use their answers in your business proposal later on.

Some people use discovery call frameworks that act as checklists for the information they need to collect, and therefore the questions they need to ask. For example, the BANT framework prompts reps to ask about a prospect’s budget, authority to buy, needs, and timeline. Using a framework like BANT or CHAMP (challenges, authority, money, priority) adds structure to your discovery process. Here’s an article about the different frameworks and who should use which.

Now, here are the critical questions you need answered before creating a proposal: 

  • Who Are the Main Decision Makers? Who’ll actually be making the purchasing decision? Tailor the proposal to their specific titles, objectives, and responsibilities. 
  • What Is Your Prospect’s Main Problem? Find the main issue that the prospect needs you to solve. Learn about the costs of the problem, as well. 
  • Have They Failed to Solve This Problem Before? What did they try? Why didn’t it work? Craft a proposal that explains how your solution will work better than the last. 
  • What Are Your Prospect’s Goals? Are there specific metrics they want to hit or market opportunities they want to seize? Show them how your solution will help them do it. 
  • Does Your Prospect Have a Budget? Ask if they have a specific budget in mind. This will help you propose a solution to them that is financially feasible. 
  • By What Date Do They Need the Solution Implemented? Do they need this project done by a certain date? And when do they need to see the desired results? 
  • Are They Looking at Any of Your Competitors? If you know the other businesses they’re evaluating, place messaging in your proposal that brings up features and benefits that differentiate you from those competitors.

As you ask your prospect these questions, write or type their answers. After the call, it’s best to transfer that information into a customer relationship management system under the prospect’s account, where you can access it as you craft your proposal.

2. Write Your Proposal Mission Statement

A proposal mission statement is a written paragraph to yourself that explains why you’re writing this business proposal in the first place. It’s covering the prospect’s problem, how you’re going to solve it, and what you’ll personally gain from it. The prospect will never see it, but it will act as your North Star. Whenever you’re stuck on what to write in your proposal, or simply demotivated, read your mission statement for direction and inspiration.

Here’s an example of a proposal mission statement:

The mission of this proposal is to show {Client Name} how they can solve the problem of generating too many unqualified leads that waste their sales team’s time. We will solve it using our lead scoring software, which will automatically assign points to leads, track their scores, and ensure that only leads above a certain score are passed to sales. This will increase {Client Name}’s close rate, job satisfaction amongst their salespeople, and revenue. 

We’re perfectly equipped to do this because unlike our competitors, we use AI predictive analytics. If I close this deal, I’ll earn $XXX.

Writing a full business proposal can sometimes be a bit of a slog. Writer’s block comes in, and you might forget the “why” behind this endeavor. So you need those jolting reminders that you in fact are the perfect business to help this particular prospect, and that you’re close to getting a nice commission after closing the deal.

3. Outline the Project’s Scope

Your project’s scope refers to the work and deliverables required to satisfy your prospect’s needs and includes things like tasks, costs, timelines, and more. While your mission statement can be thought of as the why of the project, the project’s scope can be thought of as the who, what, when, where, and how of the project. Write this all out. Knowing the scope of the project will help you determine the price of your project as well as the time commitment on your end.

The outline of your project’s scope answers the following questions: 

  • Who: Who will be involved in the project? Who’ll do the work or implement the solution? Who’ll oversee the project? Who’ll answer the customer’s questions if there’s an issue?  
  • What: What materials and resources are needed to complete the project? What resources does the customer already have? What are the deliverables the customer will receive, and what will it cost them? What are the customer’s expectations? 
  • When: When will the project start? When will it end? When will you reach your milestones? And, of course, when will you get paid? 
  • Where: Where will you be working? Where will the materials come from? Where will the work be delivered? 
  • How: How long will each project milestone take, and how about the whole project? How will you communicate with the client? How will the work be split up among team members? How will you ensure client satisfaction?

These answers will make up a lot of the content in your business proposal. So refer to this bulleted outline as you write. In the actual proposal, though, it won’t directly match this list. Some of the answers you’ve found like “where you’ll be working” or “what materials are needed” will help you determine a price. Others will be present in the proposal, typically falling under sections like timeline, deliverables, or terms & conditions.

For example, a business might use a projected timeline table to express when the main deliverables (e.g., SEO audit, physical product) will be received or the main milestones (e.g., first class, full-access to SaaS solution) will be hit, as done in this table below from our free template. This helps the prospect visualize and understand the timeframe of the project, and allows them to assess whether it works for them.

Projected timeline example
Template projected timeline

Meanwhile, a terms & conditions section that deals with the legal aspects of the project is often used to outline exactly what you’ll provide the prospect, how you’ll be paid, and by when. This agreement, which should also be in the contract, ensures you don’t fall into scope creep — when your prospect asks you to do something out of the scope of agreed work. If during your relationship they ever ask for a task that feels out of scope, refer them to this document.

Template terms & conditions
Template terms & conditions

4. Calculate the Cost of Your Project

Now that you know the full scope of work (including any materials or labor), begin calculating the price you’ll charge the prospect. Businesses usually have their own methods of doing this. How you charge depends largely on the type of solution you offer. A freelance writer will have different pricing methods than a B2B seller. But, generally, you can break up the costs of your project into specific categories.

Here are some different costs to consider when pricing your project: 

  • Labor: The number of hours of human labor it will take to complete the project or, as in SaaS solutions, manage it until the contract expires, and how much each hour costs.  
  • Materials: The cost of the resources needed to offer the products or carry out the service. Take into account costs like paintbrushes even if you already own them.
  • Transportation: Consider costs like gas or public transportation if your project requires it.
  • Vendors: The cost of external services that you hire to help you complete your project. 
  • Facilities: The cost of renting or using facilities to create your product or deliver your service. Take into account utilities that come with working from these locations. 
  • Technology: Costs of hardware (e.g., computers) and software (e.g., web hosting). 
  • Contingency Costs: Estimated costs to cover any potential project risks. Learn how to calculate your contingency costs in Project Control Academy’s article.

Typically, the category that’ll be the majority of your total cost is the labor hours (first bullet above) needed to complete the work. So, it’s important to get this estimate right. The last thing you want to do is underestimate how long a job will take and then end up losing money. To avoid this, multiply your first estimate by 1.5 to account for any mishaps or roadblocks that pop up during the project.

Lastly, if applicable, determine your fee and add it to the final price or bake it into the line item costs. The finished pricing should go into a pricing table in your business proposal like the one below from our template:

Pricing table example
Template pricing table

5. Write Your Proposal’s First Draft

Now that you have all the required information, it’s time to write your first draft in either document or slideshow form. Typically, different businesses’ proposals will follow their own unique structures. However, all of them should clearly outline the main problem you’ll solve, how you’ll do it, and the pricing, timeline, and terms of the project. 

Follow along in our free template as we go over the key sections of a business proposal, some of which you should be familiar with from the screenshots above. Here are some of the most important sections to include in your business proposal:

  • Cover Page: This is the first page of the proposal. It need not be flashy, but it should contain the critical details, including your company name and the name of the recipient. 
  • Executive Summary: The executive summary serves as a summary of the proposal as well as a sales page that gets them excited to keep reading. Write about the main problem you’ll solve for the prospect, how you’ll do it, and the benefits they’ll receive.  
  • Statement of Problem: Name the main problem your prospect wants to overcome. Also, write the associated costs of letting it go unsolved, like missed opportunities, low team morale, wasted time, and/or financial costs. 
  • Proposed Solution: Discuss your approach and how you plan to solve the problem. Highlight your most relevant features or services and the benefits they offer. 
  • Qualifications: Write about any relevant experiences, credentials, or rewards that demonstrate you’re the right business for the job. 
  • Pricing & Timeline: Use a pricing table to show the subtotals and the total cost. Include discounts, fees, and taxes in the total price. Also, try naming it an “investment” page so the prospect thinks of your solution as a value-add rather than a cost. 
  • Terms & Conditions: Articulate what deliverables you’ll give to the customer, as well as how much and when they’ll pay for it. Also, outline any rules you want them to follow.
  • Next Steps: Make your call-to-action. This is usually for them to accept the proposal or sign the attached contract and begin payment and onboarding.

As for length, Proposify did an audit of over 260k sales proposals to find the answer. The average page count across all proposals was 13, while the average of all winning proposals was 11. This reveals that shorter sales proposals on average do better. This trend was true for the number of sections, as well (an average of eight, or seven for winners). Keep in mind that some sections take up more than one page.

How long your proposal is depends on how much information your prospect needs to make their buying decision. More complex products and services generally require more words and sections to get the key points across. But, as a rule, try to convey that information in as few pages as possible. A shorter read means less room for the prospect to become overwhelmed or confused, and therefore a higher chance they read all of it and understand the value you offer.

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Additional Reading:

Check out our full article breaking down our business proposal template in even greater detail. We dive further into what the proposal sections in the list above — as well as others, like credentials and table of contents — should look like.

6. Review & Edit Your Proposal

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” That short sentence was probably even a second draft. To make your business proposal as succinct, clear, and pleasurable to read as possible, you must go over it and check for any errors, problems with flow, or disorder. Make use of plugins like Grammarly that can automatically spell- and grammar-check your work. Also, check out Paul Graham’s advice on writing simply.

Here are some other things to do when editing your writing in your proposal: 

  • Keep Your Sentences on the Shorter Side: Split up run-on sentences. Short sentences will keep up the reader’s momentum. Reduce word count by finding strong words to replace lengthy phrases. Use “to” for “in order to” or “if” for “in the event of.” 
  • Make Sure Your Proposal Is Professional: Make sure the professionalism of your proposal reflects that of the prospect. To punch up the professional language, substitute multiple weaker words for a more sophisticated one (e.g., “very boring” for “mundane”). 
  • Check for Flow Between Sentences: Ensure it reads well. Check to see if you find yourself mentally stumbling through the words or getting stuck. To improve flow, use transition words like “however” or “therefore” between sentences or paragraphs. 
  • Replace Industry Jargon: Your buyer might not be an expert in the technicalities of what you do. Keep your language simple.

A well-written proposal will also act as an expression of the future work you’ll provide for the prospect. If they see that you took the time to write a clear and professional proposal, they’ll expect that the product or service they’re considering buying will be of a similar quality.

Pro Tip:

Clarity is essential in a proposal. A smart buyer won’t spend money on something that confuses them. So, send your business proposal to a colleague and ask them to highlight or point out any sentences that confuse them even in the slightest.

7. Send Your Business Proposal With a Letter

Usually, you’ll send your finished business proposal as an email attachment to your main point of contact and decision maker. The body of the email on which it’s attached is known as a sales proposal letter. This letter summarizes the proposal and tells the prospect why they should open and accept it, like in the example below.

Example business proposal letter
Example business proposal letter

Here are some things to keep in mind when writing a business proposal letter: 

  • Personalize the Letter: This makes them more excited to open the proposal. Write that the attached proposal lays out your solution to the specific problem they want to solve. 
  • Include Critical Business Details: Include your name and theirs, as well as the names of the businesses involved. Supply your contact info in case they have any questions. 
  • End With a Request to Follow Up: At the end of the letter, ask the prospect for permission to follow up by a certain date using a certain communication method. “Can I follow up with you by phone on May 3rd to talk with you about the proposal?”

Sometimes, your prospect will have a more formal proposal submission process that they outline in their request for proposal (RFP). If this is the case, follow the instructions exactly as stated. Some buyers will ask you to follow specific guidelines as a test of your attention to detail and diligence. If you’re unsure of who should be the recipient, ask your main point of contact.

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Additional Reading:

To learn more about sending a letter with your proposal, check out our article on writing a business proposal letter. There, we explain the five steps to crafting an effective letter, plus we provide a template and examples.

8. Follow Up With Your Prospect

After the prospect receives your proposal, they might tell you how long they’ll take to discuss it internally. If this is the case, give them that time plus two more business days before you follow up on the proposal via email.

If they didn’t tell you when they’d have an answer, follow up after the third business day. This is so the proposal is still fresh on their minds. Reach out in a friendly and noninvasive manner. By no means rush them. Simply send them a short email asking if they had a chance to read the proposal and if they had any questions that you could answer for them. This will serve as a little reminder as well as a chance for them to pose questions they need to ask you before buying.

Here’s an example of a good follow-up email:

Hi {Prospect’s Name},

I hope your week has been going well. I wanted to follow up with you about the proposal I sent on {Date}. Have you gotten a chance to read it, and if so, are there any questions I can answer? If you haven’t gotten around to it, no rush. Either way, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about the proposal soon!

Best regards,
{Your Name}

Top 3 Business Proposal Examples

Sometimes it helps to look at business proposal examples from which you can take ideas and tactics. You can also see how they use images and icons to get their points across, as well as the language they use. Below are three of the top business proposal examples.

B2C Consulting Business Proposal Example

This B2C consulting proposal has a scannable layout and a tasteful cotton candy color scheme that looks both professional and pleasing. It juxtaposes the problem statement right next to the solution statement, making it easy for the prospect to read about the solution while the problem is still fresh in their mind. Since it’s a consulting example, it also added a SWOT analysis box that goes over the prospect’s weaknesses, opportunities, etc., thereby demonstrating expertise.

B2C consulting proposal example
Example B2C consulting proposal

Real Estate Development Business Proposal Example

This development business proposal does a nice job of illustrating the scope of work using numbers, graphics, and written text. It uses a pricing box that makes it easy for the reader to see the exact pricing. Whenever you can make something clearer or easier to understand for the prospect, take the opportunity. The proposal also lays out its three objectives for the project at the beginning, which will get the reader excited to read on to learn how it’ll be accomplished.

RE proposal example
Example real estate proposal

Financial Services Business Proposal Example

Proposify’s financial services business proposal includes an image at the top of almost every single page, making it visually appealing to the reader. It also has a short and sweet project summary section (shown below), also known as the proposed solution section, where it uses bullet points to list out the goals they’ll achieve for their client. The proposal also dedicates a page to introducing the team members.

Financial services proposal example
Example financial services proposal

Top 4 Business Proposal Tips

For inspiration, check out these four proposal tips and ideas. They’ll level up your business proposal regardless of your business type or industry.

Use a Business Proposal Template

business proposal template, like the one we’ve provided above, is a proposal that’s pre-designed and customizable. There are a lot of them floating around online that you can choose from and customize to your liking, changing their background, text, color scheme, and messaging to fit your brand. Find one, then edit it until it’s about 90% completed. Then, all you have to do is personalize that last 10% for each new specific prospect.

For example, you might just have to swap out the dollar amounts for each square in your pricing table whenever you have a new prospect. Or you might just switch out the keywords in the problem statement to fit the problem of this particular prospect. Having a template makes the whole proposal creation process more efficient.

Include a Video in Your Proposal

Consider including a video in your business proposal as a way to engage the prospect and enhance their experience. The video should be in the body of your proposal. Perhaps you can use it to show a video case study or to introduce your team, like in the proposal below:

Example video in proposal
Example video in proposal

Most proposal management software enable you to embed a video that exists on another webpage, like your website page or YouTube, into your electronic proposal. The same goes for PowerPoint or Google Slides. If you’re using a Word Document, follow these steps for embedding a video. Or you can link to a YouTube video in the text that’ll open in another tab for the reader.

Not only is a video a nice break from reading, it’s also a great way for you to get your information across without adding too many words to the page. That means shorter proposals, which, as we said above, helps your chances of closing the deal. As for what information people generally use these videos to express, Proposify ran the survey below, with “about us” taking the lead.

Video in proposals
Survey results — video in proposals

Include Images in Your Proposal

According to Proposify’s study of 2.6 million business proposals, including images in your proposals can increase your deal close rates by 26%. Images help your proposals stand out from the crowd, and that helps you win deals. You can use images to introduce your team members or to just split up the text and make the design look more visually appealing and professional. Also, try using graphs or charts to illustrate any trends or stats you’re sharing.

Leverage Proposal Management Software

Proposal management software refers to web-based tools that help you write, manage, and send business proposals. These tools provide benefits like the ability to use a wide range of their templates and track proposal analytics (e.g., the close rate of one proposal vs. another). With these analytics, you can test different proposal lengths, section usage, and writing techniques against each other and approach optimization over time.

Plus, these software platforms also typically offer electronic signatures on the proposals, which, according to Proposify’s study, can help deals close 60% faster and at a 4.6X higher rate. They also make it easier to create and track business proposals as you send them out to all your future customers.

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Additional Reading:

For a list of the best business proposal ideas to improve your own proposal, check out our roundup of top tips and ideas from expert sellers. There, you’ll learn key strategies and approaches for business proposal optimization.

Bottom Line: How to Write a Business Proposal

Business proposals are often your final chance of the lead nurturing phase to explain how your solution adds value to your prospect. They also show the prospect what the business relationship will look like if they decide to sign the contract. Therefore, it’s crucial that you make this document as clear, convincing, and engaging as possible. So follow the eight steps above and watch those proposal acceptances and contract signatures roll in.

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