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How Not to Write a Proposal

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A couple of days ago I read a blog post that got me a bit riled up. Wait, I take that back. It really pissed me off!

The post (which will remain nameless) was written by a marketing person and outlined several strategies for writing a killer proposal. What got me riled up was the author’s first piece of advice: Start with an overview of your company. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! That’s the absolute worst way to open a sales proposal.

I have never met a prospect who sat down to read a proposal and thought, “I really want to know about this company” or “I can hardly wait to find out more about these people.” The only thing a potential customer has on his mind is how you can help him solve a particular problem.

If you don’t begin your proposal with a killer opening that clearly outlines your understanding of the prospect’s situation and the objectives she wants want to accomplish, then you run the risk of sounding like every other salesperson competing for her business.

The aforementioned author went on to say that sometimes people have difficulty expressing or articulating their needs, so salespeople should read between the lines. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

If your prospect can’t articulate his thoughts, it is the salesperson’s responsibility to ask questions that will help him determine the key outcomes he is looking for. Then, more questions need to be asked to uncover the reason those outcomes are important. Once that is accomplished, even more questions should be asked to calculate the impact of a positive result versus the result if things remain unchanged. This information gives you the ammunition you need to create a killer proposal.

The author’s final advice was to make sure you’re available to answer questions and close the sale. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! That’s the typical non-salesperson’s approach to selling. Sit back and wait to answer questions. I used to be guilty of doing that and my closing ratio was pathetic. However, when I learned to ask for the next steps and to schedule a subsequent call to discuss the proposal before I actually sent it, my closing ratio increased dramatically.

If you want to write a proposal that sucks, follow this marketing person’s advice. However, if you want to write a killer proposal—one that gets results—listen to an expert who focuses on sales

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Kelley Robertson helps sales professionals master their sales conversations so they can win more business at higher profits. Get a free copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” and “Sales Blunders That Cost You Money” at