If you want to book the big money deals, you'll probably have to write a sales proposal. Needless to say, you want your proposal to win the business, rather than get thrown into the trash. Here are the ten most common reasons that sales proposals get rejected out of hand -- along with how to avoid the same mistake next time.
CLICK HERE for the first reason your proposal was rejected Â»
BTW, this post is based upon a conversation with Tom Sant, the world's foremost expert on writing winning proposals.
Reason #10. You didn't lay the groundwork.
- What you did: You heard about the opportunity and sent in a proposal, hoping that it would be the lowest bid.
- Why it's dumb: If the prospect doesn't know who you are, they aren't going to do business with you.
- What resulted: The prospect saw the name on the cover, shrugged, and threw it in the trash can.
- How to fix it: Only write proposals after you've met with most (if not all) of the decision-makers.
- What you did: You decided that your way of organizing the material made more sense than the way the prospect organized it in the RFP.
- Why it's dumb: Even if the customer's outline is stupid, it's the customer's outline, stupid.
- What happened: The decision-makers rightly concluded that you were unable to follow simple instructions.
- How to fix it: Uhhh... Follow the outline, OK?
- What you did: You used the executive summary to provide pointers to the proposal's contents.
- Why it's dumb: Many decision-makers are only going to read the executive summary.
- What resulted: The decision-makers didn't see, in the summary, why you should get the business, so they moved on to the next proposal.
- How to fix it: Make the executive summary a sales document that briefly summarizes basic issues and the reasons the customer should buy.
- What you did: You wanted to communicate the full glory of your solution, so you tried to cram the entire proposal into the executive summary.
- Why it's dumb: Decision-makers faced with reading half-a-dozen proposals won't take the time to read your summary treatise.
- What resulted: Same as #8 above. The decision-makers moved on.
- How to fix it: Write a single page executive summary for any proposal less than 50 pages, with half-a-page added for every additional 25 pages.
- What you did: You volunteered your pricing information because you figured the prospect would want to know what it was.
- Why it's dumb: Unless the prospect specifically asks for price up front, it's foolish to get yourself into the position of competing on price.
- What happened: The prospect looked at your price and decided it was too high.
- How to fix it: Emphasize your "value proposition," like increased productivity or reduced operating costs rather than how much money you want them to spend.
- What you did: You assumed that the decision-makers were all MBA-types, or engineering-types.
- Why it's dumb: Most proposal decision-making teams consist of individuals from different groups, who naturally have different background and interests.
- What happened: You wowed the accountants, but left the engineers cold. Or vice versa.
- How to fix it: Hit the top areas of concern for all the stakeholders. For instance, engineers will want a few key specs, while accountants will want an ROI calculation.
- What you did: You lifted paragraphs from previous proposals but forgot to completely edit out references to other prospects.
- Why it's dumb: Failure to edit shows the customer that you're not capable of taking care of details.
- What happened: The decision-makers chuckled to themselves, and then ranked your proposal near the bottom.
- How to fix it: Make sure that a professional writer or editor goes over the proposal. Short of that, have a colleague go over it.
- What you did: You filled the proposal with all sorts of facts, features, capabilities and data, hoping that some of it would prove convincing.
- Why it's dumb: A proposal is a sales document, not a data sheet or a dissertation.
- What resulted: The prospect put your proposal aside to read later...and then moved on to the competitor's proposal.
- How to fix it: Write a proposal that define the customer problem and then outlines a workable solution.
- What you did: You assumed that the proposal was all about your product and what it can do for the customer.
- Why it's dumb: Nobody is interested in your freakin' product. They're only interested in having their problem solved.
- What happened: The decision-makers were unable to see how your product would address their needs.
- How to fix it: Make the proposal about the customer's problems and opportunities, along with how you plan to address them.
- What you did: You wanted the proposal to sound "business-like" so you padded it out with meaningless terminology like "next generation," "state-of-the-art," "leading edge," etc.
- Why it's dumb: Such terms are meaningless opinions that simply take up space.
- What happened: Best case, the decision-makers ignored your jargon; worst case, they figured that your proposal, like your writing, was full of BS.
- How to fix it: Only use terms that have objective meaning. Express no opinions that can't be backed with facts.
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