If you find yourself regularly losing sales even though you thought you had it in the bag then it might be worth making sure that your sales proposals are not letting you down. Here are 5 common mistakes I find when reviewing sales proposals for clients:

Mistake #1 – Not enough detail

The mistake is assuming that your prospect will remember everything you have discussed and so there is no need to repeat it. I find it helps to recap all of the major points drawn out in the discovery phase of the sales process for one very important reason; you may have to rely on the proposal to convince someone you have not met.

Despite your best efforts to influence everyone involved in the decision during the sales process, you should write the proposal as if you have probably missed someone and the chances are you have. Typically this could be someone in finance, a business partner, or even a spouse!

Mistake #2 – Too much detail

Too much detail can make a proposal hard to quickly read and absorb, especially as many people skim read. The risk is that they miss the important bits. Limit the detail to information absolutely essential for the reader to make a decision and then provide access to other detail if they want it. You can do this by providing an example executive summary, putting the index into an appendix or, indeed, a separate document.

Mistake #3 – Hidden benefits

Your proposal should be more than just telling the reader what you intend to do for them. The reader should clearly understand how the organisation will benefit from going ahead with the proposal. The return on investment needs to be clear but so should additional benefits that do not have a direct financial return but could help sway the decision.

For example, your solution may be very similar to your competition in all aspects but your offices are very local to theirs which means that you can be very responsive to their needs. The proposal is a sales document and If a benefit can give you an edge then it should be in your sales proposal.

Mistake #4 – Poor structure

You need to make it easy for the reader to quickly absorb your proposal and that means adding headings for major areas of the proposal. This will help people to know where to look for the information they are seeking. The structure you use should be what is required for a person who has not been deeply involved with the discussions to come to the conclusion that going ahead makes sense both commercial and financially.

In more format tender documents you may be given a specific structure to follow.

Mistake #5 – Wrong order

I have seen some proposals that have more or less all the right information but not necessarily in the right order. Typically they start off the proposal trying to sell their business and that is literally the last thing you want to be doing. The following questions are the kind of questions you need to be answering and the order:

What are you proposing?
Why should we be interested?
How much is it going to cost us?
How can we justify paying that?
Why should I trust you?
Why should I choose you?