Scroll Top

Proposal writing research: Why your proposal doesn’t work

You’re writing it for the wrong person.

Ever wondered why that enthusiastic “yes” you heard on the phone turns into the silent treatment after you send your proposal? It’s because you haven’t done your research before writing the proposal.

Without this research, you’re probably writing your proposal for the wrong person.

Sound daft?

Not once you get out of your head and start looking at things from the client’s perspective.

Imagine that you are a buyer.

You get a phone call from a salesperson.

You are vaguely interested (despite saying you are very interested on the phone).

They send you a proposal with a ton of information in it. You’re busy so you skim it and forward it on to your boss, the CEO, the Marketing Director and a couple of Ops guys.

A few of them are vaguely interested, however John in Ops says no. You don’t care enough to contest it so you delete it and ignore the salesperson’s calls.

The journey of a proposal

So what went wrong in the above example?

Well, there are three key milestones your proposal has to pass in order to be approved:

Milestone 1: Personal buy in.

First of all, your contact must have personal buy-in to your solution and think it is strong enough to send to the other decision makers.  If there is any risk (i.e. if they don’t believe in it enough to champion it in the organisation) they will not send it on.

Milestone 2: Stakeholder buy in.

Secondly, the other people involved in the decision must buy-in to your solution. On average there are 6.8 stakeholders involved in the decision making process. It doesn’t matter how high up you send your proposal, even to the CEO, they will still involve others (end users, finance etc.) to ensure everyone thinks they have made a good decision.

For many of the stakeholders your proposal will be the first time they have seen your company and your name. They won’t have been privy to the sales conversation you had. All they see is what is there on paper; normally a list of unimportant features… and the price.

Milestone 3: Logistics and Negotiation

Thirdly, if the stakeholders all say yes, the proposal will then get batted back and forth as the decision makers work out logistics and negotiate the terms of contract.

The problem is that salespeople write proposals that only get them to milestone one.

They pour their time and energy into writing a proposal that highlights value … but only to their initial contact.

And because the proposal demonstrates no value to the other 5.8 stakeholders, they can’t see why it is worth it. The proposal doesn’t answer the questions that they need answering.

They see it as too much hassle and so veto the idea.

After all, inertia is far easier, cheaper and quicker than change from the status quo.

How research can improve your proposal writing

In order to move through every milestone of the journey, it’s crucial to do your research. When writing your proposal, it must answer three questions that all stakeholders will be asking:

  1. Why change?

Why must they change what they are currently doing? If you can’t provide a compelling reason why they should go through the hassle of changing then… they will say no.

  1. Why choose you?

Why must they choose you above all other suppliers? If you don’t make it supremely clear why the stakeholders should choose you then… they will say no.

  1. What is the impact of working with you?

What is the impact your solution will give them in six months’ time? If you do not explain how the stakeholders will make an impactful return on investment from working with you then… they will say no.

In summary, most salespeople write proposals for the wrong person and reason because they fail to do their research beforehand.

They focus on the needs of their initial contact, rather than all the stakeholders involved in the decision.

And they focus on answering the question ‘why choose you?’ rather than exploring the need to change and the impact it will create.

Make it easy for stakeholders to say yes by writing your proposal to the needs of all decision makers, and writing your proposal using the three questions:

Why change? Why choose you? What is the impact of working with you?

If you write your proposal for the right people in the right way, you will receive the right response.

Get in touch with us or connect on LinkedIn to find out more about our Proposal workshop to see how we can help