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The 3 Kinds of Proposal Template Strategies and How to Find the Best One For Your Team

Does the thought that your sales team’s proposals might be going out riddled with typos, filled with incorrect details, or looking like they came from some bizarro version of your brand keep you up at night? This post and infographic outline ways to avoid these costly errors and find some proposal peace of mind.

5 min. read

You may have a proposal template, but do you have a proposal template strategy?

If you have a proposal template without a strategy you’re missing out on a lot of the functionality, efficiency, and consistency that templates bring to your sales doc workflows.

Yes, a proposal template is good, but as part of a template strategy it will help you get set up faster, streamline your proposal workflow and have your reps pumping out more accurate, customized proposals faster than ever.

If you want to take your proposal creation to the next level, you’ll love this post. I’m outlining the three most common proposal template strategies, how to use them, and the key factors that influence success for each one. And I’ve included a sweet flowchart to help you identify the best strategy for your sales team.

But first, let’s take a step back and get everyone on the same template page.

Business proposal template strategy basics

What is a business proposal template?

Let’s define what we’re talking about here. A business proposal template is a compilation of the sections that stay the same from proposal to proposal.

When you stick the sections together and save them as a template, you can use them as a base, and simply add content to each section to customize the proposal to your specific project.

This means the bulk of the work is already done when your team starts each new proposal—they know exactly what information to include and where to include it.

Why should sales teams use proposal templates?

Proposal templates help your sales team deliver flash AND substance, quickly and easily, in each and every proposal they send.

Here’s how:

  • People creating proposals don’t have to start from scratch every time, as they have an established starting point with placeholders and pre-defined sections to fill in.
  • Templates keep your sales documents consistent so you know what’s going out to clients.
  • If everyone is working off the same template, you can make universal edits and know that all future proposals will be created using the most up-to-date version.
  • Templates help avoid errors and/or omissions.
  • And they cut down on proposal preparation time.

It’s like making doughnuts. You wouldn’t bake one doughnut and decorate it. That’s inefficient. You’d bake a whole batch of plain doughnuts and then customize each one with the toppings you want.

In this case, the plain doughnut is the proposal template and the toppings are the content you add to tailor the proposal to the prospect and the deal.

What is a proposal template strategy?

A proposal template strategy is not “Google around for a free template, modify it, then start this ‘strategy’ all over again each time you need to send a proposal.”

A proper proposal template strategy first involves thinking about how you create your proposals and how your templates could best serve your needs to get customized proposals out to potential clients as quickly as possible. It takes into account:

  • Your sales doc creation workflow and sales cycle.
  • The volume of proposals your team sends.
  • Your industry, the type(s) of products and/or services you sell, and how you sell them (ie: individually vs. set packages vs. custom bundles)
  • The level of customization you’d like your sales team to have for each proposal.
  • How you create and add your proposal content.
  • How often you’ll need to update your templates and/or approved content.

A proposal template strategy isn’t:

  • Everyone on your team using a different template
  • Starting from scratch every time because your team wants to be able to “fully customize” proposals.
  • Using a proposal template without a content library (ie: no set content snippets, images or pricing).
  • Using a free proposal template with no branding updates.

Your proposal template strategy will dictate how you set up your proposal template(s), as well as how you’ll store your proposal content (include text snippets, images, fee tables, and sections) in your central content library.

Why do you need a proposal template strategy?

Now that we know what a proposal template strategy is, why should you have one? A clear proposal template strategy is one of the most important parts of your overall proposal strategy and workflow. It will help you and your team stay organized and consistent and create more customized proposals faster.

Just like you need a proposal creation workflow before moving to proposal software, it’s also a good idea to at least have an idea of the template strategy that would work best for how your team creates, sends, and signs proposals. This helps your CSM help you to get your templates and content library set up in the most useful way from Day 1.

Who needs a proposal template strategy?

Large sales teams, teams that send a high volume of proposals, teams that send proposals that need some element of customization, teams that want to increase productivity around sales docs, teams that sell different product lines and services or a combo (ie: buy a product and add implementation), teams that want to avoid errors in their proposals, teams that use multiple sales documents in their sales cycle and want to connect these, teams that want proposals that look great and perform great too.

In short, pretty much every sales team needs a proposal template strategy and it’s one of the best ways to get value from using proposal software.

Okay, now that we’re up to speed, let’s dive into the strategies and how to find the best one for your team.

The 3 most popular proposal template strategies, where they work well, and how to use them

1. The Frankenstein

One master template with all sections included (empty with placeholders). Reps delete or add sections as required and then fill them with appropriate snippets from the content library.

Good for sales teams that:

  • Want to simplify the proposal creation process for their large and/or remote team.
  • Want to maintain control over the info that is going into proposals.
  • Want to keep one master template so that all changes and updates will be universal.
  • Are in industries like digital advertising where a high level of customization is needed for each deal but the components are standardized.

Content management considerations

This template strategy relies on a thoughtfully constructed content library. Content needs to be organized by proposal section to make it easy to find what’s needed when it’s needed. For example, you could use folders within the content library to separate case studies into one folder and team bios and headshot for the About Us section in another.

A clear naming convention for each image, text snippet, or other asset helps with this as well. Our Proposify Customer Success Managers (CSMs) suggest using something like:

CaseStudy_ESignature

or

CaseStudy_ESignature_PullQuote

with corresponding placeholders in the template.

Creating proposals

This strategy streamlines the sales team’s proposal creation process. To create a proposal, a sales rep copies a version of the master template to work from and then adds or deletes sections as required. They then grab pre-approved content from the content library to fill in the placeholders in each section.

This approach means no confusion over which template to use since there’s just one master template. Plus, reps can customize it to their prospect and will know which information to include (or exclude) based on the deal.

Key success factors: Frequent template refreshes and an empty vs. full approach

Though part of the beauty of this strategy is that you set a master template and leave it for your sales team to use, you should still revisit it at least once or twice a year to make sure everything still looks good and then refresh anything that needs it.

Think about whether you’ll use the empty template approach, where your reps add info from the content library to the template, or the full template approach, where all info is included and reps delete what they don’t need

CSM Tip:
If your proposals are quite long or require a heavy amount of customization, our Customer Success team recommends setting your proposal template up with the sections empty and reps can then pull in required information from the content library, rather than trying to delete anything that’s not needed. This workflow is usually faster.

2. Template Per Offering

A template is created for each offering, such as a product line or service. Reps pick the best template that suits what they’re selling and then customize by adding/deleting content as required.

Good for sales teams that:

  • Sell more than one product/service;
  • Want to create detailed, customized proposals quickly;
  • Are in industries like SaaS where products/services tend to be sold as bundles or packages.

Content management consideration

Building out the content library and organizing content by proposal section (ie: all case studies in one folder, all team bios and headshots in another) is also important to making this strategy work.

But because there are multiple templates, the naming convention for text content and other assets will need to go another level deeper. Each asset’s filename should include the name of the template first and then labels to identify the section and specific content. For example, a filename like:

ProductA_CaseStudy_CompanyX

or

ProductB_CaseStudy_CompanyY_PullQuote

Would work well. A strong naming convention will make it easy for reps to find what they need.

CSM tip:
If deals involve complex pricing strategies, you may want to have complete saved sections and pages. For example, if your sales team sells packages, you could preset an entire fee table with that bundle’s pricing scheme. So in your content library, you’d have a table with a 5-seat deal, one with a 10-seat deal, and another with 10-seat deal that includes onboarding. Your sales reps can pull in the deal they need and know that the details and pricing are correct.

Creating proposals

This strategy streamlines proposal creation because reps select the template they need based on what they are selling to that particular client and then customize it using assets from the content library to reflect the deal details.

Key success factors: Updated content and additional templates as required

With multiple template in use, you’ll want to ensure that templates and content are refreshed frequently to make sure they’re up-to-date.

And, if you find reps are constantly selling a certain package that needs to be put together from scratch, you might want to set up an additional template for that bundle to help them save time.

3. 2+ Documents

Multiple templates are set up for different stages of the sales cycle or the customer lifecycle. For example, you might want to send a brochure from a template and then a proposal with a contract from a template. Document creators could use content from the content library in either or all of documents and add in extra details like terms and conditions and signature boxes as needed.

Good for sales teams that:

  • Use documents at multiple points in the sales process and customer lifecycle.
  • Are in industries like event services where they might use venue or event brochures, sponsorship presentations, and other sales documents before the final proposal or contract is sent.

Content management considerations

For this template strategy, an organized content library is the key ingredient for success. It will be very easy for the content library to get chaotic with multiple document types and their respective content.

To keep everything under control, naming conventions will start with the document type then section then content type and, finally, the specific asset. For example, using this method a sample event floor plan could be filenamed Brochure_Venue_FloorPlan_EventSetUp1.

Creating proposals

To create a proposal, sales reps choose the document that corresponds to the sales cycle stage they are in. Information will often move from the first document to the next, including details like pricing or optional add-ons.

Key success factor: Placeholders

This strategy can be more confusing and sales reps might be unsure what information goes where.

CSM tip:
Creating placeholders in your templates for information that moves from one document to the next indicates to reps which client details to add or where to locate content in the content library.

How to find the proposal template strategy that best suits your team’s sales cycle and proposal workflow

How to find the best business proposal template strategy for your sales team [quiz]

What if my team’s selling and sales doc style doesn’t fit into one of these strategies?

If you’re thinking that your sales team doesn’t completely fit with one of these strategies I’ve outlined, it’s okay. While the majority of sales teams tend to fall into one of these three proposal template strategy ‘buckets’, there are always tweaks that can be made to make these strategies work even harder.

Here’s an example of a slight twist on the Template Per Offering strategy. Say you were selling RVs. Instead of setting up packages, you could set up a template for each RV model you sold, so your sales reps could simply go in, select the model their prospect is interested in, and then focus on customizing the customer details since the product description and pricing would already be included and accurate.

That’s just one way that you can use these strategies to get creative and make life easier for your sales reps. Plus, if you’re setting up your proposal templates using proposal software, your Customer Success Manager (CSM) will be there to confirm the best template strategy for your specific needs and help you set everything up for an optimal workflow.

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