The client loves your pitch… and then they say the dreaded words “Send me your proposal”. This crucial document could make or break your deal.
Here are six common challenges in the proposal stage that impact your ability to close the deal.

1. Writer’s block. You don’t know how to start writing.

Sales people are expected to know how to write proposals, but no one teaches them the science of proposal writing. We usually start telling the customer how great we are, instead of addressing their specific needs first. Start your proposal by focusing on your customer’s pain points. Show them you understand what is keeping them up at night and the problems they need solved. Once you have demonstrated your understanding of their challenges, then sell your solution. Make sure your solution is specific to them. Don’t give them your company profile first. Put that at the back of the proposal. Remember – it is not all about me! me! me! Make it about your customer.

2. Giving your customer too much information. Keep proposals short and to the point.

A common mistake most sales people make is giving their customers too much information in the proposal response. The lazy ones print out every possible brochure or bit of information and bombard the customer with this. This means you have too many attachments and appendices of supplementary information that the customer did not ask for. Don’t do it! It frustrates evaluators and gives them reams of paper they probably will not look at. Remember – only give the customer what they ask for.

3. Your business writing lacks impact.

Although English is the language of business communication, it’s not the first language for many South Africans. We think if we write long complex sentences, we sound clever. This approach instantly loses your customer’s attention. Keep your sentences short, simple and to-the-point. Use fewer nouns. If English is not your first language, get your colleagues to proofread your proposal.

 4. A poorly managed process results in low win rates.

Proposals and tenders require a skilled, team-based approach. Putting your proposal together the night before its due date simply turns your chances of winning into mere luck. Use a structured approach in putting together a quality document. If you need more time ask your customer for extra time. Spend time at the outset mapping out how you will structure your document, set yourself timelines and agree the length of each section. Stick to your process, check in everyday with everyone involved to make sure you stay on track.

5. No time to quality check your proposal. Watch out for credibility killers.

Ultimately, you may never know what your proposal looks like in comparison with your peers. What you can control is the quality of your submission. Ensure you have set aside enough time to perform a thorough quality check. I cannot stress this one enough! Check your proposal for the crucial credibility killers such as lack of customer focus, no value proposition, spelling mistakes, inconsistent formatting, wrong client name. These immediately jump out at your evaluator, instantly giving a negative impression of your response.

6. Can’t find tender-related information?

Don’t know where to start when drafting your proposal? Is the content hidden in systems and in peoples’ heads? You dread the late nights and thumb-sucking proposal responses. Time to get organised. Organise your information into a library of reusable data. Keep your filing structure simple. Archive old irrelevant information to keep folders clean. Save previous proposals in one place. Make sure all content is formatted and written in the same tone and brand feel. Also set a reminder to check your information every 6 months, to update and archive your data. All this makes compiling your proposal a breeze.

So, take a step back. Get perspective on why your conversion rate may be low and have an organised approach before you dive into your proposal. Give yourself time to plan, write and check before you click send. You will thank yourself later.