Business proposals are tricky to get right. As with any application or pitch, it takes some finesse to create a proposal that will interest the receiving party. Even if you follow all the requirements, a poorly written proposal is unlikely to be taken seriously – let alone accepted.
In theory, a quote should be enough. After all, if you’re trying to land a client, what matters more to them than how much the project costs? As it turns out, a lot matters. Read on to learn more about how you can correct some of the biggest blunders proposal writers commit.
The Problem: Bad Proposals (and What Happens to Them)
Think about your proposal as a product. With this frame of mind, it doesn’t matter what you sell – whether it’s lawn mowers or lab equipment – because the customer always knows what they’re paying for prior to making the purchase. This is especially true in the brick-and-mortar retail world, where customers have the chance to window-shop, compare prices, try on clothes, and taste product samples.
Unfortunately, when a client invests in a service, they don’t have the same opportunities for browsing and perusing. Instead, they have to choose what to buy based on their own research in addition to the (sometimes blind) faith that the business in question will provide it.
You could have a flawless record, excellent samples, a stellar web and social media presence, and tons of positive referrals and testimonials – but that’s not enough. Simply put, your proposal is what’s going to turn them from an interested party into a buyer.
Your proposal isn’t a formality; it’s a sales presentation. If what you send isn’t good enough, the client’s not going to read it – instead, it’s going out with the recycling.
So what should you do instead? Read on for some ways to turn a bad business proposal into something worth reading.
Mistake #1: Failing to Understand the Customer
In a case like this, failure doesn’t come from simple ignorance; it’s a product of failing to do your due diligence and key into the prospect’s precise needs. In writing a business proposal, the first thing you should ask yourself – and your team – is, “Who’s our client?” The second question is, “What does my client want to buy?”
What to do instead:
You already know your company (or, at least, you should). You know your staff, your products, and your business interests. But the purpose of sales is not to show your chops as a great salesperson or to convey the excellence of your product. While those are components of making a sale, it’s up to you to focus – above all else – on the client.
Mistake #2: Rambling On (and On and On and On…)
A business proposal should be concise and to the point. Your company is wonderful, and you do wonderful work, and you’re the best in your industry. But there’s only so much writing about your specifications and accolades a client can read before their eyes glaze over – and they toss your proposal out with tomorrow’s trash.
What to do instead:
Get to the point. Of course you want to set yourself apart from the rest. But, again, the way to do that is to center the client. It’s not about how great you are; it’s about how your business will meet a client’s need – and do so better than your competitors could. Outline the benefits of your service and show what makes you valuable – but keep it down to two pages or less.
Certainly, take a little time to introduce your team and their roles – and include headshots, since these can be a good way to break up large blocks of text in the business proposal. They’re also a way to make your proposal more personal. Make sure everyone smiles!
Don’t get into the gratuitous details, though – like the professional associations that include your teammates as members, for example. This is especially true if you’ve paid to join these associations. These are unlikely to impress the client. The focus should always be on previous projects and accomplishments.
If you’re sending a web-based proposal, don’t write pages and pages about everything you’ve achieved as a company. Instead, insert hyperlinks to preexisting information, so they can see for themselves what you’re capable of. If your submitted proposal is printed, attach that information as an appendix and not in the body of the text.
Mistake #3: Failing the “So What?” Test
Your proposal shouldn’t read like the “About Us” page on your website. Again, you’re not giving a history of your business or explaining; you’re presenting your business as a solution to a problem. Capture Planning calls this the “So What?” test.
When the customer reads your proposal, what are they getting out of it? If you can’t answer this before you send it, you’ve got a problem. You’ve got even more of a problem when the customer doesn’t even know what you’re proposing.
What to do instead:
Literally, ask yourself – “So what?” What are you proposing, and why should they care? The person reading your proposal likely has countless competing proposals, and their job is to select the best one. Yours should express your specific solution and why it’s better than all the others. We already know what you stand to gain from this deal, but what does the customer stand to gain? Include enough information for the customer to make an informed decision – and make it enticing. Do away with everything else.
Contact iQuoteXpress Today
Having great content for your business proposal is just the first step. At iQuoteXpress, we’ve developed software designed to help businesses just like yours deal with the proposal process. Using our software, you can store critical information – such as client data and proposal requirements – to facilitate the process of writing and submitting proposals.
Interested in learning more about how we can help? Contact iQuoteXpress today for more information and to download a free demo of our software - no contract or obligation required. We’re excited to see what we can do for you.