Fresh Proposals

June 06, 2019

Writing Sales Proposals: 4 Hurdles Businesses Frequently Run Into

Deal closure or winning rate is a pretty crucial success factor when it comes to evaluating the performance of proposal teams and the sales team as a whole.

As they say, there is nothing like success. Success brings positivity, excitement, joy, it attracts more business, and in turn bring more people to the team. Consistently cracking deals isn’t easy, it never was and never will be.

But one must not forget, the proposal team has to get quite a few things right before its sales manager presses the ‘send’ button on the proposal email.

There are quite a few challenges in creating and managing an impressive proposal. Remember, some of these challenges are similar to common mistakes proposal writers make. If I list out all these challenges and group them together, they would belong to one of the following



And you will notice, these aspects/ challenges are interdependent; meaning, if the sales team changes its focus on time, it affects quality; if it focuses too much on accountability then it can impact the time and customer buy-in, and so on.

Let me describe each challenge in the proposal writing briefly.

Proposal – Time Challenge

Sales Proposal Writing Challenges - Time - Proposal Deadline

Almost every business sales teams have to deal with proposals. The proposal can take different forms be it a formal proposal in the form of PDF or PPT or email or text message.

But every sales team needs to know the submission deadline for RFP, RFP, RFI, well before time and should be able to create, review and send proposals on time.

Depending on the number of proposals a business has to deal with within a given month, it can hire/contract sales-proposal team members/managers and consider their productivity, ability to get inputs/reviews on time. There are issues to keep up with the proposal content calendar.

Timing is very essential to win any deal.

Proposal – Quality Challenge

Proposal Writing Challenges - Time - Proposal Deadline

I am sure you will miss your heartbeat if you realize that you have got the costing/pricing wrong, or surprisingly missed to address the customer’s main pain areas. If so, you can only hope somehow, some miracle will happen and the client will say YES to your proposal.  We live in the real world, miracles are rare 🙂

Hence sales proposal team has to make sure that

  1. You are including the right information about the company, products, services
  2. You are involving the right people (subject matter experts) and receiving their parts on time
  3. You are following sound quality reviews before proposals are sent

Higher the quality of your proposal, higher are the chances of your proposal getting selected. Instead, what do we see?

The attitude/approach ‘let’s put together a few things so that we will have SOMETHING before submitting’ can work in a counter way to produce a high-quality proposal. For a beginner, there is nothing wrong with this approach, but that’s precisely what it is. It is for beginners.

As a sales professional hungry for closing more deals, you should give serious thought before taking up a proposal, plan well to involve the right set of SMEs, have a brainstorming session, understand client requirement well, understand clients, devise a strategy to outdo the competition, and get it reviewed from important stakeholders, etc. All such thoughtful activities will result in a high-quality proposal.

Proposal – Accountability Challenge

Proposal Writing Challenges - Time - Proposal Deadline

I have been on both sides of the table when it comes to dealing with business proposals. It is not rare when we see companies submitting proposals keep committing its resources to meet ambitious targets.

And this especially true in case of start-up, new ventures who do not have enough experience dealing with post-proposal challenges e.g.

  1. Not having enough skilled & experienced resources to deliver project/assignment
  2. Not keeping enough buffer in terms of delivery timeline
  3. Subject matter experts who provided inputs during the proposal processes, turning it down or disowning part of their commitment

So the accountability challenge is both internal as well as external.

I have deliberately included it here because the roots of such post-proposal challenges start from the time of proposal writing.

If sales team is going to commit its resources without realizing whether company will be able to achieve stated goals or implement/deliver projects; it will not only challenges its accountability of its resources but also put a big question mark in the mind of customer, whether you are a reliable business to deal with or not.

Fixating right accountability is a critical challenge. It can turn to a big thing/tussle if you are not able to set accountability right at this stage.

Proposal – Customer Buy-In Challenge

Proposal Writing Challenges - Client Interaction Signals

Your proposal is accepted.

Statements like we can rarely hear during initial sales conversation. Generally, the client wants to get more information in order to judge vendors properly. Hence the client keeps asking fewer/more questions. If these questions are about clarifying the information you provided in the proposal and client is perceiving it as inadequate.

You still have not lost the opportunity, as long the client has not perceived your proposal information as poor. You can still rectify your proposal, quickly provide needed/suitable information and still be in the race.

Though this process can get frustrating (especially you feel like you have nearly cracked the deal and still not receiving confirmation message/email or stumble upon surprising rejection); it also gives the opportunity to garner customer confidence in us. Every conversation with the customer, after the proposal is submitted gives signals. You need to pick up those signals, make sense of customer psychology and turn those in positive direction, gain customer confidence.

The post-proposal challenge is also the inability to collect signals/body language. Typically when you email a proposal to your client as PDF/PPT/DOC or such formats, there is no way for you to understand whether the client has opened your proposal or not. There are no signals.

None, NADA.

You have to either follow up with emails or keep calling client frequently. It causes a bit of friction in your conversation with your client.

Why not use technology to silently collect such signals and use them with conviction to convert the prospect to the client?

Is it possible?

Yes, absolutely.

Just think about it, how would you respond, especially when you know

  • Client has opened your proposal means something than not knowing anything about it
  • When client has looked at your proposal till the end and discretely means something
  • When the client opens proposal and spend significant time on the solution page or cost/pricing page gives definite signal
  • When the client looks at your terms and conditions in the contract information in the proposal, is a different level of signal
  • When the client keeps checking your proposal, keep returning and spends time; you know when to follow up, how to follow up, with what questions to follow up.

Are you interested to know, how it can be done?

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