6 Business Proposal Mistakes You Might Be Making
When you receive a new RFP, it’s tempting to hurry through the process and return it to your prospect immediately. The idea of new business is thrilling, but it won’t materialize if you don’t spend the time and preparation it takes to create a winning proposal. Here are a few common errors in the business proposal process and how to avoid them.
1) You Don’t Know Which Questions to Ask
When you get a new RFP, stop and ask yourself a few questions before you proceed. Is this prospect a good fit for your agency or business? If not, you’ll save yourself and the prospect a lot of time and frustration if you decline the proposal at the outset. As impossible as it seems to turn down a potential sale, a poor fit will only bring bigger problems. Another question to ask is if the prospect is ready to purchase something now, or if they are just testing the waters. Has the budget been approved? Who is making the final decisions? Finding the answers to questions like these will help you frame the RFP appropriately and save you from disappointment if things fall through.
2) It’s All About You
One of the most overlooked business proposal ideas is to keep your prospect’s problem at the forefront of your mind when you write your response. It’s tempting to give a sales pitch at every turn, but business proposals that stick to key messages, creative solutions to problems and a “what’s in it for the prospect” approach will have the edge over proposals that read like a sell sheet.
3) You Aren’t Reading Between the Lines
Before you begin your business proposal outline, make sure you thoroughly understand the content of the proposal. Who are the decision makers? Is there potential for corporate politics to get in the way? Are there any surprise decision makers who might require different information than the others? Look for patterns in both people and the information requested and write accordingly.
4) You Save the Best for Last
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I don’t want to give away all of my best stuff in the RFP response—I’ll wait for the presentation.” You may not get the chance to present. Prospects request proposals from many different vendors. One of the hardest to follow, but most valuable business proposal tips, is to present every bit of information as if it’s your last chance to talk to the prospect. Tell your story and tell it well—every time you get the opportunity.
5) You Don’t Cut to the Chase
When you are an expert in the services or product you offer, it’s easy to get caught up in the web of jargon and corporate lingo. The problem is, it leaves you sounding exactly like everyone else. A good rule of thumb is to write your proposal, step away from it for a bit, and then edit it at least once to remove worthless jargon and phrases and increase the readability and relatability of the content.
6) You’re a Rebel Without a Cause
While it might be tempting to “improve” the prospect’s business proposal outline—don’t. Even if you see opportunities to improve the order of questions, the information asked or the formatting of the document, you’ll only make the prospect angry and edit yourself right out of a sale if you take liberties with their RFP. Follow the business proposal topics listed, and in the requested order.
There is nothing quite like the excitement of competing for new business. By following these simple tips and keeping your prospect’s needs at the forefront of your proposal, you’ll increase your close rate and gain a reputation for professionalism. Good luck!