Why Your Sales Proposals Don't Work

January 24, 2012

Everyone hates writing business proposals. Even if you like the selling process of getting to know the client, learning there implicit wants and explicit needs, and selling to their pain points. Even if you really believe in your company and are excited about solving their problems with your services. I'll bet you still don't like writing the proposal.

So what do we end up with? We end up with a document that does not reflect the company brand, usually does not have the most up-to-date material and is not customized enough to feel personal to the client. All that and the rep dreaded writing the proposal the whole time.

So what can we do about it?

Differentiate Your Business Proposal

Customize Your Business Proposal

Keep your most customized information at the top of the proposal and let the generic information such as company history and other static pieces come later so that when a prospect reads your proposal their solution is the first thing in the proposal and the backup information is there for them later if they wish to read it. If you put all the static pieces up front then you run the risk of them seeing the fluff and skipping to the pricing where they know there is meat. Even in the "fluff" portions should at least be customized with the clients name and logo where appropriate if you have a templating system.

Include Personal Letters

We all know we should use cover letters. Use this as more to talk about your meetings with them and mention their pain points up front and that you have the solution.

Do Something Really Different

Everyone sends a PDF or a bound proposal. Make your proposal stand out. Include video if possible from people they have met, or introduce through video the staff that will be interacting with them. They will be likely to watch it if it is recorded just for them. Don't go overboard. A decent video from your webcam goes a long way.

Keep It Simple for Reps


Make It Easy To Find And Use Information From Marketing Library

If they have to search the network drives every time to find pieces to use in their proposal they either will not do it, or possible use out of date pieces. Use a method where the information is organized and the most up-to-date information is always available to them.

Give Them A Pre-built Proposal Structure

Don't let the "wing it." Give them pre-built proposal templates that already have all the standard information in them. Then give them an easy way to really personalize it. This not only ensures your branding is consistent over all your reps, but makes their life a lot easier.

Don't Make Them Track Twice

Use a system that as they create a proposal the dollar value, sales stage, and close date are tracked so they really pay attention to their proposal and do not have to track a separate system or spreadsheet.

Use Your Business Proposal As A Tool


Know When Your Business Proposal Was Read

If you can use an online system to know when your prospect opened your proposal then you will be miles ahead of making that follow up call right when the proposal information is fresh in their head and most willing to talk with you.

Know What They Read

If you know what sections of your proposal they cared about when you make the follow up call you can sell to their interests as well as let them know why the part of the solution they didn't read was important and possibly a key piece that they have not considered. This may give you an advantage when you show them why that piece is necessary and it is not in your competitors proposals.

Follow Up

Make sure they received it and make sure they read it. Follow up is the most key element in sales. Win by attrition. It is unbelievable how many people are in sales and cannot consistently follow up with their prospects. The proposal is not the end it is just a step towards the close.


The business proposal is a tool to convey how much you understand the client's needs and wants. It also is a tool that should convey your brand. Make it easy for your reps to have the brand nailed from the get go, and then give them tools such as Paperless proposal software to help them REALLY personalize a proposal to a prospect and stand out.

Here is an article you may like on how to write a business proposal.

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