Creating a successful business proposal is much more than simply editing documents and shipping them off to a prospect. There may be many reasons why your business proposal did not get accepted. If you are new to proposal writing, try to look at each proposal project as a learning experience, and plan on altering your strategy and presentation as needed along the way.
After you’ve found out that you didn’t win the job, you should try to tactfully interview the prospect. When possible, communicate directly to the employee responsible for determining the winning proposal. Explain that you want to learn the reason(s) why your proposal was rejected so that you can make improvements in the future.
Give careful consideration to what they have to say and thank them for their advice. Do not forget, however, that they may not tell you the actual reason behind your loss. Some people may be wary of coming across too negative, and of course there are always times where an acquaintance or family member was picked for the job instead of using a true competitive process.
While you can learn from mistakes, you should try your best to win with every attempt. Don’t let sloppy mistakes keep your proposal from getting noticed.
A failure to land the client or get the project approved is often due to the some of these common reasons:
#1: Writing style: your style was not appealing to the prospect. To avoid a style mismatch, do some research to find out about the style of the person and/or company you are writing to. For example, if you are writing a proposal for a banking institution where all employees dress in business suits, it would not be a bright idea to write your proposal in a folksy, casual style.
#2: Missed the intended target: your proposal was not delivered to the right person. Take a moment to call the company and find out the proper person to address your proposal to. Make sure you spell that person’s name correctly and get his or her position correct, too. You might also want to follow-up to ensure they received your proposal.
#3: Your timing was wrong: your proposal was not made at the right time. In general, it’s not a good idea to send a proposal ‘out of the blue.’ The proposals with the best chance, of course, are those that are solicited through RFPs, but if that’s not the case for you, then try to tie your pitch to something real like a recent event or news article so it will be more relevant.
#4: Sloppy writing: your spelling or grammar was incorrect. If your proposal doesn’t look or sound professional, why would the prospect think that your work would be any better? If spelling and grammar are not your strongest qualities, then hire an editor to perfect your proposal language before you send it.
#5: You did not address the prospect’s concerns and objections. Your prospective customer wants to be certain that you will do what is best for their organization. Prove that you have listened to their issues and have the solution for each of their needs.
#6: Your personal appearance and presentation did not match the prospect’s ‘style’. Take the time to research the company or individual you will pitch your proposal to. Does the decision maker wear a suit, or jeans and casual shirt? Show up similarly dressed and that person will automatically feel comfortable with you.
#7: Internal politics at the prospect’s organization influenced the decision. There’s not much you can do about this situation, but if you are aware of internal conflicts before presenting your pitch, try to address them within the proposal.
#8: Hidden agendas at the prospect’s company influenced the decision. There is a good chance that you’ll never even find out about this reason.
#9: Your proposal estimate was too low or high. Many clients simply pick the cheapest proposal, especially if there is a low risk of failure. But more seasoned ones may actually pass over a proposal with an unreasonably low estimate, because they are concerned that the proposal was made by someone who didn’t truly understand the project or was too inexperienced to estimate accurately. An estimate that is too low may also be a red flag to an experienced client that low grade materials will be used or quality will be sacrificed.
#10: You were too persistent or not persistent enough with the customer. It’s never a good idea to pester a prospect; you wouldn’t appreciate someone who interrupted you or showed up every day, and neither will your potential client. But it’s also not a good idea to simply ship a proposal and never make contact again. If possible, call or set up a meeting in advance to get as much information as you can, and then, after you’ve delivered the proposal, call to make sure it was received and inquire whether the prospect has all the information needed from you to make the decision.
This top 10 list is by no means a complete list of every possible reason why you may have failed to win the proposal. There will always be scenarios that you can not control. You may never find out the reasons why either. Focus your energy on the things that you can control, and use basic common sense. Sometimes the key to winning can be as simple as a personal touch – in a business environment that is continually becoming automated.
Ian Lauder has been helping small businesses and freelancers write their proposals and contracts for over a decade. => For more tips and business proposal and legal contract writing best practices go to http://www.proposalkit.com