If you are in a business sector where your clients are other businesses, you have probably been invited to submit a proposal to be awarded the contract. Unless you have a working relationship with the client already, they will also invite your competitors to submit a proposal. Why will the client reject the other business proposals and pick one? What mistakes will the rejected proposals have? Here are the top 20 reasons why a business proposal might get rejected.
1. Not understanding the prospective client
After receiving a request to submit a proposal to a company, do not immediately proceed to make your proposal. First you need to understand the customer, their industry, and their target market (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/21834). Understanding the customer helps you tailor your proposal to them and will improve the chances of your proposal being accepted.
2. A poor executive summary
In most cases, an RFP (Request for Proposal) is met with numerous proposals from many different vendors. The client may have set a time limit for evaluating the proposals, and reading all of them completely may not be feasible. Therefore, they look at the executive summary to eliminate some of the proposals. An executive summary that is shallow on the important aspects of the client's needs will be rejected (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/top-10-reasons-your-proposal-got-rejected/).
3. Focusing on price
Most clients are looking for end value and return on investment--not the price. Proposals that obsess about price will most likely be rejected. Emphasize your strengths, experience, customer service. Be confident about the quality of your services and the value you provide (https://www.inc.com/guides/201107/how-to-sell-on-value-rather-than-price.html). Do not try to be the lowest bidder, but always strive to offer the best value.
4. Grammar errors
Failing to proofread and spell check your proposal can lead to many grammatical and spelling errors. Spelling and grammar errors scream that you are unprofessional and that you do not pay attention to detail. Too many grammar and spelling errors will also make it difficult for the client to read and understand your proposal. This will lead to your proposal being rejected (https://www.business.com/business-opportunities/6-common-business-proposal-mistakes-you-should-avoid/).
5. Failing to explain the benefits you offer
Failing to explain the benefits and ROI you will provide to the prospective client will lead to your proposal being rejected. However, merely stating the benefits and ROI is not enough; you have to indicate how you will measure the ROI. When evaluating, the client will most likely compare the benefits and ROI you have to offer with the benefits and ROI your competitors have to offer (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/21834).
6. Avoiding technology
In this age of advanced technology, a paper-based business proposal does not cut it anymore and makes you look behind the times. Proposals now incorporate high-tech digital formatting including personalized videos (https://proposal.staging.wpengine.com/how-to-make-an-introduction-video-for-your-business-proposal/). If your competitors are submitting digital multi-media proposals and you submit an old fashioned paper-based proposal or a boring pdf or Word doc, your proposal will almost certainly be rejected.
7. Poor presentation
The presentation of your business proposal is incredibly important. If your proposal is littered with missing page numbers, inconsistent margins, tables without headings, a missing table of contents, charts without labels, or technical terms without definitions, it will be rejected (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/21834).
8. Not following instructions
Failing to follow the guidelines set in the RFP will automatically lead to rejection. Some clients specifically look for non-compliance in proposals first so they can reduce the number of proposals for evaluation (https://www.captureplanning.com/articles/mistakes-proposal-writers-make.cfm#).
9. Failure to include social proof
Social proof is using the positive experiences your past and current clients had working with you and your company to influence your prospective new clients. Social proof can include testimonials, case studies, and clients agreeing to be a reference for you. Failing to discuss similar projects you have worked on and the positive results you produced may make you seem inexperienced in that particular field of work. Social proof can also increase your value and enable you to charge more (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/274630).
10. A vague proposal
If you send a vague proposal that does not address the information requested in the RFP, your business proposal will be rejected. Be clear and precise about your goals in your proposal (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/21834). If you want to share confidential information, sign a non-disclosure agreement with the client instead of being vague.
11. Unfounded and unrealistic assumptions
Business proposals that focus on assumptions more than they do on facts will be rejected. When you make an assumption, it should be realistic and you should back it up with facts. Benchmark your assumptions with acceptable standards in the industry (https://www.business.qld.gov.au/business/starting/market-customer-research/benchmarking-business/benchmarking-improve-business).
12. Inadequate research
When making a business proposal, if you fail to take the time to research the industry and the client's market, and you will end up with a proposal offering no value to the client. It is easy to spot a proposal that was not well researched as it will be shallow and vague. Your proposals will be rejected the moment the client learns you did not perform research on their company, their market, and their specific needs (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/21834).
13. Being basic
If your proposal merely meets the the basic requirements requested by your prospective client without offering something extra, it will be rejected. Most proposals will meet the necessary requirements, so you need to do something to set your proposal apart as being better. You need to give your proposal an edge over your competitors. One way to do this is by creating a digital multi-media proposal that includes video (https://www.captureplanning.com/articles/mistakes-proposal-writers-make.cfm#)
14. Not being compliant
While just barely meeting the basic demands of an RFP is bad, not being fully compliant is worse. The evaluation is unforgiving if you do not meet the essential requirements of the RFP and your proposal will be rejected (https://www.captureplanning.com/articles/mistakes-proposal-writers-make.cfm#).
15. Focusing on yourself
A business proposal is not about you. It's about the customer. Focus on the impact you can create with the client and their customers. Instead of just talking about your experiences, show how you can help the client improve their business and be more successful (https://www.business.com/business-opportunities/6-common-business-proposal-mistakes-you-should-avoid/).
16. Selling yourself short
You are not the only business responding to the RFP, and if you sell yourself short, your business proposal will be rejected. Show how you will go the extra mile to deliver and provide examples of how you have done so in your past experiences with client testimonials and case studies. (https://www.business.com/business-opportunities/6-common-business-proposal-mistakes-you-should-avoid/)
17. A bloated proposal
If the decision makers have many proposals to go through within a limited time frame, they will not have time to read lengthy proposals. If your executive summary is equally bloated, they will reject your proposal. A business proposal needs to get to the point and do so quickly. It is not meant to be a novel (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/top-10-reasons-your-proposal-got-rejected/).
18. A complicated proposal
If a proposal is too complicated and you do not make an effort to elaborate, the decision makers will reject your proposal. Always write your business proposal so it is easy to understand while still being professional (https://www.business.com/business-opportunities/6-common-business-proposal-mistakes-you-should-avoid/).
19. Insufficient information
If you don't provide sufficient information that explains how you will fulfill the client's needs and provide them with value, you can be sure that your proposal will be rejected. A prospective client will rarely ask you to provide more information to better explain how you will help them. They will simply reject your proposal and hire one of your competitors who did provide the information the client was seeking (https://www.business.com/business-opportunities/6-common-business-proposal-mistakes-you-should-avoid/).
20. Beating around the bush
Instead of giving unnecessary information first, get straight to the point. Do not make the client lose interest before getting to the important part. Use digital proposal creation software to create effective business proposals (https://www.business.com/business-opportunities/6-common-business-proposal-mistakes-you-should-avoid/).
When making a business proposal, avoid the 20 rookie mistakes that were discussed in this article so you can improve your chances of winning the contract. Following the guideline in this article will ensure that you have a professional business proposal.
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