Winning Proposal Structure Tips (What The Research Says)

We have the data on what actually improves the chances of a business proposal being accepted.

1,026,891 business proposals were sent with our proposal software in 2021, and our data team analyzed them to find out what successful proposals have in common.

We discovered both the proposal structure and the design elements that winning proposals share—including a way to boost your closing rate by an impressive 72%.

So keep reading for our data-driven tips on creating better proposal content.

To get all of our data-driven proposal strategies, make sure you download The 2022 State of Proposals.

How to Create a Winning Proposal Structure (What The Research Says)

5 min. read

1. Keep it short for an easier “yes”

Shorter documents perform better. A proposal that gets accepted contains 11 pages on average. Longer proposals are less likely to win.

It makes sense when you think about it. A shorter, more concise proposal is easier to read, meaning it’s easier for the client to digest your pitch and approve it.

What’s more, a short proposal makes it clear that you respect the client’s time and can get to the point.

If you pack your proposal with unnecessary or long-winded information, that’s a red flag to the client that working with you will be exhausting (and maybe even pointless).

In today’s world, no one likes fluff, so make sure you’re starting off with a proposal template that is well-formatted, visual, and concise.

2. Include these 7 sections in your proposal

On average, a winning proposal includes 7 distinct sections. When we dove into these sections, themselves we found that great proposals typically follow a standard format and cover the same things.

To craft a proposal that will close, be sure to include:

  1. Cover page - Include the basic details like the client’s company name, your company name, your first and last name, and the date submitted.

  2. Executive summary - Summarize why your company is the right fit for the job, and utilize your unique selling proposition.

  3. Approach or solution - Detail what you will provide and your process, and explain why you’ve chosen this approach, or how you will tailor it to the client’s needs.

  4. About the company - Create an About Us or Our Team section that showcases your company’s experience and specialization.

  5. Deliverables - Clarify all of the key deliverables and project timelines.

  6. Pricing - Specify the pricing, whether that’s one package or a few options for the client to choose from. Make sure that what’s included is crystal clear.

  7. Terms and conditions - Include your T&C, such as payment terms, cancellation policy, customer support SLAs, etc.

Of course, the sections themselves might be renamed or re-ordered, but a successful proposal will usually cover all of the above. Our advertising proposal template features a “Your Advertising Media Mix” page in place of an “Approach” page.

Advertising proposal template featuring a “Your Advertising Media Mix” page in place of an “Approach” page.

Winning proposals also showcase case studies, testimonials, or review averages in an additional section—or have social proof sprinkled throughout.

3. Use images and videos to boost your closing rates

Multimedia proposals perform far better than text-only proposals. With images, you can help a client visualize the improved state that their business will be in after working with you. And with short, to-the-point videos, you can show off your team’s style and personality, help a client experience what it would be like to work with you, and save time for the client by cutting back on meetings.

Image stats and ideas

Based on our analysis of over 1 million proposals, we found that proposals containing images increase closing rates by 72% and close 20% faster.

Here are some ideas for images to include:

  • Portfolio pieces and work samples

  • Photos or screenshots of your products

  • Infographic of average client results

  • Infographic of a specific client’s results

  • Infographic of the lead’s potential results

  • A photo that highlights the lead’s current problems

  • An illustration of your process

  • An illustration of the project timeline

  • A table for pricing options and what they include

  • Headshots of your staff

  • Testimonial graphics with client photos

  • Icons to help certain details stand out

This architecture proposal includes a couple portfolio pieces:

Architecture proposal structure example.

Video stats and ideas

Videos help close more deals too. Proposals featuring videos can increase closing rates by 41% and will close 26% faster than proposals without videos. Despite the clear case for video, only 21% of proposals include videos.

Here are some ideas for what you might include in a video:

  • An explanation of pricing options

  • An explanation of your process, or a specific part of the process

  • A hello from who their account manager or customer success manager would be

  • A story detailing a former client project and the results

  • A testimonial video from a client

Proposify supports four different video platforms (YouTube, Wistia, Vimeo, and Vidyard), making it easy to add your videos.

You don’t have to invest in fancy production. A 2-5 minute video recorded with your computer’s webcam can be enough to win over clients. What’s more important is the value of what you share in the video, and the sincerity and personality you bring to the delivery.

You can even offload the burden of video creation completely by linking to existing resources, like this example from our Adwords & PPC proposal template that includes a video explanation of Google’s Brand Lift Survey.

Proposal structure example showing how to include third-party video content in your proposal document.

Download all of our tips and insights on winning proposals

Like these data-driven insights? There are even more in our State of Proposals 2022. The report also covers:

  • Tips for creating and sending proposals

  • The best ways and times to follow up

  • How to negotiate and discount successfully

  • How to boost the likelihood of signing

Download The State of Proposals 2022 and learn how to increase your closing rate and velocity.

Winning Proposal Structure Tips (What The Research Says)

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